How to Keep Ears Warm When Cycling

The winter season can get pretty nasty in some places around Tundra North America.  There’s snow everywhere, but that’s not always a bad thing. Because snowboarders, skiers, and fat bike riders of all stripes can venture out and enjoy the cold outdoors.

Related: Types of Cycling Sports 

But while cruising on your fattie past breathtaking yellow aspen trees can be exciting, the ears can get pretty cold. Your ears can freeze up real bad and fall off, which is why learning how to keep your ears warm when cycling is a good idea.

Your ears can get dang cold even when you have a helmet on. And the cold can build tons of unpleasantness into your overall outdoor winter weather cycling experience.

In this post, you’ll get a few tips and suggestions on how to stay warm around the ears even when it’s freezing outside.

Do You Have Cold Ears No Matter How Much You Layer UP?

If you’re like me and most cyclists trying to have a little fun on wintry days, you’ll have noticed the following truth. Your ears remain cold and sometimes painful no matter how many warmth-inducing clothes you have on.

And nothing discourages people from pursuing happiness outdoors more than extreme discomfort and pain.

Fortunately, there are a few effective ways of keeping the ears warm and comfortable even on the coldest days in the winter.

In this article, you’ll learn at least 8 practical strategies for staying warm around the ears.

Reasons to Keep Your Ears Warm When Biking In the Winter

Lots of cyclists ride their bikes in below-zero temperatures and are just fine at the end of the riding session. Actually, you can ride in such temperatures without covering your hearing organs and not have any issues.

But if it gets too cold outside, like sub-50 F temperatures, that can cause problems. If you don’t want to have any kind of cold-related infections, be sure to have extra ear protection before mounting that rig.

While researching for this piece, I learned that chronic exposure to cold weather can cause surfer’s ear. This is a condition where your ear canal can get blocked due to irritation resulting from too much exposure to cold wind and water. Eventually, trapped water and wax in the blocked ear canal can lead to various infections.

Here’s another research article published on NCBI that explains the condition in greater detail.

Cold-water surfers are familiar with this condition because it’s pretty common in varying degrees in the surfing community.

But surfer’s ear can happen to pretty much anyone that spends their winters having fun outdoors. It can happen to kayakers, windsurfers, sailors, kitesurfers, jet skiers, divers, and even cyclists.

*Note: I’m not qualified to advise anyone about illnesses or conditions of any kind. And what I’m saying here shouldn’t be confused with advice of any sort. If you suspect your ears have an infection of any kind, make sure to talk to your physician.

8 Ways to Keep Your Ears Warm When Cycling on a Cold Day

Let’s learn how you can prevent extreme coldness from reaching your ear canals and probably causing trouble.

  1. Wear a beanie when cycling in cold weather
  2. Wear earmuffs
  3. Cover every part above your shoulders using a balaclava
  4. Use a neck gaiter that features ear covers
  5. Wear a skull cap
  6. Obtain an ear warmer headband
  7. Use a helmet cover
  8. Wear a trapper hat

I’ll now explain each suggestion so I can point you in the direction of warmth and comfort around your ears when biking in cold water.

1. Wear a Beanie Under Your Bike Helmet

When you’re looking for a quick albeit temporary for a bad hair day, nothing works like a comfy and fuzzy beanie. I don’t know about you, but my friends and family seem to think I look real cool when I’m wearing a beanie.

But who says you can’t wear a beanie when out cycling through puddles and spewing rooster trails? A beanie covers the ears adequately, but it doesn’t get in the way of your helmet.

A beanie is like a skull cap, only thicker and warmer. You’ll never see me without a beanie on a winter morning. My beanie is a knitted affair, and the way it pampers and warms my ears is indescribable.

Whether you’re biking to work on a nasty winter morning, shredding on wet snowy trails, or just enjoying your bike at your local bike park, wear a beanie. The right beanie should help keep your ears cozy and adequately protected against the elements.

What’s the Best Winter Cycling Beanie for the Money?

*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at zero cost to you. 

