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As the days get shorter and the nights get longer (and the temperatures dip while the weather gets more temperamental), it makes sense that you need to not only adapt your training, but your training gear as well. Similarly, not everyone lives with the same winter conditions—some have such mild winters that shoulder-season gear is good enough through the winter months, others live in places with such extreme weather that indoor cycling and running are the names of the game.
Because of this, we’ve specifically chosen cycling and running gear that triathletes would actually wear when they head out to train. Rather than find the most extreme of the extreme gear for those rare days when you train out in the worst elements (hats off to those who do), we’ve taken a different approach and looked at gear that can be layered, worn in most training conditions, and even specifically worn inside.
For our favorite 2021 winter training clothing, we’ve included a mix of outdoor winter gear, things that can be layered for a variety of climates, and clothing that’s perfect for indoor training.
Editor’s Note: While the gear below was loaned out by the brands represented, all choices were selected independently by the tester without any promotional consideration or brand input. Also, unlike other “best triathlon cycling shoes review” websites, our testers actually wear and try the gear ourselves—no glancing at spec sheets and rewording marketing terms! For more on how we review gear, click here.
2021 Winter Training Clothing – The Ratings, Explained
|Fit||Notes on sizing|
|Overall Comfort||Scale from 1-5 on overall comfort—this can include construction and materials, but cycling pad is separate below.|
|Pad Thickness||Scale from 1-5 on pad thickness with 1 being minimal and 5 being very thick.|
|Moisture Control||Scale of 1-5, this is overall moisture control; 1 indicates that it gets soggy/wet and stays that way, 5 indicates excellent dissipation and evaporation.|
|Durability||Scale of 1-5 with 5 being the most durable, this rates how tough the materials appear and roughly how many seasons the clothing might last.|
|Saddle Relief||Scale of 1-5 that specifically looks at the construction of cycling shorts and whether they chafe and/or give a reasonable amount of cushion for the normal rider. 1 indicates poor relief/lots of chafing, 5 means excellent relief with absolutely no chafing.|
|Value||Scale of 1-5, this is not just the price itself from low to high, but how much bang you get for your buck.|
MAAP Women’s Force Winter Pro Long Sleeve Jersey
|Fit||Those with a long torso, beware. This jersey is form-fitting but does not fit well at the point where the zipper meets along the bottom of the jersey. The fabric pulls upward toward one’s belly button and can cause the jersey to ride up on the stomach unnecessarily.|
Basics: This jersey is for those who are unafraid to cruise outside when the temperature dips near freezing. The thick, fleece-like fabric and waterproof treatment make this piece of apparel a strong opponent against the chill of winter.
What I Liked: The MAAP women’s force winter pro long sleeve jersey is well-built for cold weather. It is form-fitting, yet thick enough that strong chilly winds do not penetrate the fabric on a day that was blustery and in the mid-40 degrees Fahrenheit. The jersey brags that it is waterproof, although we did not get to experience that firsthand while reviewing. The sleeves are long enough that they extend just to the beginning of the back of the hand, so riders will not have to face uncomfortable cold wrists this season. The jersey also has great options for storage, including an insulated pocket for a phone (and the pocket is big enough for those of us with larger phone screens, huzzah!).
What I Didn’t Like: The cut of the jersey’s torso is a bit odd. Instead of being the same cut all along the hem of the torso, the fabric pinches upward where the bottom of the zipper meets, pulling the fabric upwards towards the belly button. For those who have long torsos, the jersey may ride up as you naturally move (especially from aero to upright), causing you to need to ride one-handed and pull down the jersey with the other hand. The jersey is also skin-tight, which for some may not be a drawback, but for others may be uncomfortable or an unwelcome feeling.
MAAP Women’s Team Thermal Bib Tights
|Fit||The bib tights fit incredibly well. They are snug without being restrictive and the bib loops do not dig into the shoulders, even if you wear a bulky thermal layer under them. Worn on a 40 degree F day.|
Basics: These bib tights are externally silky smooth and lined with snuggly fleece. Although they are advertised to be worn in the 40-50-degree F range, we think they could stand up to slightly cooler temps given how thick the fabric is. With a soft, ample chamois to boot, these bibs are a strong contender for “must-have” this season.
What I Liked: These bibs fit like a dream. They are true to size and snug without making you feel like a stuffed sausage. The bib loops are comfortable around the shoulders and do not chafe, either. The fleece-lined element of the bibs is super soft and does a good job of wicking away moisture during a ride. Likewise, the outer fabric is treated with DWR (durable water repellent) and means that even if you get caught in rain, sleet, or snow, the bibs won’t immediately become soaked (although this does not mean they are waterproof). The chamois was thick enough to give those key areas protection but not so bulky as to become cumbersome. The pad extends down to the sides of the inner thigh a bit, too, to prevent chafing in the soft tissue area. It offered enough protection to largely protect against chafing, although we’d still recommend leveraging chamois cream for longer rides.
