Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cold Weather Biking :: What to Wear

Brrrr! There's a bite to the morning air as we move deep into Fall. November brings colder temps, but not cold enough to put up the bike for the season if you know how to dress.

I learned how to dress by biking late into November and starting in early March in Wisconsin - just as long as there was dry pavement and no snow, I would ride. That meant riding in and dressing for morning temps of 30 degrees! Was I crazy? Maybe. But I loved to ride, and I was determined not to let the temps get in my way.

Interested in learning how stay warmer during your ride? Whether your a daily commuter, recreational rider, road cyclist or a mountain biker, the tips below may help you learn how to dress for cold temperatures.

Rule #1:  Layer. A little bit of layering will go a long way. You can buy the athletic wear that's meant to wick-away sweat or hold in heat, but cotton clothing goes a long way in keeping your core warm. Layer in tight fit clothing on the first layer. Sport those spandex tops and pants. Put on your long-johns under a pair of jeans and your riding shirt. Take off the under layers once you arrive at your destination. If it's really cold, I'll wear my long spandex shorts under my biking shorts with a long pair of cotton socks underneath it all. On top, I'll wear a short sleeve cotton t-shirt, my long sleeve spandex top and then either my polar fleece vest or my light spring jacket.

Rule #2:  Hat + Gloves. No matter how much you layer, you'll need to invest in a set of hats and gloves to make it through the additional chill you'll encounter as you ride in the cold. I ride with my open-finger biking gloves until it gets really cold. Then I switch to a thin pair of polar fleece gloves with grip on the bottom. (I've tried layering two pairs of those thin stretchy gloves, but the cold still gets through.) Some suggest investing in ski gloves or buying gloves made specifically for biking in the cold. Wearing a hat will go a long way in keeping the rest of you warm. If you wear a helmet, buy a thin hat. You won't need to worry about investing in something heavy duty if your ride keeps you moving. Some riders in cold areas wear a balaclava.

Rule #3:  7 minutes. This is the amount of time it usually takes to warm up. If you can make it this far, the rest of your ride you'll be warm. At this point, you may be able to tell if you've over or under dressed for your ride. If you're sweatin' buckets, you've overdressed (and might catch a chill). If you're still cold, you've under dressed - power through and get home.

It takes practice. Experience is the best teacher. After a few rides, you'll get the hang of what you need to wear to stay warm in cold temps.

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