You do not need special, bike-specific clothes to ride or be comfortable on a bike. And you definitely do not need bike-specific clothes to look good on a bike. Many people find the key to looking and feeling great when biking is to just wear their normal clothes. Wear a skirt, your favorite hoodie, a three-piece suit, old gym shorts or spandex—whatever works for you.
Biking is no different from every other activity in that you must dress appropriately for the weather to stay comfortable. While everyone has their own preferences and strategies for staying comfortable, below are a few general guidelines for some common Minnesota weather conditions. Clothing choice is highly personal and everyone should experiment to find out what works for them. Wear something stylish and comfortable you already own; no need for specialized clothes. If it’s cold, wear warmer clothes. If you get too sweaty, slow down.
Waterproof clothing is key to staying dry and warm when it’s wet outside. Rain jackets and rain pants can be easily worn over normal clothing. Waterproof footwear is great, too. Head-to-toe waterproof gear is available in many different styles at a wide range of price points. Check out your local outdoor clothing retailer, used clothing shops, or army surplus store.
Dressing right in the cold is key to enjoying your ride. While you do not need special or expensive clothing to ride in the winter, you will need some additional layers to stay comfortable. Everyone has their own comfort level when it comes to cold weather, so you will have to experiment to find our what works for you. Some general considerations:
Head: Wear a hat or headband to keep your ears and top of your head warm. Winter helmets In very cold weather, covering your face with a scarf, neck gaiter or balaclava. Googles can be great for very cold and windy situations.
Torso: In moderately cold weather, try a light jacket, windbreaker or rain jacket. As it gets colder, wear sweaters or other insulating layers under your jacket. In very cold conditions, consider wearing your winter jacket.
Legs: Long underwear can be worn under most pants as an insulating layer. Wind and rain pants can be worn on top to protect against the elements.
Hands: Wear mittens or gloves that block the wind. In very cold weather, consider wearing thinner gloves inside larger mittens.
Feet: Shoes or boots with enough room to fit warm socks is key. You should have enough room to wiggle your toes in warm socks. In very cold weather, consider boots with insulation are necessary to keep their toes warms if outside for longer periods of time.
For more details on a common approach to layering, the 3-layer system, check out REI's Layering Basics article.
While you can always put more layers in cold weather, you only have so many options for staying comfortable in the heat. The most important thing when biking in the heat is to stay hydrated, protect yourself from too much sun exposure and stop if it is too hot. Wearing light weight clothes and a large hat that keep the sun off you can keep you cooler than having your skin directly exposed. If your skin is exposed, consider applying sunscreen as needed.
You may also consider riding slower. Taking it easy in the heat is never a bad idea.
You do not need special shoes or pedals to bike. You can ride in high heels, dress shoes, sneakers, sandals--whatever works for you. Some people use use special shoes that clip into special pedals, attaching their foot to the bike. This system is called “clipless" and is not necessary for athletic riding.