What I Didn’t Like: Honestly, these bibs are mostly great except for one thing: the price. Dropping $305 for a pair of winter bibs you may only wear a few times is a lot to ask of anyone’s budget. We’d argue that if you can swing it, they’re worth the price, but the tag makes a great product inaccessible for some. These bibs are also quite form-fitting, which for some is a welcome style but for others may not be a comfortable way to wear their cycling gear. Lastly, the bibs are recommended for temperatures between 40-50 degrees F. MAAP does offer “deep winter” bibs for more frigid temperatures, but those are another $300+ purchase. It would be nice to see MAAP combine the two bibs into one with a larger temperature protection range.
Rapha Pro Team Long Sleeve Jersey and Pro Team Winter Tights with Pad II
$205 Jersey, $285.00 Tights, rapha.cc
|Fit||Soft and comfortable, snug but not overly tight fit to jersey and bib tights. The jersey feels uniform tension throughout, while the bib tights have a noticeable compression in the legs.|
|Moisture Control||Jersey: 4
Basics: The Rapha Pro Team kit is built for the cold. And built to keep you warm without layers and layers. When the temperature dips, your options used to be grabbing multiple pieces of kit and hoping you can regulate your temperature based on putting layers on and peeling them off throughout the ride. The bib tights have DWR (Durable Water Repellent) on the front, brushed fleece for added warmth, breathable fabric on the rear, an upper made of wicking fabric for additional temperature management, and reflective tabs for added visibility. The jersey uses a micro grid construction that wicks away moisture while trapping air close to the skin to help regulate body temperature—similar to how a wetsuit keeps you warm in the water. The jersey is sleek, features three rear pockets, a zipped essentials pocket, and reflective tabs for improved visibility.
What I Liked:
Jersey: The Jersey is lightweight (185g) and fits more like a racing cut than a winter training cut. It is soft, flexible, fits close to the body, and has elastic cuffs that hold the arms in place keeping you warm and the jersey comfortably snug and in place. I appreciate details like the reflective elements for enhanced visibility and the stylish chin/zipper guard. Although this has been mentioned as a mid-layer garment, I feel it is more versatile. If paired with a base layer it could easily double as a dry weather light jacket or be worn without a base layer for a long sleeve on a colder but not frigid day.
Tights: Unlike typical cold weather tights, the Pro Team Winter Tights are actually comfortable when riding a bike. These are a second generation with improved weather protection (better wind and water blocking), and enhanced comfort features. The micro grid featured in the jersey is also found in the tights but also paired with a soft fleece, water repellent front panels, breathable fabric on the back of the legs, and upper of the tights to keep you from overheating, and comfortable bib straps void of any stitching. Additionally, Rapha uses the same high-end chamois they use in the Pro Team Bibs II.
What I Didn’t Like:
Jersey: What I didn’t like about this jersey—I really, really did not like. Rapha has incorporated rubber-printed Rapha logo and Pro team bars designed to make grasping the bottom of the jersey easier. Finding the bottom of the jersey has never been a problem I wish someone had tried to come up with a solution for. Rapha’s solution to a non-problem resulted in garment damage to another pair of bibshorts due to rubbing.
These tights may be an example of too much of a good thing—limiting these to very cold days. As effective as they are keeping the cold out and the warmth in, they tend not to breathe super well. This makes for a great pair of bib tights for Fat Tire biking in the snow or training in the coldest of days. Until the temperature dips and holds far below 50 degrees F, these bib tights might be too much.
Castelli Insider Jersey and Insider Bibshort
$120 Jersey, $140 Bibshort, castelli-cycling.com
|Fit||Race cut—no bagginess with either the jersey or bib shorts. The next-to-skin fit ensures excellent moisture management.|
|Overall Comfort||Jersey: 5
Bib Shorts: 3
Basics: With the popularity of Peloton, Zwift, and spin classes resuming as COVID restrictions are softening, Castelli has released a cycling kit specific for the indoor market. The jersey and bibshorts are polyester construction creating garments that are both lightweight and provide maximum wicking. Although there are nods to traditional cycling kits—such rear pockets for the jersey and a pro pocket on the bibs (typically used for race radios), this is a kit designed for indoors. While $260 for an inside-only kit may seem excessive, if you’re riding inside enough this season, Castelli has constructed a high-quality product that makes indoor suffering a bit less miserable.
What I Liked:
Jersey: The jersey is über lightweight (88g) that basically vanishes off you. The Insider jersey is amazing at moisture management, not weighing you down like a wet shirt or even a conventional jersey during your training session. Features such as a zipper neck guard and two rear pockets are nice touches. Initially, I scoffed at the pockets for an “indoor” jersey until I realized how useful they were. By carrying my phone and air pods in the pockets, my hands were free to hold my towel and water bottle without fear of dropping my phone en route to the pain cave.
