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    What will help for cold weather riding?  
    One of the articles at the Chain Reaction web site was on cold-weather riding. It listed a bunch of recommended items:

* Wool cycling socks (80% wool, 20% stretch nylon) from Superwool, TREK neoprene booties
* Drylete tights (or TREK Polartek, or Pearl Izumi Ultra-Sensor, all roughly equivalent)
* Standard cycling shorts (any type)
* Drylete base layer (mine is Hind, but the TREK Polartek is virtually the same thing)
* Standard jersey over base layer (the type makes very little difference, since the base layer performs all the magic!)
* Conventional "fluffy" sweater garment...just adds a bit of bulk to hold air
* TREK Gore-tex jacket
* TREK Polar-fleece gloves

Any comments on this list? I'm looking for both confirmation and/or disagreement at to whether this is an appropriate list. Any recommendations or suggestions for substitutions? Any other good articles on-line?

Next, where are recommended sources? I already know about all my LBS's, and several good web sites have recently been listed, such as Performance and Colorado Cyclist. Any more to add, that might be especially good for winter wear? BTW, I discovered that Target carries some winter head gear, located in their winter outdoor activity dept. (next to the snowboards, sleds, etc.) at attractive prices. Anyone else make similar discoveries? I'm always looking for a 'deal'.

Don "Leggings Plus Sweat Pants" Gross

OK: This is going to be my subjective opinion here, but others can bear me out on this.. It's possible to *overdress*, in the process generate too much perspiration which does not readily dissipate, making you one icicle on your bicycle.

I agree on the feet portion, warm socks, booties. I have several choices of shoes in my closet I've found some to be warmer than others, too. (if you have such a luxury - experiment). Performance is promoting some new tech fabric that retains warmth. I'll be trying the socks soon as cold feet are a pain.

Tights! I've used Polartech. Its good for cool short nonstop rides, but not cold (for me overdressing). The "Therma Fleece" is *ideal*. I've ridden in 16 degree weather in Therma Fleece *tights*. Use just warmers and shorts for the lower body and you'll freeze your "ni nis" off:-) These tights are comfortable up to mid 60 degree temps as well. Very broad comfort range.

I use a Pearl Izumi Kodiak Lite jersey as my "base layer". A standard jersey and warmers makes a good substitute here. When really cold I'll add a middleweight poly long sleeve Tee between it and the windshell jacket. Again, good comfort in low temps. Just this year I've also taken to using a microfleece sweater in lieu of the Tee. But I've found it retains too much body moisture at times making me colder than just the Tee. The Tee incidentally is a skiwear layer item.

Jacket: BREATHABLE!!!!! Goretex breathes great on the ski lift, is a ****ing sauna when pedaling. I wear a standard "Zephrr" windshell atop my layers. If I have to wear a rainjacket (sauna type) I'll usually wear one less layer under than I would in a breathable shell.

Gloves! Like the feet this is a critical comfort area. Middle weight gloves work great until they get wet which doesn't chill 'till you stop and restart. Carry a second set or liners. Or get a heavyweight winter glove. Pearl has some good ones at 49 dollars; REI has a great one for 36 (guess which ones I bought). Get windproof, with synthetic loft so it retains warmth when wet.

EARS! Lots of things to try - wide headbands, skull caps, balaclavas. All of these items affect the helmet fit and are a genuine pain in the backside. I found an item called PODS at REI six years ago made by a company called Shred Alert in Hood River, OR.

They slide on the glasses like a Croakie but use polartech fleece covered with a nylon wind barrier and cover your ears. They pass around behind your head and overlap secured with Velcro. Best option if you can find them. Second best option is the bella clava.

Also, a helmet cover doesn't hurt either, good for blocking rain and retaining heat.

You are going to have to try things and see what works for you. Do layers and don't make them drastic. I.e.: from a thin jersey adding a bulky fleece is too great a change. Get stuff arranged so you can progressively layer. Realize you can overdo it. Expect to overdo it, and underdo it too. You will soon learn what works for the conditions and how to be comfortable in a wide range of hostile temps.

