Winter Fat Biking: What to Wear for Comfort

Winter Fat Biking: What to Wear for Comfort

what to wear fat biking
With the right clothes you can lay in snow all day.

You’re new to fat biking and want to ride comfortably. Should you dress in a thick coat? In layers? Do you need snow pants? Or goggles?

This article discusses fat biking from -15 C to 5 C. For ranges below or above these you’ll need entirely different strategies which are beyond the scope of this article.

The good news is, you don’t need any specific gear for fat biking.

If you already have active wear and decent winter clothing, chances are you already have you what you need to fat bike comfortably.

What to Wear for Fat Biking

Why Dressing Properly for Winter Fat Biking is Important

Dressing for fat biking is tricky: the air is cold and standing around cools you down. But when you’re pedalling you quickly build heat under your layers and sweat. Then, if you sweat too much, it’ll make you cold and your clothes lose their warmth. It’s a tough balance.

This is why dressing in layers is your recipe for comfortable fat biking success.

Extended high-intensity efforts build heat and inactive downhills shed heat. You have to find a balance between the two. Often, this means adding and removing layers as you heat up and cool down.

As you gain experience you’ll learn what you need for any given temperature.

Here’s some tips to help get you started.

What to Wear on Your Head

You can buy cycling-specific toques which are low profile and fit under your helmet.

You can also use any low-profile toque, just make sure your helmet fits comfortably over top. Adding and removing a toque is one of the best and easiest methods of temperature control. 

Wear sunglasses to protect against snow glare and wind. Ski goggles are an option for extra wind protection and are less likely to fog up.

That being said, I’ve biked all the way down to -30 C and have only ever used cycling glasses.

What to Wear on Your Body

fat biking clothes
If you're serious about fat biking and have the budget, a touring shell jacket and alpine climbing pants are as good as it gets.

Regulating your core temperature is the key to fat biking comfortably.

If you’re investing in specific winter gear, buy breathable layers. Thinner, insulating layers that shed sweat are your best option to dial in your comfort level. Bringing a backpack or using a frame bag provides the option to store extra layers.

If you can afford it, a breathable hard shell with vents is the best outer layer. It protects from wind and snow, keeps the heat in and the sweat out, and pit vents instantly cool you down.

If this isn’t an option, use an outer layer that is wind and water resistant. Make sure it covers your lower back when you’re bent over in a riding position.

Underneath, a thin insulating base layer is ideal. Between this base layer and your shell, wear one or two of those previously mentioned insulating layers. The easier they are to pack down, the better. Ideally, they should fit in your pack so they’re easy to store if you decide to take them off.

As an added bonus, all my layers have zippers. I can quickly open them up when I get too hot. During a stop or extended downhill I’m a quick zip-up away from cozy comfort

Light sweaters also do the trick. Try to avoid big thick hoodies, or anything made of cotton. When cotton gets wet it draws heat out your body heat and cools you quicker.

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What to Wear on Your Hands

lobster mitts
Lobster mitts keep you warm and provide easier braking access than full mitts.

There are several options for your hands. I typically wear insulated gloves down to -5 C, and lobster mitts for anything less. Your insulation needs depend on your personal comfort level and the quality of your other layers.

If you typically have cold hands, consider wearing lobster mitts for all conditions. Better for your hands to be too hot than too cold. Lobster mitts are available with different levels of insulation.

Consider buying lobster mitts a size larger than you normally would, to allow room for a thinner glove underneath for those really chilly days.

A couple options to avoid are full mittens, and summer biking gloves. Full mittens hinder your braking control.

Your summer gloves offer little warmth and will probably not protect against the wind.

Handlebar mitts are also a popular option. They’re sleeves that attach to your handlebars. You put your whole hand in them. Although I have never used them, they provide warmth and wind protection while proving excellent access to all of your handlebar controls.

What to Wear on Your Legs

A wind resistant shell with a warm layer underneath is ideal. Insulated snow pants can work, but they aren’t good at regulating heat unless they have vents.

Thin insulated pants like cross country ski pants are also a great option in warmer conditions.

I wear alpine climbing pants. They are a breathable hard shell and extremely flexible, making them ideal for fat biking.

If you have hard shell track pants, wearing long johns underneath works best for the majority of conditions

 If you often break trail, or wind-drift is common in your area, consider pants with waterproofing on the lower leg as it’ll help keep your feet warm in deep snow.

What to Wear on Your Feet

fat biking shoes
The difference between a light winter trail shoe and a winter boot.

I use light winter trail shoes or winter hiking boots, depending on conditions. If it is less then -5 C or there’s fresh snow, I’ll wear full winter hiking boots.

For anything warmer I’ll wear water resistant light winter trail shoes. I’ll typically just wear a single layer of socks. Wearing two provides extra warmth and is recommended until you figure out your comfort level.

If you’re buying boots for fat biking and typically have cold feet, bring a couple pairs of socks to try the boots on with–make sure there’s enough room.

What to Wear for Winter Fat Biking

Winter fat biking is a fun way to get out in the colder months, and it’s even better when you stay comfortable.

Although there are plenty of specialist cycling clothing options, they are expensive. And you probably already have everything you need in your winter drawer.

It takes time to figure out what works best for you. As you gain experience you’ll know what you need and make informed buying decisions.

Now you know where to start!


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