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cold weather riding gear: your advice?(18 posts)

cold weather riding gear: your advice?Haiku d'état
Jul 2, 2001 9:23 AM
ok, i'm trying to look ahead. three winters ago i rode through, but mtb. two winters ago i layed off. last winter i was a gym rat, and finally broke down and bought a trainer. started riding this spring as the strongest in our little recreational group. i don't mind a little cold, but the tootsies revolt when it's down below 65. i rode outside over the late fall/through winter with carved-up plastic grocery baggies in my shoes, tights, and a sweater under my windbreaker. this worked, but only marginally.

I already have a few windbreakers, a pair of armwarmers and one of those ear headwrap thingies, and some skull caps, and two nice pairs of winter riding gloves.

bought a pair of booties from nashbar last winter and they came apart the first time i used them. NOBODY else online had booties available--they were all sold out during the time of biggest demand. here are my thoughts for summer acquisitions:

* balaclava
* arm warmers (additional pair)
* leg warmers
* knee warmers
* oversocks
* toe warmers (half booties, for toe warmth in moderate cold)
* full neoprene booties
* windproof vest

any advice or suggestions on brand, price, sales--where to get, etc.? my goal is to ride through the winter on COLD but not WET days, including night riding after the little drooler (the toddler, not the wife) is in bed. i want decent stuff, but i'm NOT going to spend $50 on a pair of booties.

your exprience and advice (as always) is much appreciated!
below 65?climbo
Jul 2, 2001 10:04 AM
that is not cold. For NJ winters I ride in long sleeve wool jersey and a jacket, tights, booties and warm gloves. If it's really wet I'll wear goretex sox. Wool is the best stuff you can use, get wool arm warmers from a shop or They stock wool jerseys too and regular tights work on my legs fine, otherwise I get too hot.
I really don't want to think about cold weather ....seth1
Jul 2, 2001 10:12 AM
at this point in the season, but it is good to look ahead. How cold do you ride in? I will ride in anything (10* fahrenheit) as long as it's dry. My biggest problem, and it is a big problem, is my toes. I think I got frost bite while skiing one winter. I've tried EVERYthing; plastic bags (which only worked until my feet started sweating), regular socks w/ neoprene booties, wool socks w/ neo. booties, regular socks w/ wind blocking booties, wool socks w/ wind blocking booties. Assos air-block sock w/ both pair of booties on seems to work best, but this winter I'm going to a ski/bike shop and have shoe heaters installed into my mountain bike shoes and use those on my road bike.
Cannondale makes an awesome windbreaker w/ zip-off sleeves. I don't have one but I want to try one of those heavy weight jerseys.
I hope this helps in some way, I might try ski goggles when it gets below zero.
re: cold weather riding gear: your advice?MrCelloBoy
Jul 2, 2001 10:18 AM
Performance Bike has good deals and a shop brand on many of these items. I've found them to be a good source and good products. I might add neoprene socks as another thought. My sweetie tried them but found them too warm for her. (we live in a pretty temperate area).
I use a thin balaclava made by Patagonia, that can fold down to just a head cover.
Tights with a windbreaker material on the front can help quite a bit more than regular tights, as we create quite a bit of "wind" ourselves.
here's the goods...GregR
Jul 2, 2001 10:56 AM
Stuff I suggest for winter riding, tried and tested in full blown Chicago winter.

Feet: Neoprene booties, zipped in back. Girdana are ok (last a season), PYI are a bit better (binding a bit). I would have preferred the Performance brand as they appear to be cut nicer for pedaling (not in stock). Acorn polarfleece socks, nice and warm.

Legs: Gekko Gear Icebiker powerstretch tights. Simply the best. No restriction of movment, warmest tights ever, good down to zero. I wear a pair of lycra non-padded shorts over them for extra "package" wind resistance and keeps them from piling in the seat area.

Upper Body: This area varies with temperature. Below freezing I wear a polarfleece top with a Insport Whirlwind windbreaker. Only shoulderblade vented in back, but superior wind protection. Down in the teens I add a wicking base layer under the polarfleece. Above 35 its a long sleeved jersey with a nylon windbreaker.

Hands: Below freezing its ski gloves, 35-45 its winter cycling gloves (which really dont offer much cold protection, but good at these temps). Down in the teens I add a silk glove liner.

Head: I hate baklava's, so its a bandana and I add a polartec headband below freezing. Only time I use a baklava is when its single digits, or below zero.

Bike: Get a light! NiteRider! It gets dark early in the winter, so get one. Get a blinky light for the back, vista-lite super nebula5 or NiteRider tailight (the NiteRider annoys my riding buddys though, its really bright). Reflective stuff on the legs makes it much easier to see you from the side.

