Riding on a 45 degrees day can feel like it’s 37 degrees at a modest speed of 15 mph. It is important to remember that air temperature is only one part of the equation when riding. On a bike, you are also creating additional wind-chill, which is a more significant factor as temperatures dip. But with the right key pieces of gear you can extend your riding season comfortably into the fall, winter or get out riding earlier in the spring.
Gearing up to ride in the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s can be tricky. You need to be strategic and not over-dress, yet have enough insulation and wind-blocking layers so that you stay comfortable as temps drop or winds shift. Most cyclists have riding shorts and a jersey, and that’s a great foundation for building your cool season wardrobe.
Arm-warmers effectively turn your short sleeve jersey into a long sleeve option. You’ll be surprised how much warmth this simple addition makes - with the added bonus that they can easily stuff into a back pocket if temps rise. Warmers come in a range of technical fabrics from wind and water resistant to summer-weight designed to reflect the hot sun and harmful UV rays.
Pairing your jersey with a base-layer increases your comfort range by keeping your core temperature regulated. Base layers do a great job of pulling moisture off of your skin and create a micro-climate to help keep you dry and more comfortable. Base-layers come in a huge range from light weight Smartwool 150 and Endura slightly heavier Baabaa base layer. Merino wool long-sleeve options for riding in the coldest temps. Especially when paired with short or long sleeve jersey it is a versatile way to keep you comfortable when it’s colder while allowing you to remove layers as the temps rise.
Legs & Knees
When the temps are below 60 degrees it’s a good idea to protect your knees and keep them warm. A great way to do this is with either a pair of knee or leg warmers. Like the arm warmers, these keep you warm but can be easily removed if temps rise. The difference between knee and leg warmers isn’t huge. Having thermal tights are the way to go when they are going to stay on for the entire ride. There are also tights with a wind proof front for when temps drop even more.
Windbreaker & Softshell
When you pair up your warmers and base-layer with a light weight wind-breaker or vest you can really extend your comfort range. Having a vest and jacket get you even greater range of temps and conditions. The key thing to look for in a wind-breaker is breathability, the last thing you want is to get clammy and cold from your own perspiration. When it gets to be cool enough that the windbreaker isn't coming off, switch to a soft shell jersey. Softshells are breathable and insulatted.
Headbands, skull caps and balaclavas fit under your helmet to help keep you warm. Headbands cover your forehead and your ears. Skull caps cover your head and your ears. The balaclava is the warmest. It cover your ears, head, neck and a good part of your face. Warmer the air going into your lungs will help you perform better. They weigh next to nothing and take up virtually no space in a back pocket if you warm up.
On the hands, a thin knit glove can take the chill off, but still breathe well if the pace or temps heat up. Your hands get a lot of abuse from the elements on a bike. Good wind protection is important in colder temps. It is better to use warmer glove. You can always take them off if you get hot hands. If you're not sure bring a extra pair. Lobster gloves are for the coldest days. Lobster gloves keeps two fingers together which helps keep the heat circulating and helps keep your hands warmer.
Wool socks are great for cooler rides. But below 50 degrees, you’ll want more protection. Toe covers will protect your toes from the wind. Shoe covers are better as the temperature drops to help keep your feet toasty. Trek Storm shell socks are waterproof. Waterproof socks are great for the platform pedal rider. Bontrager makes the Old Man Winter boot. OMW boots are for the fatbikers that will be walking or standing in the snow using SPD pedals. Shoe covers are not the ideal for this set up because of the potential that the toe will peal back introducing snow to your dry foot.
Dress for the weather, but also the duration and the level of exertion. On casual rides, you might want more layers. If you’re riding hard, you’re going to warm up. It’s always best to start out on the chilly side. If you walk outside and feel comfortable or warm, you’ll be stripping off layers as soon as you get your heart rate up.
On a longer ride, you may get cold from prolonged exposure to the elements or if your clothing gets damp from sweat. It’s a good idea to bring an extra layer - especially if you’re going to be starting and stopping or standing around for any length of time. Bring a pack with a large opening. You won't have to empty it to get to what you want. In the end, everybody’s internal thermostat runs a bit differently, so it’s always best to experiment and find what layers work for which temperatures for you.
For the days when you will be in the rain for an extended period of time. Waterproof clothing should be used when cycling in constant rain or snow or when you find yourself in the snow when fat biking.
Old Man Winter boot
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