THE SECRET TO STAYING WARM IN COLD WEATHER
As the temperature drops, there is no reason you have to stop riding or stick to indoor training. You can be perfectly comfortable and warm riding outside as long as you take the proper steps to stay warm. Here are some secrets to make those cold mornings bearable.
The secret: LAYERING. The idea with layering is to always provide the best interaction with your body regardless of your performance level. How cold it gets where you live will obviously influence how many layers and what type you need to wear. Layering for cycling means you can wear the clothing close to the skin, trapping heat before it dissipates. It also allows you to strip off as the day warms up, regulating your body temperature and comfort. There are three levels of layering to ensure you ultimate protection:
1 FIRST LAYER MOISTURE MANAGEMENT
You will often hear this referred to as a “base layer.” Most base layers are manufactured from a mix of polyester or nylon, and elastane materials, and even wool. The combination of fabrics and fabric treating technology is what gives the base layer its moisture wicking properties. Moisture wicking base layers work by drawing sweat away from the wearer’s body during exercise and allowing it to evaporate on the surface of the material, rather than sitting on the skin. The more dry you are, the warmer you will be. A good base layer will help regulate your body temperature during exercise. Keeping your core muscles warm is vitally important for maintaining performance and avoiding injury.
2 MID LAYER THERMO REGULATION
Your next layer is called the insulation layer and helps keep you warm from the cold while continuing to transfer moisture from the body. This mid-layer can vary in thickness depending on the temperature while riding. On a more mild morning, you may choose to wear your regular cycling jersey, however, if you are feeling very cold, you can choose a thinker fleece, or marino wool jersey with long sleeves. You may also find that during a ride you no longer need your third layer so having a mid layer you can wear on its own, such as a softshell that offers some protection from the elements, is a great idea.
3 OUTER LAYER WEATHER PROTECTION
The shell or outer layer protects you from wind, rain or snow. It is your first defense against the elements and the last barrier for escaping moisture the outer layer is arguably the most important and certainly the most technical. Shells work best in the layer system. Look for jackets that are waterproof, breathable and have taped seams and you’ll have a shell that you can wear for all weather riding. There are some amazing jackets available that are lightweight and packable while offering all the features you need to accommodate riding in a variety of conditions. Jackets that are virtually waterproof tend to have little breathability while lighter wind proof jackets might get wet quickly. Finding the right jacket for the temperature and weather conditions is very important to staying comfortable in tough wether conditions. Here are a few options:
Waterproof: Shells using laminated membranes such as Gore-Tex and eVent offer top performance; those using fabric coatings are a more economical alternative. These tend to be more expensive due to the technology and less breathable during heavier exercise. But during wet, cold mornings, keeping dry is key!
Water-resistant/breathable shells: These are best for light precipitation and high activity levels. Less expensive than waterproof/breathable shells, they’re usually made of tightly woven fabrics (such as mini-ripstop nylon) to block wind and light rain.
Soft shells: These emphasize breathability. Most feature stretch fabric or fabric panels for added comfort during aerobic activities. Many offer both shell and insulative properties, so they in effect combine 2 layers into 1. Soft shells include cold- and mild-weather options. These are perfect for cold, dry mornings.
WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE BODY?
After you master the layering to keep your core warm, make sure not to forget about keeping the rest of your body warm.
For performance the best options are often thin thermal beanies or head bands and a neck warmer or balaclava. If warmth is your primary concern then you can add a helmet cover to keep the wind out. With helmets being built mainly for warmer weather and your head ditching a lot of your heat, making sure you have the right head coverage can make a big difference on how comfortable you are in winter temperatures.
Winter cycling gloves will provide you with good grip, padded palms and reflective highlights to make sure you are warm, comfortable and safe. If you get cold easily you can find lobster style gloves that keep your index and middle fingers free to operate the controls while keeping your fingers extra warm. Stray away from mittens as they will restrict your mobility in a dangerous way.
Exposing the knees, in particular, to very low temperatures is likely to be an uncomfortable experience, during the ride and afterwards. Covering the entire leg can be done either with a full-length tight with padding, or without padding to be worn over your favorite shorts or bibs. We also recommend using leg or knee warmers which are sleeves that cover the leg/knee and stop at the thigh under your shorts. These are great because they are easy to remove if the sun comes out.
Often times your arms will be covered by your laying and jacket. There’s a time and a place for jackets, but more often than not, you’ll find that arm warmers will provide the perfect amount of insulating warmth for brisk fall and spring conditions. Plus, they’re easy to pack when you’re unsure of the weather, so there’s no reason to ever be chilly on a ride again.
Chances are, your cycling shoes are well ventilated to keep you feet cool and to maintain proper airflow. While this is perfect for the warm summer months, it’s less than idea for cold, windy, wet weather. Think of your feet the same way you layered your body. Start with a good moisture wicking sock (preferably wool for colder days), a mid layer which is your shoe, and then an outer shell to protect your feet from the wind or rain. You can choose toe covers which fit over you shoes and cover your toes and laces, or you can choose a bootie or shoe cover that covers the entire shoe and ankle. Various thickness and materials are available depending on the conditions.
As with all cycling garments, different ‘weights’ apply, and different fabrics will offer protection variously from the cold, wind, or rain. Thanks to different layers combined with modern fabric technology your body’s microclimate is always maintained at a comfortable level and the different layers interact with your natural thermo regulation at different activity levels in different weather conditions. Surf City Cyclery is always here at answer any layering questions. Give us a call, comment below, or stop by the shop!
We know that winter makes for an easy excuse to stay off your bicycle, but with a little bit of planning and the right clothes winter doesn’t have to keep you inside.