Brand names are unimportant here, just get the right layers. Bellweather uses a fabric just like Pearl's Therma Fleece so you aren't locked into the high priced spread for everything. Bellweather sizing is human on shorts, tights, and jerseys, Pearl runs a size "tighter" - i.e., I wear Bellweather Small tights or PI Mediums. PI sweaters however run larger.

Don "ride hard, have fun, embrace the cold" Bolton

I work for a major player in the skiwear arena. Unfortunately, nothing they make is bike useable. I've all sorts of high tech breathable jackets that breathe great for casual walking or sitting in a lift, but turn into saunas on the road.

I've been too stubborn to give up and have tried a lot of things before I found what works for me... I did forget to mention some important considerations on selecting layers...

Transportability: consider what carrying capability you have should you have to shed a layer. Those nice fleece sweaters really fill space up fast. Miss Piggy said "never eat more than you can lift" I say "never wear more than you can pack". :-)

Booties: they have the thin "stuff in the shirt pocket" kind and the heavy neoprene with thick rubber sole kind. If you think you'll not be taking them off on your ride, the latter are warmer and remain drier, but are a hard item to transport when not wearing them.

Places to find things... Ski shops, real sporting goods stores that cater to skiers and runners and cyclists. Some bike shops. Sometimes the local bike shops get stuck with the prior year’s inventories and the pricing can be pretty good when they do. Sometimes you local dealers can order for you, sometimes they are limited to full case orders so you have to ask on that one.

And yes I've found stuff at Target, too. It pays to keep your eyes open when you are out and about.

Don "I'll be riding tomorrow AM at 6:00 in the cold and dark" Bolton

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I have been riding to work, (6:00 AM departure) for about a month, with the lowest temperature being 32 degrees. Here is what I've learned so far; Smart Wool socks are great, on the coldest days I have been wearing my Burly Booties. My feet sweat more, but they stay warmer. I have worn a balaclava, which worked OK, but I much prefer a neck warmer I used when riding my motorcycle. It is called a "Turtle Fur," and I think ski shops carry them. I have had mine so long, I don't remember where I bought it. The fleece lined tights that REI sells are excellent. They have a wind stop fabric, and I Nik Waxed them, so they work as rain pants as well. I also have a pair of waterproof, insulated gloves from REI. They keep my hands dry and fairly warm. I wear a winter weight jersey with a Pearl Izumi! shell, that has also been Nik Waxed, which keeps me dry, and adequately warm. I have a Sugoi helmet cover, and wear a cycling cap under my helmet. All this works well for me on my 20 minute commute to work, and back.

Phil Ford

"Winter gear has a lot of different components. At the feet, I have these urethane high-top booties that velcro around my feet and ankles.

For my legs, I have very thick tights and an optional pair of rain pants (which I have almost never used, BTW). A pair of the winter-grade PI tights would be a good investment.

For my upper torso, I play the layers game. I have a thick long-sleeved jersey (from Performance), over which I have a thin PI windbreaker. I'm not currently happy with my rain jacket. Advice about the rain jacket: go Gore-tex, and make sure it has plenty of zippers. Anything that keeps the rain out will also keep moisture in, and it can quickly become a steam bath.

For gloves, I have a pair of thick urethane gloves (from Performance) with leather palms. Not completely waterproof, but sufficient in that regard as well as warmth for even the coldest days last winter (or in Cycle Oregon).

Finally, for the head, I have a cheap polyester ski cap from my college days that I wear under the helmet and a Burley rain cover for the helmet. The rain cover is actually a good thing even if it's Not raining, because it significantly reduces unwanted ventilation.

Jason Penney

[Making his Christmas list...]

I tried on most of the various tights they have on sale. I decided I liked the Performance Triflex, and am definitely keeping them on the list. The INNOVA Polypro seem like they would be only slightly warmer than the standard tights, but since they're the same price right now, I'm keeping them as a reasonable second choice. I eliminated the Fleece Tight as being too baggy for bike riding, although they were certainly very comfortable. Now that I think about it, I probably should have tried on the Pearl Izumi Thermafleece, but I didn't.

Don Gross

The Performance Triflex tights are very nice and have a waterproof breathable membrane in the FRONT half. They are pretty thick. They work quite well in moderate rain, but in prolonged rain the back of your legs will get wet. Much less windchill on the back of your legs so it's a good compromise. I do have a pair of Descente tights with a membrane around the entire leg. They are really warm and waterproof, but moisture does accumulate inside, kinda like a wetsuit.


