October 6, 2014
The old adage says, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, there’s only bad clothing.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Just because the weather has turned gloomy and cold doesn’t mean its time to put the bike away until spring. With the right gear you can continue training and enjoying the time on your bike even as the temperature plummets below freezing.
Here’s a few tips for layering for the elements:
Base Layer – Base layers are essentially cycling undershirts. They are typically designed with synthetic materials, engineered to pull moisture away from the body. This is especially important in cold weather conditions as sweat on the skin will reduce your core body temperature and make you chilled if not downright hypothermic. Make sure you select a base layer that fits close to the skin and never use anything composed of cotton, since cotton never dries easily and will only make you feel clammy and colder. (Read New to Cycling: Base Layers for more information.)
Middle Layer – The ideal middle layer should include a long-sleeve jersey and thermal bib shorts.
Long-sleeve jerseys should be constructed from performance stretchy, wicking material. This will help to further pull moisture away from your skin without giving a binding or constricting fit. While the base layer should sit tight to the skin, the middle layer does not need to be form-fit. In fact, the best fit will allow for an insulating pocket of air to form between the middle and base layers. Choose a jersey with at least a 3/4 zip so you can ventilate as necessary.
Bibs constructed with a thermal, stretch fabric are best in that they’ll not only be a great layer to the cold, but the soft fleece inner will be cozy against your skin. Due to their high-performing breathability, they keep you warm and dry, while also preventing you from over-heating as you put in those winter miles. Reflective elements are key in that thermal bibs are typically black so you are more visible in low light fall and winter day conditions. (See Pactimo Thermal Bibs.)
Outer Layer – The best outer layer will be a jacket (or vest) with wind and waterproof fabric across the front, shoulder and arm panels, and a breathable back. This will give you excellent protection from the cold, while also allowing for the regulation of excess body heat. Make sure to look for extended cuffs so you’ll be able to have a closed connection with your gloves. A nice high, fleece-lined collar and waterproof pocket will be something you’ll be happy to have as well. (See Pactimo Outerwear.)
The (Big) Little Things – Nothing will make your ride more unpleasant than frozen fingers, toes and ears. That’s why it’s so important to take extra care in protecting those little and sensitive areas of the body. Full-finger MTB gloves might work down into 40°, but below that you’ll need cold weather gloves. On the coldest days, two-finger lobster gloves are the way to go. Toe and shoes covers will definitely save your feet, and wool socks are always the best option. Make sure you don’t over-sock, however, since tight shoes will only reduce blood flow and make your feet colder. Mid-calf length socks under thermal, stirrup tights is a great way to prevent cold air access to your ankles and feet. A thermal headband or skullcap will protect your ears, neck and forehead. (See Pactimo Accessories.)
- Layering is all about regulating body temperature. As you get warmed up, unzip or peel away layers and stow them into pockets so you don’t overheat.
- Hydration is a key component of staying warm. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your ride and never wait until you are thirsty before you begin drinking. It’s too late at that point. (Read Cycling and Hydration for more information.)
- When it’s super cold, there’s no reason why you can’t double up. Try knee warmers under stirrup tights or arm warmers under a jacket. Similarly, toe covers under booties or shoe covers will give added protection to your feet.
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About the Author
Tony Kelsey has nearly 20 years marketing experience, previously serving as global vice president of creative for an international, $1B IT solutions consultancy. Although a self-proclaimed “mediocre” racer in high school, his intense passion for cycling and bicycles in general has never waned. Today he is marketing director at Pactimo and frequently writes about cycling as a sport and hobby. @tonykelsey