once again the winter season is upon us, and it is time to toughen up and get out on your bike. well at least that is what i used to think….back when i was insane. a few days ago i put on my snow studded tires and headed out the door on a 10 degree morning. i was actually pretty warm since i figured out how to dress properly. for the past ten years i have been ‘experimenting” with different clothes and such. and now i am going to share with you all of my findings:
1. spandex/lycra does not keep you warm. it does keep you aero dynamic, but small consolation when your entire body is freezing.
2. in general, stay away from tight fitting clothes. it prevents your body from “free convection.” in other words the warm air your body produces can not circulate around to warm other parts of your body. most importantly, is that tight clothing inhibits blood circulation. when you body is cold it needs all the blood it can get.
3. tight shoes should also be avoided. pretty much the same reason as tight clothes. i started riding with platform pedals in the winter because my road shoes were too tight. since i have platform pedals i can wear my hiking shoes and nice wool socks.
4. never wear cotton. cotton will kill you. [period!]
5. protect your face. my face tends to get cold without me knowing it. i usually wear a balaclava when the weather gets sub 20. however, i just noticed that i have this weird skin discoloration around my forehead. as i was riding in the other day i just realized that it must be from frost bite on my face. this happened years ago when i used to ride in to boulder in 0 degree weather. i used to use a balaclava with my sun glasses. as it turned out the coverage from most head covers leave lots of exposed skin. the part under your eyes is not too critical, since it gets warmth from your heavy breathing. the parts of your face that are exposed above your eyes are the most endangered. when the weather gets below 10 or so, i use ski goggles to cover those unprotected areas. i am currently looking for a balaclava with eye holes [let me know if you find one].
6. always protect your eyes. use clear or yellow lenses if there is no sunshine, but always wear something. defog them as well. if you are using a face cover [balaclava], your breath will fog the glasses. rub some dish soap over the lenses before you go out, this sometimes helps.
7. blocking the wind is almost equivalent to blocking the cold. i have not had any luck with “wind stopper” material. i have have luck with gortex. i have this great big gortex cycling shell that i can put over anything. it should be a size or two smaller, but i bought it on sale, and i will wear it as is…thank you. it has the vent in the back and zipper arm pits. i think these features are almost essential. i’ve tried to wear rain jackets without vents, to block out the cold, and it was like being in a pressure cooker.
8. go ahead and wear rain proof pants. these are the light wind breaker type shells. i have a pair of really cheap ones that are great for cycling. i really like cheap, because you don’t have to worry about ripping them or getting them dirty. anyway, same idea as the previous topic. you want to keep the wind from blowing away your heat. there are some wind stopper tights that may work for you, but what i have found is that having anything tight on your legs slows your circulation and makes your feet really cold.
9. something warm inside. i wear micro fleece. this is not tight fitting, but not real loose either. it needs to fit more like a shirt, and less like a jacket [does that make sense?]. i have a pair of micro fleece long underwear and a micro fleece top, that i wear under my wind shells. i have used this combination from about 10-32 degrees f. when it gets less than 10 i may throw on a an extra long sleeve poly top.
10. finally, the most important tip. for your hands i would recommend a bran new pair of ski gloves. again make sure they are somewhat water proof, and fairly loose fitting. the important part is that they are new. old gloves loose their r-value. especially if they have been washed or wet. i used to wear the same pair for years… every year my hands seemed colder and colder. i tried liners and covers…but nothing worked until i bought a new pair of burton ski gloves. my hands are now the least of my problems.
so these tip are for those who want to ride no matter what! actually these tip are only good for about sub 30 temps. it might be a little too much for the higher temps, depending on how much you like to hammer. also remember that a warm body performs much better than a cold body. so the fact that you are warm may make you want to go faster.