How To Keep Ears Warm When Cycling

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Ben Jones

Accessories, Bike Gear Reviews


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Getting cold ears when you cycle in freezing winter weather? You’re not alone. We’re going to look at some of the best ways to protect your ears from the pain of windchill when biking. Thankfully there are plenty of easy solutions available!

I love cycling in the winter.

Those days when you’re out early on a crisp morning. The sun is just rising. There’s ice on the puddles. The sky is an amazing blue that you only seem to get in the wintertime. And everyone else is huddled up inside refusing to set foot outside the duvet.

It’s a magical time to be on the bike and I love powering along with my breath forming clouds in the air. If I had “Orient Express” printed on the side of my bike, you might mistake me for a steam train.

Unfortunately, the romance of this particular scene is ruined somewhat by the pain of my freezing ears. Those tender pieces of flesh attached to the sides of my head, that are rapidly getting colder in the breeze, and threatening to drop off with frost bite.

Over the years I’ve worked my way through a number of different methods of keeping my ears warm when I’m on the bike. Some have been more successful than others.

Some kept my ears really warm but, arguably, looked a bit silly.

I’ve now come up with a range of perfect ear-warming solutions for biking. These are on a sliding scale from, “just a little chilly”, to “oh my god, I’m getting brain freeze”.

Shall we take a look?

My Top Recommended Methods of Keeping Your Ears Warm

Ok, let’s take a look at each of these in more detail.

Option 1 = Headband

A fleece headband will normally be my first port-of-call when the mercury starts to fall on the thermometer. That being said, there are a range of different thicknesses or weights of headbands, with some providing more wind protection and warmth than others.

Headbands are a great choice as they don’t interfere much with your bike helmet – which, say, a bobble hat would. They will tend to go from the back of your neck (below your helmet rim), over your ears, and then up to just inside the rim of your helmet at the front. I find this bit at the front actually quite useful as it can also soak up any brow sweat before it drips down my face. A lovely picture, I know.

If you have longer hair, then go this ponytail headband option. This has a hole at the back, which stops hair getting bunched up underneath a standard headband and allowing chilly breezes in.

This headband is a great choice for those slightly chillier days. It’s got good coverage for your ears and is soft and comfortable.

Option 2 = Skull Cap

Once the temperatures start to drop further, you need to make sure that your head stays warm along with your ears. So the next step is to move on to a skull cap, also known as a helmet liner. This is a thin tight-fitting hat that covers the head and (in our case) down over your ears.

Skull caps are great as they don’t interfere with your helmet and give a good level of wind protection and warmth. Just like headbands they also stop sweat dribbling down from your forehead.

One like this is perfect. Made from stretchy wicking fabric with a soft fleece on the inside. It fits great under your cycle helmet (and stops you from getting ridiculous ‘cycling helmet hair’ …or is that just me….?)

It’s ideal for men and women and also has a ponytail opening at the rear.

Option 3 = Beanie

Next on the list we’re going for a proper hat, just like your mom told you to wear. Although, now that we’re a bit older and wiser, we’re leaving out the bobble. Not that I have anything against bobbles, but they just don’t work with close-fitting bike helmets.

A merino wool beanie hat with a double cuff at the ears is perfect for our needs. Thicker than a skull cap, this will trap more warm air round your head and ears, and keep you toastier. Try this one.

Option 4 = Ear Muffs

If your head is warm, or you need an extra layer of ear chill protection, then it’s worth looking at ear muffs. I used to think that, once you’d stopped being a 3-year old girl, then you couldn’t wear them anymore. For me, being a middle-aged guy, this has always been something of an issue.

That was until I found these from Kedofe. They look awesome, fold up nice and small and best of all, they wrap round the back of your neck, so don’t get in the way of your bike helmet. Perfect for keeping those lobes warm in icy cold weather.

Option 5 = Balaclava

Bruce Lee has got a lot to answer for when it comes to my childhood ambitions and the warmth of my ears.

You see, whilst some kids want to be firefighters or astronauts or whatever, I saw one clip of Bruce Lee fighting and I wanted to be a ninja. Now, I know that Bruce wasn’t actually a ninja. But, in the mind of a 12-year old kid, he was. And anyway, those black outfits that ninjas wear look really cool. So, later in life, when I was hunting for cold-weather bike gear and I saw this balaclava, I was instantly hooked.

When the ice is thick and the snow is driving into your face, what you need is ninja protection for your ears. With this balaclava ski mask you not only get toasty ears, but you also get a warm neck, cozy head, and a pleasantly balmy chin.

Feels great. Looks awesome.

Option 6 = Full Face Mountain Bike Helmet

When the snow is deep on the ground, the icy wind is howling, and you’re about to bike to the store for some cookie dough ice cream, you need the ultimate ear protection.

It’s time to break out the big guns, leave the normal open-vented bike helmet on the shelf and go for a full-face mountain bike helmet like this one below.

These helmets are perfect for full-on winter biking. They completely cover your ears, so keep them lovely and warm. Yet they’ve still got air vents so you won’t fog up. You can also combine them with a skull cap for extra toastiness.

Of course, not only do they keep your ears warm, but they also provide the highest level of protection for your head. Which is pretty important…

READ THIS NEXT Bike Helmet Selection Guide

Final word on keeping your ears warm whilst cycling

Firstly, I think Rowan Atkinson AKA Blackadder AKA the guy with the breasts on his ears at the top of the page, is a total comedic genius.

Secondly, wintertime cycling is awesome.

Thirdly, cold ears when you’re cycling in the wintertime kinda takes the shine off it.

Use one or more of these techniques to keep your ears toasty and you’ll be happier than an Elizabethan Lord with a pair of plastic breasts wrapped round his head.

Stay warm.