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Wool base layer

Wool base layer.

Wool base layer

Wool base layer.

Wool jersey

Wool jersey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bicycling in Cold Weather

Wool cycling jerseyYou can stay warm in the most inclement weather if you layer properly. Also, you will need a place at work where you can change clothes and, ideally, shower. You can put clothes in a backpack, a bike messenger bag or panniers, or bring clothes for several days if you can store clothing in an overnight locker.

Clothing for cold weather

You don’t have to dress for a few-mile commute the same way that you might for a 30-40 minute ride. Chances are you will not sweat profusely on a short bike commute. However, if you have an extra-long commute, experiment with layering. Depending on how your body reacts to cold, you can make all kinds of variations among layers so you aren’t too warm or too cold. Experiment to find the best clothing combinations for you.

Try wearing a base layer that wicks away moisture next to the skin, a middle insulating layer made of fleece or wool, and an outer jacket that is warm, breathable, wind and waterproof. Be prepared to remove layers if you start to get too warm. It’s better to wear too many layers and have to take one off than to wear too few. When you first start out on your bicycle, you should feel a little chilly because as you pedal you will warm up.

Upper body. Your choice for the base layer will be a fabric that will wick the sweat away from your body and dry quickly. You can wear a long underwear top, a silk, wool or polypropylene-type turtleneck. T-shirts or anything made of cotton is not a good choice because when cotton gets wet, it stays wet.

The middle layer for insulation is a jersey or fleece. Wool jerseys like the red one above are wonderful. A heavy wool sweater can also work as the middle layer. Wool is a great winter fabric.

The outer layer, a jacket, may be made of several materials. Nylon or neoprene which are water-proof can protect you from rain, insulate you from wind, and yet be breathable enough that inner moisture can escape. (If the material isn't breathable, water will condense inside the jacket and you'll be cold and wet.)

Jackets made specifically for bicycling are good because they have a longer back side and your back is more exposed while you're bicycling. When you're looking at jackets, look for adjustable vents and cuffs. Vents allow you to stay warm but not sweaty by adjusting them as you work harder or the temperature. Adjustable cuffs keep cold wind and rain from going up your arms .

Lower Body. Pants and shorts specifically for bicycling are usually made of material with some stretch, for your knees, and have extra padding to be comfortable on your bicycle seat. Some people wear cycling shorts year-round, with leg warmers or silk or polypropylene long underwear under the shorts. You can also wear cycling tights of fleece or wool, which come in various weights.

Pants may be made of “technical” material that wicks away moisture. Look for something that is wind/ water resistant, insulating, wicks moisture away from skin and has opening/closing vents for managing body temperature. A tapered ankle is also helpful in preventing your pant leg from catching in the chain. Alternatively, you can secure your pant leg with an ankle band. When it’s windy, add an outer layer of windproof/waterproof nylon pants.

BalaclavaHead. Much of your body heat escapes through your head. That means you need to wear a helmet with something warm under it. Good choices are a balaclava, ski face mask, headband, or a thin hat that will fit under your helmet. You may need to loosen your helmet so it still fits.

Wear a scarf or neck gator around your neck.. A balaclava, pictured at left, will keep both head and neck warm. You can get a helmet cover that covers the vents to keep out rain, or cover them with clear packaging tape. If your helmet came with vent plugs, put them in on cold days.

It’s good to wear a pair of cycling glasses or ski goggles for eye protection. Clear-glass wrap-around sunglasses prevent wind chill and prevent debris from getting in your eyes. Polarized lenses sharpen your vision.

Hands. As the temperature drops, your body works harder to circulate blood to your head, fingers and toes. Get full-finger gloves, maybe a couple of weights so you can switch if your hands get too hot. Good, cold-weather gloves have an insulation layer, are water-resistant/proof and have wind-stopping properties. Gloves come in a variety of styles and prices. Lobster claws are an excellent choice as you have warmth plus more mobility. Mittens can work but many cyclists prefer having fingers separated for better dexterity. For a low-cost solution, wear latex gloves under your gloves as a wind-proof layer. Or, purchase thin glove liners to wear with a water resistant/ wind-stopping shell. You now have two pairs you can wear together or separate depending on the weather.

toe coversFeet. Warm feet and toes are essential to being comfortable when you’re riding in the cold. Start with wool or silk socks. Both wool and silk have wicking/ insulating properties. Socks come in different styles (ankle/ knee height) and thicknesses. Thin socks accommodate most work shoes without sacrificing warmth. If you wear thicker socks, just pack another pair specifically for work shoes. Then check into the new kinds of winter cycling shoes that can keep your feet warm. If you bike in regular shoes and your feet are cold you may want to consider switching to a vent-less pair that you reserve specifically for commuting and keep a pair of work-appropriate shoes at the office or carry them in your bag. If you have cycling shoes, you may want to consider purchasing shoe or toe covers. Shoe covers let you use SPD pedals if you want to. Toe covers, shown above right, do also.