Choosing the Right Winter Cycling Tight
For dedicated cyclists and bicycle commuters alike, winter weather provides a serious challenge. If you decide to venture outside with your bike as the temperature drops, having the proper gear is of the utmost importance. Because your legs are doing most of the work, it's vital to find a winter cycling tight that helps regulate temperature and keeps you dry, but isn't restrictive or uncomfortable during movement.
Winter cycling tights are constructed using thermal panels for maximum warmth and breathability. Still, even when temperatures are low, your body will heat up quickly once you start moving. Quality thermal cycling tights will cool the body by wicking sweat away from the skin while still providing proper insulation. More expensive tights will have an extensive paneling system. For example, certain brands are made with waterproof material covering the thighs and a more breathable, flexible fabric covering the back of the legs, with articulated fabric over the knees. When searching for cycling tights, it's necessary to compare the special features offered by different brands with the temperature range where you'll be riding and your intended effort level. Clothing manufacturers will typically recommend a specific temperature range for different types of tights; by making note of the average temperatures where you'll be riding, you can make an informed decision and find the most comfortable tight for you.
Read on for a list of important factors to consider when looking for the perfect pair of winter cycling tights:
Regular vs. Bib Tights
While many tights start at the waist and are held in place with an elastic waistband and drawstring, you can also find bicycling bib tights that offer extra support. Winter cycling bib tights have similar features to thermal cycling tights, but they cover the core and have straps (similar to suspenders) that fasten over the shoulders. Because they cover your core, bib tights hold in more heat. If your effort level is high, this may cause overheating. Bib tights can also make using the restroom more of a hassle. However, some cyclists prefer bib tights because they lack the tight elastic band around the waist, which can sometimes cause discomfort. Others prefer bib tights because the suspenders prevent the tights from falling down and exposing skin to the air. Both women's and men's cycling bib tights are adjustable, anatomically designed, and provide protection from water and wind. Please note: for the best fit, be sure to match your height and weight measurements with the sizing provided by the manufacturer.
Most tights are created using a combination of tight materials that offer protection from wind and water while still allowing for complete range of motion. A thick, fleece liner is added on the inside of the tight to prevent wind from penetrating the fabric. Special compression fabrics are also used to help decrease muscular fatigue. These fabrics are designed to help stabilize the muscles by decreasing vibration and increasing blood flow to the legs while riding.
Men's and women's cycling tights described as "anatomic" or "3D" are designed to support the designated gender's anatomy. Chamois lining (a type of microfiber padding or gel insert that provides extra support for your sit bones) is a common feature in cycling tights. Chamois also wicks moisture away from the body, in turn preventing chafing. Tights without chamois can be layered over cycling shorts if additional support is needed. In cold temperatures, forgoing tights with chamois and wearing shorts underneath can provide extra warmth as well.
Zippers on the lower leg allow for easier dressing and undressing, as well as a tighter fit around the ankles while riding. An added zipper garage and internal draft flap will help block wind and water. A tapered leg opening with silicone grips at the ankles not only keeps fabric in place, but adds extra coverage and allows booties or shoe covers to fit right over the top of the shoe.
Stirrups loop underneath the foot and are helpful for keeping tights secure. Stirrups ensure the tights stay in the shoes and prevent them from inching up as you ride. Keep in mind, the extra fabric will take up a little more space in the shoe.
Reflective piping and accents will enhance visibility to motorists and increase safety in low light conditions.
Zippered pockets are sometimes added to the back of tights for storing nutrition or other gear. Pockets provide easy access to any items you may need mid-ride.
Properly outfitting yourself can help make winter cycling much more enjoyable. The best way to determine the best winter cycling tights for you is trial and error; by testing out different pairs, you'll determine which features are most important and which you can do without. Check out the TriVillage Men's and Women's Winter Cycling Gear menus for a wide variety of options!