Basically I manage temperature by body output. If I get chilled I push harder, if I get hot I push easier. When I am out alone because everyone else thinks its too cold to ride, I feel sorry for them. There is nothing like the sond of fresh snow under your tires on a cold winter jaunt....
Layering, wicking and ventingBrian C.
Jul 2, 2001 11:33 AM
No matter what the pursuit, wearing layers of clothing is an important strategy when dealing with the cold. (Layering allows you to doff a shirt as the day warms up, or you warm up so that you don't overheat.)
Fabric is also important; some newer 'high tech' materials wick the perspiration away from your skin and expel it. This is benefitial for your comfort and safety. If you're working up a sweat and your clothes start getting wet and clammy, chances are you'll catch a breeze.
Also important, if your exercising, the heat your body creates needs to go somewhere. I have a couple of jackets with zippers in the arm pits for just this purpose. They really are effective.

Check out It's a Canadian outfitter but, if anything, have them send the catalogue just for reference.
Layering, wicking and ventingDINOSAUR
Jul 2, 2001 1:28 PM
I go with the layering system. Winters get in the 40's and sometimes high 30's where I live. I think Pearl Izumi has what they call a base system. Wear layers of light clothing that wicks. Lots of good stuff to choose from. I also wear a Pearl Izumi gore Sprint jacket (just gore material in the front of the chest and arms). It's water repellent if you happen to hit some rain. The color sucks, (black), I don't know why they use use color. I use wool Wigwam ski socks, machine washable. When it get real cold I'll do the European thing and add and pair of old cotton socks over my shoes with slits in the bottom for my cleats. They might last a month or so, but the idea is to keep the wind off. I wear long fingered cold weather gloves.

You want to keep your feet, hands, trunk, and head warm. The trouble is getting all this stuff on, it takes me about 25 minutes just to get all my cold riding gear on. Once I'm underway, it's not that bad. Some of my best rides are in the winter...

Actually now is a good time to think about cold weather as this stuff is on sale.
Look's like your covered, with two more things.12x23
Jul 2, 2001 12:01 PM
Performance neoprene booties and DeFeet Woolie-Boolie socks. Trust me.
some tipslonefrontranger
Jul 2, 2001 12:18 PM
From experience with Ohio & Colorado winters - y'all down there don't know the meaning of the word cold IMO. My SO (Galveston, TX native) whines when it goes below 70. Puhleaze. The caveat is you should always have a layer over your knees if the temp drops below 70, to keep all those delicate ligaments from tightening up & aching.

1) If you sweat because you're overdressed, you'll get a heck of a lot colder as your layers get damp. You should start a ride feeling a bit chilly, then warm up as you ride.

2) Too many constricting layers (read: multiple elastic bands) cut off your circulation and enhance cold / numb extremities. This is most noticable in the feet & lower legs. If it's cold enough that you'll need to keep your legs covered the entire ride, then wear bib tights with a fleece backing (Giordana's are good) rather than a combo of regular shorts plus leg/knee warmers.

3) Your shoes should fit easily over the heavier socks you use in winter, as tight shoes will also cut off your foot circulation. I find 2 layers of regular weight racing socks work much better than 1 layer of thick socks, fit in my shoes better, and do for most temps down to 30F. Even warmer is a thin nylon pair with a thick wool pair. I wear my MTB shoes to ride in winter, as they run bigger and wider, they don't have mesh sides that let the wind through, and the carbon soles in my road shoes seem to transfer cold up through my feet faster.

4) My favorite brand of booties are DeFeet Slipstreams. They're wooly enough to cut the wind, but they breathe so my feet don't become drenched in sweat like with neoprene booties. I find the neoprene ones make my feet colder once they're soaked. These are also great as a base layer underneath heavy booties on really cold days (>20F), since as they wick moisture, they keep your feet from sweating too much. DeFeet also sells arm and leg warmers and base layers, and could be considered a good single source for accessories.

5) Use polypro base layers to keep your core warm. Performance and a number of other cycling outlets sell these in vest, short sleeve, and long sleeve options. The stuff really, really works. I also prefer a thin brushed polypro balaclava instead of the heavy wooly fleece types, as I find my helmet doesn't fit comfortably over the thick ones, and I get headaches. If it's cold enough that polypro isn't quite enough, I add a fleece neck gaiter and an old-school cycling cap on the head.

6) If you ever (most folks don't but it's good stuff to know) have to race or train in cold WET weather, a thick layer of grease (Vaseline or similar on arms & legs, Vicks on the chest) with shorts & thin jersey beats the daylights out of heavy, wringing wet layers. I am not making this up. You will get hypothermia faster from cold wet Lycra sitting on your skin sucking the heat out than you will from "going Euro". The grease has to be laid on pretty thick though, and you should use 409 or rubbing alcohol (also not making this up) and a bunch of rags to remove the layer of crud before you get back into the car / house.