I recommend the Minus33 Merino Wool Ridge Cuff Beanie. It is merino wool-warm, looks nice, is affordable, and offers a great fit (one size fits most heads). Plus, the beanie feels super comfortable under a bike helmet. See what this beanie looks like below.

beanie for winter biking

Another reason you need this beanie is that it’s a knitted item that keeps ears warm even when temperatures are below 50 degrees. No more frozen ears — ever.

What’s more, this beanie tackles sweaty smells really well no matter how hard you ride. You’ll never wear acrylic beanies ever again when cycling in cold weather.

Whether you live in Colorado or spend your winters fat-biking in Illinois, you’ll love the itch-free Minus33 Merino Wool Ridge Cuff Beanie.

About the only gripe I have is that this beanie isn’t stretchy enough. If you have a really large dome, I bet it’ll feel a little too tight.

2. Wear Earmuffs and Conquer Nasty Winter Weather

Earmuffs can be a great seasonal fashion item. But that doesn’t detract from their ability to keep cold ears warm when cycling through the coolest days.

You can wear over-the-head styled earmuffs that fit like a headband. Or you can go with earmuffs having a behind-the-head fit style. These ones wrap around the back of the head.

Newer earmuffs don’t have adjustable bands, and they rely on some kind of cup-and-clip mechanism to stay in place.

I find that behind-the-end earmuffs work best for me and most bike riders. There’s no reason you can’t wear over-the-head styles or the bandless version, though.

What’s the Best Winter Cycling Earmuffs for Men and Women?

The Sprigs Bandless Earmuffs with Thinsulate for women cyclists are a decent option. Honestly, though, these earmuffs aren’t what to wear on the coldest winter day.

You can wear these guys on chilly blustery nights as well as for biking through moderately cold weather. Don’t wear these when it’s freezing like never before and expect to stay warm around the ears.

earmuffs for winter biking

They snap into place and stay on your ears, and the fabric they’re made out of doesn’t itch or pinch at all. And they’re more affordable than most, too.

Some riders have reported their earmuffs’ attachment mechanism losing its power over time. But don’t all things degrade with time?

For men cyclists, the Lauzq Winter Earmuffs for Men are a great option.  These ones have a behind-the-head fit, a one-size-fits-most-heads fit. Actually, you wear them on your neck, meaning they pretty much stay out of your helmet’s way.

They’re warm, soft, and comfortable. But my husband noticed that they slipped down a little when he wore them for jogging. You’ll use them for cycling, though. And since you’ll be sitting most of the time, these men’s cycling earmuffs should stay in place.

Like the women’s option above, these men’s earmuffs for cycling are best suited for moderately cold weather rather than for the severest winter weather.

Do These Biking Earmuffs Shut Out Traffic Noise?

No, they won’t prevent you from hearing traffic. That means they’re safe to use on the road. Still, you want to stay alert and careful the entire time you’re riding through road traffic.

Whether you’re craving a cold-weather mountain trail ride or just want to enjoy a warm-and-cozy morning commute, wear earmuffs.

3. Wear a Balaclava for Full-face Coverage

Motorcycle riders wear balaclavas to stay nice and warm when it’s chilly outside. That’s because balaclavas are really good at keeping the entire head warm throughout the ride.

This head covering covers everything above your shoulders. It covers your neck, your ears, nose, mouth, and the rest of the head. But it also features a horizontal opening at the eyes so you can have perfect forward and peripheral vision.

balaclava for winter cyclists

You can certainly use a balaclava for heating up your ears when cycling against chilly winds in the winter. If you the wrong balaclava without a helmet, you might scare everyone. So, choose a nice balaclava, and you’ll look like the friendly cycling ninja you are.

With a helmet on — and the item fits perfectly under a helmet — you’ll get an even snugger fit. Plus, your ears and face will stay warm. And you’ll terrify no one.

What’s the Best Balaclava for Winter Bike Riding?

Amazon carries loads of decent balaclavas. But to make your shopping easier and save you time, I’ll recommend something I use and love.

The Sirek Cold Weather Ski Mask is arguably the best winter protection for cycling ninjas who stop at nothing. Whether you’re shredding snowy mountain trails or just biking to work in stormy weather, you’ll love how this balaclava traps warm air inside.

