October 1, 2009

Dressing for Cold Weather Riding: What You Need to Know

The time is upon us that we must ride in the cold. And I mean cold. In the spring, we will also be racing in the cold. Dressing properly can be the difference between kicking ass and getting your ass kicked. Winter riding can be a rewarding or punishing experience, the difference depends largely on what you wear. It is especially important to keep your knees warm: a cold joint is not a happy joint. Remember two things if you remember anything: layering and no cotton. If you remember these you'll be on the right track. Layer, layer, layer. No cotton. Layering allows versatility, and cotton does not wick away sweat. Following some general comments about how to protect various parts of your body will be a list of things you should probably have unless frostbite is of no concern. Feel free to ask some of the more experienced people questions: dressing correctly for the cold is a knack, and it is not pleasant to learn how the hard way. And don't forget: just because it's cold doesn't mean you don't sweat keep drinking until the bottles freeze.

1. Hands

Keeping your hands warm is important, unless you don't feel like shifting gears or being able to turn a key in your door upon returning home. There are many types of gloves available. The warmest I know of are Pearlizumi Thermadores, then Pearlizumi Lobstermitts, then pretty much any warm gloves. The first two keep your fingers in pairs and are therefore a bit warmer. For rainy weather nothing beats neoprene gloves, which are pretty cheap and can be found in watersport catalogs. Also, thin polypro or silk glove liners are an excellent way to beef up a pair of not-quite-warm-enough gloves.

2. Feet

Feet are a big problem. In case you haven't figured it out yet, they don't actually do much besides follow the pedals around. Most pedals are made of metal, and any engineer will tell you that metal is a good conductor of heat. So your feet are in trouble. Booties are a must, the thicker the better. Getting them a little bit too big is not a bad idea, and would allow you to put a sock over your shoe and inside the bootie. Also, don't wear cotton socks. You can buy thin polypro sock liners pretty inexpensively, on cold days three of these on each foot in addition to a bootie works nicely. Pearlizumi makes what looks to be a nice warm bootie for about $50. If you want to do things cheaper, take a thick wool sock, cut a hole for the cleat, and beef the whole thing up with duct tape. The basic requirements are something to keep the wind off and something to trap some heat.

3. Head

This is a bit easier: get a nice hat, earwarmers are also highly recommended (and add that little fashion touch to put you over the top. For really cold days a balaclava will cover most of your face. Wear some glasses to keep the cold air out of your eyes.

4. The Rest: Torso and Legs

OK, almost done. For the legs, wear tights. These can easily be layered, or you can put leg-warmers or knee warmers under a pair of tights. Snug fitting long underwear works just fine if you prefer fruit-ofthe-loom to pearlizumi. For the torso, long underwear is fine, especially worn in layers. A windbreaker is a must, preferably a waterproof one. These keep you amazingly warm, and are easy to put on and take off. Sometimes it's nice to have turtlenecks to keep the old collarbones warm. At least one layer should have pockets in the back for storing stuff.

Recommended Clothing

Underlined items represent the barely acceptable minimum set of clothing

1. Hands

+ Gloves: Pearlizumi Thermadores or Lobstermitts, or some other glove

+ Polvpro or silk glove liners

+ Neoprene gloves (optional, great for rain but not much else)

2. Feet

+ Thick, warm booties

+ Thin sock liners (not strictly necessary, but almost)

+ Warm socks. wool or polypro

+ Hotronic battery powered heated insoles (optional, but seem very cool)

+ Chemical toe warmers also work well

3. Head

+ Thin hat

+ Thick hat or balaclava (you may have to take the helmet pads out)

+ Earmuffs

+ Some form of protective eyowear

+ Putting masking tape over the helmet vents is not a bad idea

+ You can also buy special helmet liners that cover your ears

4. All the rest

+ Polvpro long underwear, shirts and leggings (expedition weight is NOT too thick)

+ Thick tights

+ Knee warmers or knickers

+ Windbreaker jacket

+ Windbreaker vest (optional, but very nice)