Although many people ride with shorts throughout the winter, extra protection on cold days is usually welcome, especially when riding after dark. There are different options but anything is better than nothing.
Ordinary tights – good for warmth, especially wind chill and perfect clearance from the crankset but rain soaks through and then you get cold muscles. They tend to pull threads easily on brambles but keep the mud off and the reflective strips show up in headlights on dark roads. Normally worn with Lycra shorts or padded undershorts but can be worn underneath baggy shorts if you are very fashionable.The fact that your ten-year-old son laughs like a drain when you put them on should not prevent you from wearing them.
Water resistant tights – a looser fit but much warmer and are water resistant. Son still laughs.
Trousers – these can be either the waterproof over-trouser carried along with your rain jacket or a riding trouser worn instead of tights. They can be dry weather (or water resistant) designs, jump trousers or heavier weight waterproof trousers.
Altura Dryline – used for three years. An excellent design of good quality construction using a tough material and with lots of nice touches. Double poppers on the waistband, reflective strips, elastic and Velcro waist straps, stretch knees, adjustable length and both zips and Velcro at the ankles. Lots of pockets and son does not laugh.Robust, excellent value, quite waterproof but a little sweaty – 8/10
Gore Profi 2 – A comfortable cut of a warm, very breathable material but water resistant rather than waterproof. Elastic and toggles at the waist, single button waist, lots of pockets including clever doubled cargoes and double Velcro ankle straps. After lots of rides, they are surprisingly useable instead of tights, waterproof trousers or even shorts. I have used them in full rain and they resistant at first but eventually wet through. They can catch on the big ring if you do not use the velcro tabs but they can be repaired. The ¾ zip off leg option makes them a flexible piece of kit if a cold day turns hot. They wash well and survive tumble drying too. Buy the correct size for riding and not the neat fit for standing up at the bar. – 9/10 (Not waterproof)
Gore Profi 3 – A different animal to Profi 2 being lighter material and cut more like an overtrouser but the above knee zip off option turns them into full shorts which makes them more versatile between spring and autumn. Windproof and seemingly quite water resistant but a cooler wear than the Profi 2. Only one occasional use pocket. Ideal for changeable weather but not the first choice if you are buying just one pair of trousers – 9/10.
Gore Delta XCR – Single hook fly with elastic and Velcro waist adjustment. Reflective strips but only a single rear zipped pocket, stretch leg panels, zip and Velcro ankle closure. Very waterproof, a comfortable riding fit and surprisingly tough. The only choice for very wet weather as excellent breatheabililty makes a considerable difference for all day comfort. Expensive but still good value- 10/10
Choosing on the day
When it is dry and chilly to start and seems too cold for shorts then the Profi 2 is my first choice and is always the best for cold night rides.The Profi 3 is ideal when shorts seem the brave choice. An easy warm up and unzip or if it stays breezy comfortable all day long. If it is raining just pull the XCR off the shelf. Even if it feels warm the breatheability is so good that you do not become uncomfortable.The Dryline is the choice for a day of showers and muddy conditions on rough trails as they feel the toughest but they are not completely waterproof, not that warm and not the most breathable.
Just one pair
The Dryline is great for value and the XCR the rain champion but the ones I find myself using most frequently are the Profi 2. However if I could only keep one pair I would choose the XCR because although I can fight the cold in shorts or even tights I feel miserable at the end of a wet ride with cold legs sitting in a puddle.