It’s in my opinion, and that of many cyclists, the ultimate insurance against the wind, cold, and snow when riding snowy terrains. And breathing under this full-head covering shouldn’t be a problem — it’s pretty porous at the nostrils. Unless you have breathing issues, you’ll love wearing this item.

This balaclava should fit most heads without issues, and it’s also super breathable. It’s affordable, too. Plus, it won’t pinch your face. And the best part? You’ll actually enjoy biking through foggy, windy days.

4. Wear a Neck Gaiter Having Ear Covers

A neck gaiter prevents water from streaming downward and wetting the lower parts of the body. It keeps your neck warm, too. And when you ear covers in, your ears will love you more for it.

winter biking neck gaiter

A good neck gaiter covers your mouth and covers the ears. It’s like a Covid mask combined with warm earmuffs.

Whether your favorite winter outdoor activity is cycling, snow hiking, snowboarding, or skiing, a decent neck gaiter is all you need. I didn’t say don’t helmet up, though. You definitely need to protect your noggin just in case you crash.

Any Good Neck Gaiter That Covers the Ears?

The KIVETAI Half-face Winter Cycling, Skiing, Hiking, and Snowboarding Mask is a good option. The item is well-made, and it stays in place. At least most of the time.

Does this product protect well against the elements when winter biking? It does, but its protective abilities could be better. When the weather is mild to moderate, it should work OK.

But if icy blizzards are ruling the outdoors, this neck gaiter might turn out to be a complete disappointment.

It features a vecro closure at the back so you can have a nice and snug fit around the nose. But the fit can be too tight if you have a round-ish head.

If there’s too much tension on the vecro closure, it might come unstuck. If you get this issue, a quick fix would be using a velcro extension strap. And it doesn’t fit the same way around the neck — it’s a little loose there.

A Few Issues to Expect With This Neck Gaiter

Also, few cyclists have said this gaiter is too thick, which made breathing kind of difficult. That’s not my experience or my husband’s. I guess that had to do with their heads being too big or something.

One gripe I have with the KIVETAI is that it doesn’t work well with glasses. The top of the mask ends where my husband’s glasses sit. And when he moves the glasses up a little, the rim obstructs his vision a tad. Plus, his glasses fog up no matter where or how his glasses sit.

Something else: some people received a gaiter whose neck part didn’t go down far enough. If that’d be a problem to you, definitely buy something else.

5. Wear a Skull Cap/Helmet Liner

A skull cap made out of moisture-absorbent fleece fabric is the ultimate winter protection against cold. This beanie-like head cap fits nice and snug on the head, and you can wear your helmet without issues.

The ears and top hemisphere of your dome stay covered and warm. When cycling marathons or riding or participating in a cross-country competition in snowy weather conditions, wear this cap.

And if you like flying down gnarly descents on your bike in the coldest seasons, be sure to have this skull cap under your brain bucket.

skull cap for cycling

One thing I really love about this skull cap is its comfy fleece interior that traps heat like nothing you’ve ever seen. And its headband-like properties prevent sweat from dripping into your eyes below your brow.

Even though this one-size-fits-all helmet liner covers the ears, it is thin enough to allow for perfect hearing. You should be able to hear road noises without a problem. What’s more, the cap features a hole at the back in case you have long hair.

One downside is that this cap can make the air inside your head pretty hot especially if you’re doing a long, intense ride. Plus, it does reduce air circulation to the head. But if keeping your ears warm and toasty trumps every other benefit, go for this cap.

What’s the Best Skull Cap for Winter Weather Cycling?

The Skull Cap Helmet Liner Winter Running and Cycling Beanie offers perfect moisture wicking and great thermal retention. It fits under helmets perfectly, and it stretches to fit heads of all shapes and sizes. Finally, it’s affordable, cheaper than most.  The cap is available in at least 5 nice colors.

6. Obtain Headband-style Ear Warmers

Ear warmers work really well when it comes to keeping the ears warm during winter bike rides. These headbands are adjustable, and you can shift them around until you get the perfect fit you seek.