Bibs: Like the jersey, the bib short is very light (172g) and very breathable. The perforated leg grippers and mesh backing and bib straps add to the exceptional wicking nature of Castelli’s Inferno fabric. You will not feel like you just jumped into a pool wearing your old bibs after a hard indoor training session in these.
What I Didn’t Like:
Jersey: This jersey is transparent, bordering on too thin. If you are going to wear this in public to a group indoor cycling workout, I recommend absolute self confidence in your physique, because everything shows. Although Castelli suggests that the jersey could be used during warm weather outdoor riding, I hesitate due to concern for sunburn.
Bibs: These bib shorts run small—at least 1-2 sizes. I tested a size large (and usually I wear medium or large in bibs) and I felt constricted. It may have been the nature of wearing bib shorts too small, but the straps are not particularly comfortable. When it is common to have seamless straps, or at least minimal stitching, these “minimalist bib straps” proved to be too thin and resulted in unwanted pressure. Although the basic chamois (KISS Air2) Castelli has paired with their indoor trainer bib shorts is sufficient, at this price point I would expect a company with Castelli’s heritage to use a better chamois.
Nathan Women’s Dash Long Sleeve
|Fit||True to slightly loose|
Basics: Though it looks more like a casual shirt for post-run relaxing, this lightweight top works well for shoulder season runs when temperatures aren’t too low.
What I Liked: The material here is king. This is one of the softer-feeling run tops we’ve ever tried, and despite Nathan calling it a lightweight tee “designed to keep you cool,” we found it kept us warm even on shorter runs in the low 50s. The looser fit is also something that might be a good choice in the winter months, if you want to layer.
What I Didn’t Like: This isn’t a long-sleeve shirt for running in serious winter weather. While the moisture control is excellent, there’s very little in the way of wind or water resistance. Of course a light shell would be a good pairing here (especially in changing conditions or if you like to layer). Otherwise, this is a very basic shirt with no fancy extra details like lots of reflective material, ninja loops or multiple panels of different fabrics.
–Karli FosterSection divider
Oiselle Flyout Tights
|Fit||On the smaller end|
Basics: The Flyout Tights are a Oiselle staple—and, yes, they make a “bad weather” version for $142, but unless you’re running in the Arctic (and more power to you if you are) then you probably want to opt for the regular version for your winter runs or risk overheating.
What I Liked: There are two things that make these tights perfect for winter training: The soft warm inside that’s built into the compression material—Oiselle is known for nailing its materials and the temperature and moisture regulation on this is spot on—and secondly that you can actually run in them. They stay in place, don’t chafe in weird spots as long as you pull them up, and the length is just about right for winter with a slight tuliped edge at the bottom.
What I Didn’t Like: The only downside is there aren’t a ton of pockets on them—just the side ones for your phone that are en vogue right now, which I don’t love—but you’re probably wearing a jacket or vest with pockets anyway.
–Kelly O’MaraSection divider
Ten Thousand Far Short and Far Shirt
$78 Short, $54 shirt, tenthousand.cc
Basics: Because not everyone lives in places that get chilly in the winter and conversely some people barely venture outside to run during the winter months due to the elements, this short and short pairing is super lightweight and moisture wicking. The shorts use a form-fitting brief liner and crazy-thin outer material with holes for ventilation. The short is made of a similarly thin mesh polyester material. Both are made with a focus on sustainability and the environment.
What I Liked:
Shorts: Both pieces are designed in collaboration with ultrarunner/triathlete/vegan podcaster Rich Roll, and as such the shorts tick all of the boxes for low-chafe, light weight, and even ample storage. These are an excellent choice for long runs in warm weather or harder efforts on a treadmill. The taped seams leave fewer opportunities for frayed hems, and the outer material is conceivably some of the lightest and most mobile we’ve ever tested.
Shirt: The perforated mesh material does a great job of providing ventilation and hanging off the body once you start to warm up and sweat. The side-effect of this bouncy material is because it doesn’t stick to you as much as some shirts, sweat has a better shot at evaporating off you before you start to soak it in. We also liked the orange accents with muted colors.
What I Didn’t Like:
Shorts: While I applaud so much of what Ten Thousand and Rich Roll are doing to keep their materials both eco-conscious and super comfortable, the taped seams and thin fabric raised some questions about durability. $78 isn’t exactly cheap for running shorts (though that seems to be the sweet spot for other premium running gear like Tracksmith too), and it wouldn’t be an issue, except these shorts don’t look like they could take too many snags from brush.
