Ride your bike through the winter with these dressing tips
Someone was asking me the other day when I would stop riding for the winter because of the weather. While I am not so hardcore that I ride on the road when it is minus two degrees and snowing. I am usually able to hit the trails on most weekends. It all really comes down to dressing correctly for the weather. In this article I will try to provide some guidelines and tips to keep you warm and dry without overheating.
- Dress in layers: I am sure you have heard this one before. It is sage advice. This is the most important part of being able to stay warm. Heat gets trapped in the layers and moisture is wicked away from you skin. If you start to overheat you can always peel off a layer.
- Base layer: This is the layer that you put next to your skin. It should be light, tight, and wicking to move moisture away and keep you warm.
Under Armour and Hind are excellent choices. I usually wear a cycling jersey over my base layer. This provides me with pockets if I need them and a layer that zips if I start to get warm but not so much that I want to drop a layer.
- Insulating Layer: This layer is the one that has the most variation. For a forty degree day an additional base layer garment may suffice. Below forty to thirty a smart wool long sleeve jersey is a good choice. Below thirty I usually wear my Fox Insulated Jersey which is warm and wicking. Pearl Izumi also has some good choices.
- Shell: The shell is the your top layer and is responsible for keeping out the elements while allowing moisture and some heat to escape. Shells are the most technical garment you will probably own. Some shells have a lining to provide additional warmth and can be zipped out when not needed. Some have sleeves that zip off and zippers for venting. All this in a package that folds up to fit in your jersey or camelback.
Hind and Pearl Izumi, and Gore-Tex make good choices
- Use your Head: Due to the number of blood vessels and lack of fat on your head you can loose up to ten percent more heat through you head than other parts of your body. Make sure you keep your head covered. There are varying head covers. I have three, all of which are made by Nike. One is a full head and face cover which is great for colder days. The other two are beanie type head covers. All three are made of synthetic stretchy material.
- Down to your toes: I use Lake Cycling Boots and Pearl Izumi or smart wool winter socks. I find the Lake boots to be toasty down to temps of 15 degrees or so. Pedaling hard—and wearing good lofty socks—most riders will be fine even in temperatures approaching zero degrees. But I also use Neoprene shoe covers for the coldest of days.
- Don’t forget your hands: Cold hands will ruin an otherwise good ride. If you can not hold onto the bars you can not ride. I have tried a variety of winter cycling gloves but my hands get cold easily, so now I use ski gloves which keep my hands warm. After riding with them a few times they have become worked in enough to not feel bulky anymore.
- Last but not least keep your legs warm: This is one of the easier parts of your body to keep warm since your legs are performing most of the work. Tights will usually suffice. On days that fall below thirty degrees you may want a tight with some additional insulation. Pearl Izumi makes some tights with a fleece lining that will do the trick. When out on the road something with WindStopper on the front is a good idea.
- Dress for the coldest part of the day: Make sure you have clothes to keep you warm for the coldest part of the day you can always peel off a layer, but if you are not warm enough you only have what you brought with you.
- Ride a later in the day: By riding in the late morning or early afternoon you will be taking advantage of the warmest part of the day. The difference can be a substantial ten to twenty degrees.