With a good headband on your head, sweat won’t dribble down over your eyes. The back portion comes down longer than the forehead portion. And you can easily pull the back hem to make it come down and cover the ears better. You can also choose to have the front part of the headband stay inside your lid’s rim.

headband ear cover

In my experience, most headband-style ear warmers don’t do anywhere near amazing when you throw blizzards at them. This solution works best when used for short periods of time. I recommend it for when out enjoying a short recreational winter ride. Or when walking from your car to your cubicle.

What’s the Best Headband-style Ear Warmer for Bikers?

The Winter Freeze Ear Warmers Muffs Headband for cyclists. This one works for both men and women. Unlike others I’d tried before, this one offered adequate ear coverage. The material it’s made of is 75 percent fleece and the rest is polyester.

It’s lightweight, won’t irritate your skin, and dries fast. Wear it over your helmet and be sure to use a helmet cover, and you should be ready to take on mild winter weather.

7. Wear a Trooper Hat (a Trapper Hat)

Nothing works better than a good trooper hat (also called a trapper hat) in terms of blocking icy cold air during a winter ride. The best trapper hats have a skin-soothing furry inner liner that plays second fiddle to no other as far as trapping warm in.

You know your trapper hat fits well when the chin area fits nice and snug around the chin. Also, the hat covers the entirety of your head but leaves the face area open. But that’s where good winter cycling goggles come into play, right?

What’s the Best Winter Bike Riding Trapper Hat?

The Amazon Essential’s Men’s Trapper Hat is a great bet. This hat covers the ears entirely and the faux far in the interior traps heat better most other options. But it’s not cat fur — it’s faux fur man-made faux far made out of polyester and acrylic. It traps heat perfectly, though, and that’s exactly what you need.

The closure is a snap adjuster that works pretty much like a helmet’s chinstraps. It works well and won’t get in the way of your helmet.

You can wear this hat without a helmet. But if the winter season you’re looking at is colder and nastier than it’s ever been, throw on a helmet.

But I felt that this unisex winter biking hat should have a bit of insulation around the crown of the head. Still, it protects well, and you should be able to face freezing point Montana-like winters or cold Canadian winters without worry.

8. Use a Helmet Cover to Block Cold Icy Air

Now, a helmet cover isn’t designed to keep your ears warmer. So, why did I list this idea down as a way to stay warm? Because using a helmet cover helps — a lot.

bike helmet cover

If you’ve ever ridden a bike on a cold, windy, misty morning you must have noticed what I’m about to describe.

You have a nice cycling helmet on and some earmuffs or ear warmers. But for some reason, cold air currents still manage to drift in and freeze up your scalp and ears.

Bike helmets have air vents, and these are actual openings that can and do let in air. If it’s winter and the air dry and cold, your ears and scalp will soon know!

Fortunately, using a helmet cover solves the problem. This cover blocks cold air, and the warm air trapped inside your helmet retains its temperature.

Any Good Helmet Cover for Winter Biking?

The Ayamaya Bike Helmet Cover for Winter Cycling is what I recommend.  This helmet cover is green, and green is one of the most reflective colors ever. And that means more safety. Additionally, the cover boasts reflective features so that drivers and others other riders can spot you.

This rain cover is waterproof and windproof, too, precisely what you need for cold morning winter rides. Also, the cover packs down pretty small, and it can fit in your pant pockets.

Use this in combination with earmuffs or ear covers. You can also use it with a helmet liner/skull cap. You can afford it — anyone can.

How to Heat Up Your Ears When Riding Through Blustery Days: Conclusion

If a day is cold and windy, it’s easy to want to stay indoors. But with these ear-protection ideas, you have no excuse not to venture out and enjoy life more.

You can wear earmuffs, a helmet cover, a trapper hat, a skull cap, an ear warmer band, or a neck gaiter with ear covers. You can also use a full-head covering such as a balaclava to keep coldness out of your face and ears. A beanie hat is also a great way to cover your ears and shut the cold out when out winter riding.

These ear warmers certainly cost money. But isn’t the comfort and peace-of-mind you’ll get when shredding through cold windy days better than money?

All of these suggestions are good and should help you. But in my opinion, the best strategy to warm up the ears in harsh winter weather is using a balaclava under a helmet. Go with what would work best in your situation, though.