Best Winter Cycling Tights

22 Oct

There comes a time in the fall when your embrocation cream, knee warmers, leg warmers and cycling knickers just can’t keep your legs warm anymore. Fortunately, the easiest thing to keep warm in the winter is your legs—once you get going your legs become little furnaces and all you have to do is keep them dry, and as the outside temperature drops you switch to slightly better insulated tights. In this article I am going to briefly review my three favorite winter cycling tights (the links in this article will take you to the longer reviews that I wrote last year). I am also going to give the temperature range for each pair of tights—based entirely upon my subjective opinions.

Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights

Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights

For temperatures from 28 to 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) I don’t think you will find a better pair of tights than the Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights. These tights are made with a very breathable wind-resistant fabric on the outside combined with a thin layer of thermal fleece on the inside. You can buy this tight either with or without a chamois. I would definitely buy one with Pearl Izumi’s Elite 3D Chamois. This chamois has 13mm of variable-density microfiber padding coupled with active carbon yarns to help reduce odors.

At the bottom of these tights you will find an 8-inch ankle zipper so the tights are very easy to put on (and take off). The zipper has a lockable tab to keep it closed. The tights also have silicone ankle grippers to keep the tights in place. You will also find reflective piping and logos on the legs to help motorists see you better at night. These tights retail for $125.

If you enjoy riding when the temperature is anywhere from zero to 30 degrees (and who doesn’t?), I would suggest the Pearl Izumi AmFIB Cycling Tights. These tights are designed for extreme weather conditions—I am talking about very cold, wet and windy days. The fabric is very breathable and wicks water away your skin incredibly well. Even after several hours in snow and ice storms these tights kept me dry. The tights also have the 3D Elite chamois (like the pair above). The lower leg of these tights has an 8″ zipper with an internal draft flap and zipper garage. Around the inside of the ankles there is a silicone strip to keep the tights in place. Reflective piping, strips and logos make you visible to motorists from just about any angle.

The Pearl Izumi AmFIB Cycling Tights are also available without a chamois and/or in a bib. Most people will tell you that bibs keep you warmer than tights, but I haven’t had any trouble keeping warm even in temperatures down to zero. Besides, if you are out on a bike trail in ten degree weather and have to answer the call of nature while in bibs you will need to look at your driver’s license just to remember your gender (if you catch my drift). Theses tights seem to be true to size and have a suggested list price of $155.

Craft PXC Storm Pants For Winter Cycling and Nordic Skiing

Craft PXC Storm Tights

For temperatures below zero I use Craft PXC Storm Tights. Last year fellow blogger Joboo suggested I try a pair of these tights the next time the Siberian Express visited my area of the country, and his advice was right on the mark. Craft PXC Storm Tights are primarily designed for Nordic skiing, but any winter cyclist or runner would benefit from them as well. These windproof tights are very breathable, and the articulated knees make them very easy to cycle in. The seams on both the front and back of these tights have reflective piping to help motorists (or snowmobiles) see you at night.

Joboo said he wore these tights in temperatures down to -50F with “no base layer and was toasty warm.” It never gets that cold in the Chicago area, so I can’t vouch for that myself, but I can tell you that they are the warmest tights I’ve ever worn, and if you do get cold you can always add a layer under them. Craft PXC Storm Tights are available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL), and seem to be true to size, but they do stretch a bit when needed. These tights retail for $130.

If you live in an area of the country that doesn’t experience such extreme winter weather, well, you have my sympathy. As I often tell folks, the hardest part of winter cycling is the first 500 feet once you leave your house. As other cyclists are fond of saying, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. And, to paraphrase President Theodore Roosevelt, “Far better is it to cycle all winter, to freeze your body down to the bone, even though pelted by sleet and snow, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they ride their trainers in the basement all winter and know neither joy nor fresh air.”


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24 responses to “Best Winter Cycling Tights

  1. elisariva

    October 22, 2012 at 8:19 AM

    You are a true cyclist. For temperatures below freezing I use … My trainer.

    • womencyclists

      October 22, 2012 at 11:05 AM

      Elisriva…my thoughts exactly!!

