Cold Weather Riding

Pathletes Leslie Williams and Brooke McFerren (right) brave the elements on Harding Truck Trail in 2019.

Pathletes Leslie Williams and Brooke McFerren (right) brave the elements on Harding Truck Trail in 2019.


With limited daylight hours, many riders find themselves sneaking mid-week rides in before work this time of year. While Southern California rarely experiences the kind of cold our neighbors to the north endure during the winter months, temps can and do dip into the 30s and 40s overnight, particularly in the canyons and at higher elevations in our local mountains (which also receive snow a couple of times per year), making for a chilly morning and night rides. 

Here are 5 tips for riding in the cold:

1) Pack a jacket. Stash a lightweight rain or wind jacket in your pack, and leave it there throughout the winter months. You'll always be prepared in case of an unexpected storm rolling, long breaks, or for a chilly descent after a sweaty climb. 

2) Bring extra gloves/socks. Working hard on long climbs can result in sweat-soaked gloves and socks, making for cold extremities when you stop moving and when riding downhill. Consider packing an extra pair of each to avoid numb fingers and feet later in the ride. A lightweight beanie is also nice to have. 

3) Wear wicking fabrics. Wool and synthetic fabrics stay warmer when wet but are breathable in warmer temps, so consider wearing taller wool socks to help keep your toes toasty. A wool jersey can also help keep you warm early in the ride, but won't be too insulating when the sun comes out. Avoid 100 percent cotton, which takes longer to dry. 

4) Layer up. Temperatures can swing upwards of 40 or 50 degrees when the sun comes out, so for longer rides, dress in layers and make sure you have a place to carry them when it's time to take them off. 

5) Pack emergency gear. On longer and remote rides, carry a warmer jacket, a hat, extra food and water, a space blanket, and other gear that might make being caught out in the cold more comfortable. Mechanicals, crashes and other unforeseen delays might keep you out longer than you planned for, so having some creature comforts stashed in your pack will ensure you are ready to handle the unexpected.