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Gear for cold weather

Discussion in 'Road Cycling, Mountain Biking & Cyclocross' started by Derwinator, Oct 16, 2014.

  1. Derwinator

    Derwinator Well-Known Member

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    We are enjoying some beautiful fall weather now but winter is fast approaching and I am just now realizing I don't have much in the way of gear needed for riding in cold temps (I started riding again last spring). I don't plan to be out for rides in freezing weather but realize that it feels colder when it's cloudy and you're traveling at 15 - 35 MPH.

    So, without going overboard (winters are short and fairly mild in central TX) what do you recommend as minimum gear I need to buy to get through the season? Please post away your favorites that have saved you from freezing your butt off :D
     
  2. abuseguy

    abuseguy Active Member

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    I don't know what your temps get down to in Central TX but here are some suggestions:

    * I have a Louis Garneau Enerblock Jacket: Nylon in the front to block the wind, vented under the arms and in the back, sleeves zip off to create a vest. Lots of options for this jacket, including daily wear.

    * Knee warmers / Leg warmers turn daily cycling shorts into tights. You can also carry them with you if you're riding later in the day when it will get cold, or take 'em off mid-ride if you're riding in the morning.

    * I also have a ridiculously lightweight Pearl Izumi vest and a similar jacket that I can carry with me for the long descents. I carry stuff like this in a "stash bottle" in my second water bottle cage.

    * Long-fingered riding gloves or short-fingered combined with glove liners. (I can get away with the latter until about freezing.)

    * Obviously long-sleeved jerseys, and maybe tights if you don't like the leg warmer idea.

    * Wool is a great material for cycling socks. Year round.

    * Shoe covers. Some are heavier than others. The stretch on over your shoes and leave the cleat exposed. I find that the lighter weight ones are fine to block the wind and retain warmth down to about 20 degrees F. The heavier ones are more insulated.

    * Winter cycling shoes are quite expensive. Based on your description I don't think that you'll need them, but let me know if you want tips. (I live in upper New York State.)

    * A "beanie" under your helmet or a balaclava that covers your face. I find that my (too/two big) ears suffer in the cold.

    I have had good luck with Garneau and Pearl Izumi clothes for many years, but there are dozens of options.

    General tip: Colder riding is great weather for working hard but not suffering in the heat. Plan to start the ride a little chilly because you'll get warm. Try to plan your rides without long descents, which can suck.

    I tried to show links from John's store but may not have. Support JSF!
     
  3. Derwinator

    Derwinator Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the great suggestions! Central TX gets the occasional cold snap with below freezing temps but like I said I'm not planning to be riding in this. Mostly I expect the temp ranges for my rides to be between 38 - 55 degrees for the most part.

    I'm planning to get some long-fingered gloves and long sleeved jerseys although I see a lot of guys wearing their short sleeved jerseys over a long-sleeve undershirt. Opinion?

    I'm thinking that some cycling pants would be best as I don't think I'll want to deal with pulling leg warmers off and stowing them in my jersey pockets if I can avoid it.

    Hadn't thought about the beanie or balaclava before now- probably a good investment if I want to save my ears and face from the cold.

    Keep the suggestions coming everyone!
     
  4. abuseguy

    abuseguy Active Member

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    A jersey over an undershirt might be OK, but two things come to mind:

    * I don't know how long you go out for, but stay away from cotton next to your skin. Cotton is very efficient at absorbing moisture, and it will cool as it evaporates. Next to your skin, it will likely make you cold. Look for "wicking" materials, which are fortunately now available at big box stores, etc.

    * One challenge with biking is wind. Let's say there's no wind on a 35 degree day but you're cycling at 15 MPH. You are therefore generating a windchill of 25 degrees, which is the effect of moisture as it evaporates and draws heat from your body. The jersey + shirt system adds some insulation but won't block the wind, so you'll be more likely to get cold. If you're not out for too long, not a huge deal, but longer rides could be uncomfortable. (Bear in mind that even with the wind chill you'll be generating heat as you burn calories.)

    I should have added yesterday that you don't have to use bike-specific gear. It's nice in many cases because upper layers are cut longer to cover your butt, there are back pockets, shorts have chamois, etc. But you won't have to run out and get a full set of winter riding gear -- upgrade as you find the need.

    I already mentioned "department store" long underwear. You can also find fleece vests for about $20, good socks, wind-breaking layers, etc. Whatever works: go for it. Experiment and have a good time.
     
  5. Derwinator

    Derwinator Well-Known Member

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    All excellent tips and advice - many thanks!
     
  6. phillydude

    phillydude Don't Never Give Up.

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    I will chime in here... in my experience, keeping the extremities warm is the biggest thing. Hands, feet, head and face.

    1) Hands. A cheap trick is to put on a pair of latex gloves (or non-latex... whatever it is that they make those from) before you put on your cycling gloves (especially if you have short fingered gloves). That will keep the wind from whipping over your hands and actually insulate somewhat as you build up dampness from your sweat. I usually ask to grab a handful of them when I go to the doctor/dentist, and use a new pair each time.

    2) Feet. I never had any luck with the shoe covers (I ride clip and strap rather than cleats) so a pair of windproof socks was my solution. Not only are cycling shoes generally thin leather, but most are perforated, and traditional cycling socks will let the wind whip through and freeze your tootsies quick. Nothing worse than not being able to feel your feet! In a pinch, a couple plastic bags (bread bags work best) will bail you out, and take up no room in your pocket.

    3) Head. Again, you would be surprised how much heat escapes from the top of your body, and how much the ventilation in your helmet (which is great in the summer but not in the winter) will chill your skull, especially when your hair gets wet from sweat. A swim cap is a cheap solution, but looks a little weird if you have to take off your helmet (then again, if you are wearing plastic bags between your socks and shoes, that's probably not an issue). Plenty of beanie options for under your helmet, and I believe they also make covers that go over it.

    4) Face. Anything you would use in cold weather should be fine, just make sure and check that it doesn't interfere with the straps on your lid, and that it covers your ears, neck, and nose/mouth (if needed)... some people are more sensitive to breathing in cold air than others, while some don't want their oxygen intake blocked at all. Good cycling glasses should block the wind adequately from your eyes... if you don't have a clear pair of goggle-type glasses by now, they are cheap and effective (I won't ride without some kind of eye protection).

    Finally, I do have a wind-proof cycling jacket (with sleeves that zip off) as well as a windproof fleece jacket for really cold days. I also found some cycling tights that are heavier and have almost a fleece-type feel on the inside. But as was already mentioned, you don't need a lot of cycling-specific gear to stay warm... layer up and be mindful of the conditions, especially if there is any precipitation in the forecast. Even a little moisture (even dew) can freeze up on the roads and become extremely slippery. Ride safe!
     
    #6 phillydude, Oct 19, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2014
  7. Derwinator

    Derwinator Well-Known Member

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    Great tips - I have already purchased a wind-proof cycling jacket (also with removable sleeves) but still need to get some additional gear for hands, legs and feet. As the weather gets colder, I'll be definitely looking into some head/ear protection!
     

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