Shirt: There’s not too much to dislike on this shirt. Though the price is a little steep, we didn’t have any issues with durability on the shirt so far. For the price, it would be nice to have body-mapped panels of different types of fabric, but honestly, it wasn’t something that felt lacking (especially knowing the material was more eco friendly than most).
–Chris FosterSection divider
Tracksmith Off Roads Shorts and Off Roads Long Sleeve
$98 Shorts, $98 Shirt, tracksmith.com
Basics: For those who like to layer when it gets cold, maybe run hot generally, or don’t like tights, Tracksmith’s Off Road long sleeve shirt/short combo is a great choice. The top is a rugged, durable Merino wool blend that lands on the midweight side with a well-place top panel of material on the back and upper chest. The shorts are highly technical with pockets galore (including a very handy phone pocket on the leg-length liner), a thicker, longer-coverage liner, and durable outer material that resists all manner of snags. Though neither piece is the lightest weight you’ll use, they’ll last much longer than other fragile running gear.
What I Liked:
Shorts: These are some incredibly deluxe shorts (as they should be for the price). Not only do they have two large-sized pockets in the back (each big enough to carry an empty soft flask) and two large pockets sewn into the liner, but they have a first-I’ve-ever-seen mini clip belt that allows you to string a shirt or light jacket through the back as you shed layers. Genius. I also loved how tough the material on these shorts are, as they seem like they’ll last for years.
Shirt: This is a tough shirt to wear out running simply because it’s so comfy to wear all day. The Merino blend is perfect for very chilly runs (but not wet ones, you’ll need a shell), and the ninja sleeves are a great boon as you get hotter and colder as you go. We also loved the long length, but tight fit, and the split hem is a nice touch to help keep the shirt moving as you do.
What I Didn’t Like:
Shorts: There’s not a ton to dislike about these shorts, except that for trail shorts, the 5-inch inseam (which in practice feels smaller) might feel a little high. On that same note, the long liner has a tendency to creep up as you go, but it never causes any chafing issues—even on long runs.
Shirt: The Off Roads long sleeve definitely has a sweet spot when it comes to temperature and conditions. We found the weight to be a bit much for anything over 50 degrees, but required a shell for anything below 35 (or any days with bad winds or rain). While that might seem like a narrow band of use for a $100 shirt, the good news is that we wore this shirt all the time, even when not running.
Pearl Izumi Women’s Cyclone Gel Glove
|Fit||A snug fit with an adjustable wristband to keep heat locked in|
Basics: An upgraded version of your standard winter cycling glove. These gloves feature an adjustable wrist closure, tech-touch capabilities, and solid cushioning and cold protection to make winter riding a (warm) breeze.
What I Liked: The gloves are definitely snug and leave practically no excess fabric hanging off, waiting to get snagged on some errant screw on the bike frame. The adjustable wrist closure is a nice feature too for those of us who have small wrists. The tech-touch pointer finger does actually work and while it might take a few taps of the phone screen to get the fabric to register, it generally works quite well. The gloves also felt well-constructed and durable and would likely last a rider more than a few seasons.
What I Didn’t Like: The gloves have very little range of motion and are quite stiff. While cycling gloves should be stiffer than regular gloves, it was a bit uncomfortable to do things like grip a small pack of chews and ball up my hand into a fist. They were not the most comfortable gloves to wear for a run off the bike due to their stiffness, although again, that’s not exactly their intention. This may change with increased wear, though. The gloves also market themselves as offering protection from the cold for temperatures 35-degrees to 65-degrees F. The gloves worked well on a 36-degree day, but I’d like to see their protection extend into the high 20s and lower 30s, as well.
Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WxB Shoe Cover
|Fit||A tight fit|
Basics: This winterized cycling shoe cover is all about keeping the precipitation out and the warm in. The sleek, pleather-esque covers do as advertised: No slush will be finding its way to your feet with the WxB Shoe Cover this winter.
What I Liked: There’s nothing worse than throwing on a pair of shoe covers, heading out into the cold, and then the shoe covers get wet and lose all purpose. The WxB shoe covers aimed to solve that problem and they did—the covers are practically impenetrable to water and tiny bits of debris thanks to their waterproof outers and taped seams. The covers also appear well-made and for just $55, a rider would get a solid ROI as the product seems ready to last for at least a few seasons of precipitation and cold-weather riding. The covers are also sleek and easy to put on. The entire back of the covers opens up to allow for each insertion of the shoe and calf, then they seal with a smooth velcro to prevent any pinching of the skin or your socks.
What I Didn’t Like: The covers are fleece-lined, but their highlight is mostly that they are waterproof. While the covers are warm, they aren’t the warmest on the market (tested on a 36-degree F day). These size-large covers also seemed to strain a bit around size 10 in women’s USA sizes / 43 in European sizes. The fabric was just beginning to struggle to reach its velcro counterpart at the back of the shoe at this measurement.