Therma Fleece is the BEST! It wicks moisture away fast, retains your body warmth, blocks the wind, and stays warm even when wet. I've worn mine comfortably in temps as low as the teens (even just sitting around at breakfast in Ukiah on CO XII) to as warm as lower 70s.

On a bike without fenders your cheeks will get soaked after several hours in wet riding, but you retain body heat so it's an annoyance and not a discomfort.

Don Bolton

I have these and I recommend them. I rode 20 miles this morning in light to moderate rain, and yes, my legs did get damp, but not wet. While you are riding your body heat will keep the fleece part, which is next to your skin, dry, even if the surface is wet. They are the best tights that I have. I use them for skiing, too!

Andrew Black

I think I'll really enjoy the hooded jersey they have on sale. The hood fits really well, and seems like the helmet will fit over it nicely and it will keep my head nice and warm. Am I being overly optimistic?

Don Gross

My concern with them has been making certain that the hood is tight enough around the sides of the face to keep air from coming in and making one even colder.

Donald Lockridge

I have one of these, but I mostly plan on using the hood for emergencies -- if I get really cold. I haven't ridden with the hood up yet. I aim to have on enough layers so I don't need the hood. This may include a thin fleece balaclava.

Andrew Black

How do you handle over-the-helmet protection?

Barry "soaking up your advice" Wald

Stretch Helmet covers! I use a Sugoi "Entrant" cover. Black with reflective markings.

Don "wet blue SIDI's make blue feet" Bolton

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Or, if you like being more economical, those plastic shower caps that they give away with motel stays work really well...

Andrew Black

I want to emphasize that lows in the teens are highly unlikely, but it IS possible. I'd say the most common weather out there is highs in the 70s and 80s and lows in the 30s, but at least one night below freezing is probable. A good sleeping bag rated to at least 20 degrees, a warm hat, and a warm pair of gloves would be a very good idea. We're also bringing our down vests and fleece pants for morning wear in camp.

Dan & Krissy

One thing to remember about riding in cold, kids. You build up body heat fast. Too much clothing and the moisture won't dissipate and when you stop for a potty break or food you will chill and not be able to reheat.

Layers are the ticket. I go with a shell, shirt and warmers. If its really cold, I'll add a mid-weight thermal polyester tee (long sleeve). I like threma fleece tights though the leg warmers work well too.

You'll want the bulk at breakfast, but thin the layering down a tad when you hit the road.

Don Bolton

A general rule of thumb that I've heard and had pretty good luck with on cold rides:

If you're comfortably warm within the first mile, you're overdressed.

'Course, by then on CO, your gear is well and truly packed away on a truck and you're stuck with what you've got.

I guess I'd put it another way for our purposes... if your teeth aren't almost ready to chatter when you step off the luggage truck, you're probably wearing too much.

Layers are indeed the key. The easier to pack into a pocket, the better. That astonishingly cold morning in Ukiah turned into one heck of a warm ride in very short order, and being able to take bits and pieces of clothing off and jam them into jersey pockets was a very nice thing.

Scott Saulsbury

In my experience with Cycle Oregon tours, Ukiah on CO-12 was a tie (some people said it was 17 degrees in Ukiah) with Redmond on CO-5: 17 degrees. Water bottles froze - - - etc.

One big difference is that Ukiah had a heavy frost coat and Redmond was bone dry.

Within five miles of Redmond on the way to LaPine, most of us were un-layered down to jerseys and shorts. We did not have a big hill to climb that day.

Curt Coleman

On Cycle Oregon III, in Sisters, we had similar conditions, but I never learned what the low temp was that morning. It was our first Cycle Oregon, so I was really impressed! Frozen water bottles, frozen tent, frozen everything.

Breakfast was served in the parking lot at the supermarket, and they let us go inside the store to eat. Now that was a surreal scene! Plates and cups balanced on all the end displays all over the store, aisles jammed with hungry, cold cyclists...

Susan Christie

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  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
    CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > What to Take > Clothes > Cold Weather Riding  

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