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It’s almost January, and in Minnesota, that means subzero temperatures are on their way. In some cases, extreme temperatures make biking virtually impossible, and we recommend staying indoors in case of severe cold weather emergencies.

But milder freezing temps can still be fair weather for winter cycling–especially fat biking.  Preparing yourself with the right gear will help you enjoy the winter ride more and keep you safe and dry.  

Dressing in layers allows you to adjust the temperature to your comfort level and adapt depending on exertion or changing conditions like wind or rain.  So make sure to pick pieces that can be both worn alone or layered with other pieces.  

The key here is to buy fewer high quality, versatile pieces, and whenever possible, choose pieces that work for both winter biking and other winter sports like skiing. While it can be pricey upfront, high quality, versatile outdoor gear will endure in the long run and allow you to enjoy a comfortable winter biking (and skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc.) experience year after year.

The Base Layer

This post is part 1 of our essential guide for winter biking gear.  Keep reading to learn considerations for choosing base layer tops, tights, and socks.

(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are Amazon affiliate links, so we may receive a small commission from your purchase – it helps us keep this site up and running!*)


base layer topA good base layer top keeps you dry and helps you regulate temperature–both keeping you from getting too cold or overheating with exertion.  To achieve this, stay away from cotton, which absorbs sweat.  Opt instead for a natural fabric like merino wool, which is soft, breathable, and naturally odor-resistant, or a durable, moisture-wicking synthetic fabric like polyester or nylon/spandex blends.

Base layers also come in different weights from lightweight to thermal.  Your choice of weight will depend on your own personal preferences and the average temperature where you bike.  The fit of the base layer should be comfortably snug and lie smooth over the skin.

For biking in climates with cold wind chill, choose a base layer with a windshield panel over the chest.  This will help to keep you warm against the wind when riding without an outer shell.   

Finally, look for long enough hems to ensure no skin is exposed to the cold when you lean over the handlebars; and look for long enough sleeves to avoid gaps between your sleeve and gloves.  While in general, we recommend trying on base layers at your local athletic outfitter to ensure the proper fit, there are some good options available online as well.

For men

For women


base layer tights

Tights are the long version of regular bike shorts and are typically made of thick, stretchy Lycra fabrics, fleece-lined, or other insulated material.  There are a number of options for tights.  Bib tights eliminate the need for a waist band, but are often more expensive and can be cumbersome if you need to use the restroom.  

Tights can also be purchased with or without a padded insert.  Additionally, if you often bike in especially wet areas, consider investing in water resistant or waterproof tights. As with tops, for biking in cold wind chills, choose a windbreaker variety.  

When trying on both base layer tops and tights, look for fit that is stretchy and check the placement of seams and tags (or go for tagless) to ensure comfortable wear. Below are tights in a range of price points that are available for purchase online:

For men

For women


Wool cycling socks are often the best choice for winter biking–especially when it’s well below freezing.  Wool socks not only keep you dry and warm, they’re also durable enough to stand up to a lot of wear.  

Look for a sock that comes up at least six inches to overlap with your tights, and make sure the fit is snug enough to prevent snow, rain, or wind from getting in.   You can also find wool socks with breathable mesh panels for better temperature control.

Photo Credit: vikapproved Flickr via Compfight cc

*The Fat Bike Hub is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com 

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Hi I'm Santi, and I'm a content marketing manager in the tech industry by day and grad student and writing instructor by night. I’ve always loved biking, ever since I got my first bike on my fourth birthday. As a kid, my siblings and I would go on biking “adventures” around the neighborhood, pedaling our way to nearby schools and lakes. Naturally, those adventures have only increased over the years! In addition to biking, I also love telling stories and traveling around the US. I write about our biking adventures and about fat bikes for women and kids.
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