      • All Seasons Cyclist

        October 22, 2012 at 11:25 AM

        The best part of riding in the winter: No mosquitoes!

      • Carrie

        October 22, 2012 at 11:28 AM

        HA! I hope to get a trainer within the next week or so.

  2. All Seasons Cyclist

    October 22, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    elisariva — I think I have Adult Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (AADHD). However, my wife says I still have some growing-up to do, so it might just be regular ADHD. Regardless, I have to get outside every day or I feel like I’m dying.

    • bgddyjim

      October 22, 2012 at 6:06 PM

      I get outside to scrape the dang windshield, then I get outside to get into the office, then I get outside to scrape the windshield again, then I get outside to walk in the house – at 10 degrees that’s enough getting outside for me!

      • All Seasons Cyclist

        October 22, 2012 at 6:28 PM

        Since you are already outside you just need to put your helmet on and ride your bike to the office—you won’t even have to scrape the ice off the windshield (however, once you get to the office you will have to scrape the ice off of your body).

  3. bikevcar

    October 23, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    I’ve got 4 pairs of tights. 3 are good, but 1 pair always slip down the back of my bum. Never been able to work out what’s different about them. Do these companies allow a trial run?!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      October 23, 2012 at 4:52 PM

      I would doubt if anyone would give you a trial run with tights because of health codes (due to the chamois). I used to have a problem keeping the Performance Bike brand tights in place, but these Pearl Izumi tights stay put!

  4. TC

    October 23, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    Loved reading your reviews, feeling thankful it rarely gets that cold around here!

  5. rendezvouswithsneakers

    October 25, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    Craft pants are the best!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      October 25, 2012 at 11:54 AM

      I’ve not found anything better for winter sports — and they are so much thinner than the pants I used to wear for cross country skiing!

  6. baileyaj

    October 31, 2012 at 4:19 AM

    Thanks for the recommendation on the Craft pants. I had my first sub freezing ride with a pair on. They worked great. I stayed warm.

    Keep up the good reviews.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      October 31, 2012 at 9:40 AM

      Glad you like the Craft tights! I’ve not needed this fall yet, but hopefully we will get some snow real soon!

  7. pilaketahoe

    November 7, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    Reblogged this on Pearl Izumi South Lake Tahoe and commented:
    The All Seasons Cyclist is dead on with our own suggestions. Here in Tahoe, we also recommend the Elite Thermal Cycling Tights for temperatures down to 32 degrees. Below 32 degrees: into the Amfib or 2011 PRO Softshell Tights you go!

  8. Kelly at Magicshine Bike Lights

    November 20, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    Great recommendations here! See, there’s no need to stop riding in the winter!

  9. thrasherpaddy

    November 22, 2012 at 2:29 AM

    Really good article, Living on the edge of Dartmoor in the UK, we don’t get much snow, but we get cold windy wet coastal weather, and as I despise turbos and rollers, id rather be out in the weather with decent kit than riding in front of the telly, although the kits been tested beyond condition’s i am likely to face, it is good to know what ts capable of should the weather get 2012 on e mid ride!

  10. All Seasons Cyclist

    November 22, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    As we like to say here in the Upper Midwest (of the US), “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”

  11. MePaleo

    November 5, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    Great post. I have a pair of amfib without the chamois, so I use those for running as well as biking. I just ordered a pair of elite bibs, so I appreciate your advice. Now I’m looking forward to Chicago Winter!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      November 5, 2013 at 7:38 PM

      Let’s hope we have a REAL winter this year — the past two winters have been rather mild.

  12. handlebarphilosopher

    December 8, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    What do you ride in the winter. My bike refuses to exit the garage when the temps dip below 40. Actually, I come from the Midwest where cycling used to be my off-season mode of training for xc-skiing, so I never really had the desire to ride once winter hit.

    But seriously, I like you closing paragraph and due to the poor snow conditions in Phoenix, I now find myself riding in conditions where I once was waxing skis or running.

  13. simon682

    December 18, 2013 at 12:04 AM

    Have just bought 3 pairs of thermal long johns for £15 (for 3). These worn under track suit trousers do me down to 5 degrees of frost.


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