Gear tips: Layering up for Cycling in Winter

 | Lachlan Gardiner
| Lachlan Gardiner

Layering up for Cycling in Winter

Winter in New Zealand has some of the most-breath taking landscape scenery in the world. Not only are the snowy mountainscapes everywhere you look and a chance to see the euphoric southern lights (Aurora Australia), but the trails are quieter and the Southern Alps loom even larger with fresh seasonal snow, making it the perfect time for an cycling holiday.

You will need to pack appropriately for the cooler months as it is not unusual for the temperature to drop below 0°C, especially overnight or possibly early in the morning. Our winter itineraries are a slower pace as we commence the mornings ride later for conditions to warm up - plus who is in a rush to leave a warm bed on a clear, crisp morning? 

To help with the right preparation and gear choices, we have created the ultimate New Zealand packing checklist to make sure you've got everything you need for your New Zealand winter cycling trip. 

Our electric bikes are a fantastic way to experience the trails |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i>


Layering is essential

It's important to dress appropriately to stay warm and comfortable. The temperature in New Zealand can change quickly so layer you gear in winter is essential. Layering gives you the freedom to add more or remove layers depending on the various weather changes or terrain you are facing, which you could not do if you wore one thick layer. Dress to keep the wind out incase you come acrpss any wet weather. 

Base Layer

The base layer is the layer of clothing touching your skin. For your base layer, you'll want a breathable fabric that is sweat wicking as you warm up when cycling but keeps you warm when your body starts to cool down. 

Most cycling base layers are synthetic, wool or a synthetic-wool blend. Thermals such as merino wool are great when the temperature drops below 10 degrees otherwise a standard polypro is a great inexpensive option. 


Think of the mid-layer as an insulation layer for your body. This layer will keep you warm when the temperature drops and can easily be taken off when cycling to ensure you don't overheat. In the midst of winter, an insulating layer such as fleece or a down jacket will keep you warm. A lined cycling jacket is a great alternative. 

Outer Layer 

Protecting you from the elements, your outer layer should be windproof and water resistant/proof but still light enough that it's easy to manoeuvre and cycle in. A breathable, waterproof cycling jacket is great for cycling as it allows sweat to escape yet still protects you from windchill or any neccesary rain. 

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There's nothing worse than your hands and toes freezing whilst the rest of your body is overheating. Heads, hands and toes are often overlooked but the first to feel the cold. If riding in winter anywhere in NZ, you will need to consider upping the game and wearing winter weight riding gloves, appropriate thicker sock, a buff and potentially over booties and sunglasses. Cycling glasses often come with clear lenses so you can see in low light conditions yet prevent your eyes from watering from the cold air. 

Winter Cycling Checklist 

  • Thermal wool socks
  • Thermal top and pants
  • Long sleeve shirts
  • Warm pants
  • Breathable waterproof jacket 
  • Breathable waterproof pants 
  • Gloves (windproof) 
  • Scarf or buff to keep neck and ears warm
  • Shoe covers are a great addition for cold weather
  • Sunglasses (low light lenses are recommended)

Adventure South NZ's Winter Cycling Trips 

We have 2 Winter specific trip designed to help enjoy and embrace winter. The support vehicle is well equipped with spare clothing or kit to always be comfortable. Hot chocolate and coffee is on hand along with tasty treats to keep your energy levels high, hot water bottles for those who want to put one up their jumper and accommodation including log fires and hot pools. 


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