Get a wind vest, as well as a winter jacket you can zip the sleeves out of to convert it to a winterweight vest. Biemme makes a great winter jacket that's convertible to a vest, and it has a large zippered rear pocket to boot. USE GOOD GLOVES! If your hands are cold, you'll be miserable. Pearl Izumi and Biemme both make good winter gloves - my personal fave being Biemme.
For -10 degrees F,JimF
Jul 2, 2001 1:50 PM
The above layering techniques are very good. I like to layer with as much PI stuff as I can afford. A balaclava helps a lot, and ski goggles plus a Masque are necessary. The best way to keep my hands warm under such conditions was PI lobster mittens with polypro glove liners.
Don't plan too long of a ride. My toes got cold no matter what I did with booties and wool, or even electric socks or chemical toe warmers. Besides, your water bottle will be frozen by the time you're 5 miles out.
Remember, if you're warm enough at the very beginning of the ride, then you've dressed too warmly.
Studded tires for smooth ice and tire chains for snow.
Good luck.
I'm sure glad I moved out of Minnesotapmf
Jul 2, 2001 2:53 PM
Riding in -10 degrees F. Oh man, that's brutal. Since moving to DC, my skin has thinned.

I remember when I was a grad student in Minnesota and one morning I got up and the wind chill was 90 below. The actual temp was 20 below. I spent about half an hour dressing for my walk to class. I walk out the door and some guy rides by (on the snow covered street) on his bike. All I could think was "what a man".

Later when asked about closing the University, President Nils Hasselmo said "I'd think about it if it were maybe 100 below". Nice place, but that winter was more than I could bear. Started in early October and ran until April. And the whole place is inhabitated by folks that think its paradise.
I'm sure glad I moved out of MinnesotaJimF
Jul 2, 2001 7:40 PM
I'm in Lower Michigan, but we have our moments. The funniest part for me was when we'd get to the restaurant and I'd take off my outer shell and all this snow would come dumping out, off my wicking layers-frozen sweat.
thanks, all! the only problems i'm having with this so far...Haiku d'état
Jul 2, 2001 3:35 PM
...are finding booties online and deciding where to place my order. i've run the gamut of mail order houses/internet dealers and found some good stuff at a decent price from excel sports. everything else comes from CC. by the way, users of cytomax, 4.5#=$32 at good price? beats nashbar.

thanks, everyone, for your input and advice! i was surprised to read such a wide range of response TYPES, including try this/that to the SPECIFIC forulae those bad weather regulars have learned as tried & true methods!!! informative AND entertaining!!!

and...since it sounds like the performance booties were a good product, i'm disappointed to find that they are no longer avaialable in my size. didn't seem to find neoprene socks anyplace, either. or the woolie-boolie my internet searching ability going downhill?

DECISIONS: i'm going to give PYI a shot with their full neoprene, and defeet with their shoe covers. acorn socks, microfleece balaclava, arm and leg warmers from performance, and PI knee warmers. i'll supplement the rest of my carcass with stuff already in the drawers and closet at home.

expect a full report post-freeze. actually, i start putting on the cold stuff <65deg, but that's 'cause i'm a wuss with thin blood. and, you guys are right--there is no hardcore winter riding 'round here like in wisconsin or colorado, but cold, like FAST, is relative for us southern folk! the snow doesn't fall for a few years, then one winter the ice arrives wholesale and covers everything from top to toe, and guess what? the city shuts down and is in a state of absolute panic for a week or more! lucky me, i'll be prepared to ride to work with studded tires and clothing bought during the summer...
thanks, all! the only problems i'm having with this so far...Lone Gunman
Jul 2, 2001 6:00 PM
Bellwether? has a pair of wind front tights, wind proof front, spandex back that I hear are nice and toasty. Some of the pro gear have wind front jackets with a breathable back that are, well, pro level gear. REI have gortex booties that fit in my bike shoes coupled with wool sox and silk sock liners (sounds bulky but it's not) and remove the insoles of your shoes and put the bubble wrap cut out to insole shape in place of the insoles. And lastly, cover the front vent holes of your helmet with clear plastic tape and leave the back open to vent
jeez, more wisdom (!)...and i totally forgot REIHaiku d'état
Jul 3, 2001 6:57 AM
i'll check 'em out.

the helmet and shoe vents were things i'd considered but also forgotten. will do--good suggestions!

thanks again!!!

65??Andy M-S
Jul 3, 2001 3:54 AM
I'm in Wisconsin. When it warms up to 65, I break out the shorts!

When it's in the mid-50's, I wear long-sleeved jerseys.

When it drops to the 40's, tights and a light jacket.

When the roads are ice-covered, I go ride rollers...
since several responses were incredulous of '65',...Haiku d'état
Jul 3, 2001 7:06 AM
I have no problems 50-65 with the rest of my body, provided i'm wearing arm warmers and have a wind shell packed in a jersey pocket. however, my toes and fingers do get mighty cold mighty easy, sometimes in normal weather, even when i'm in the office. i'll attribute it to the BP meds my doc has me on to preclude "chronic" migraines. i often have trouble standing up quickly, also. i figure it's alot easier to live with cold extremeties and a little lightheadedness than the inability to see/think straight! :-)

not that i don't love riding in the cold, on the road down to about 30 degrees, beyond that, on the MTB (or not at all). there's a peace about it, and some insanity, and it's a little like riding in a good downpour, without the moisture. few others 'round here are motivated as such to ride through the winter. the only part i find daunting is the prep/cleanup time and clothes washing cycles following.

thanks again for your input on cold weather gear! much appreciated!!!
Jul 3, 2001 2:09 PM
that's ideal cycling weather!