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Winter riding(25 posts)

Winter ridingmlester
Aug 9, 2002 4:08 AM
Now a lot of you may think that it is too early to think about winter riding but I live in New England. I have summer weather for about oh....5 days (a little exagerated). Now being somewhat new to cycling, I don't have any winter gear. I spent last winter on the MTB and it didn't matter what I was wearing as long as I was warm. My question(s): in the winter, do you sacrifice aero for warmth? what is the most effective material for a long-sleeve jersey to keep me warm but not sweat too much? and for the bike, are there different tires i should use to combat the heavily salted roadways New England has to offer in the wintertime? Any help would be appreciated.

re: Winter ridinggrettm
Aug 9, 2002 4:18 AM
I have tried to enjoy winter riding and it is difficult. I seem to give up around 45 degrees. that is the coldest I can get. I too want to do more winter riding as I was married this year and want to catch up on miles.

Do any of you use underarmor? It is mostly used by football players but I hear it can keep you so very warm. Any experiences? how is it on breathing?
Mike why dont you try thisJoshua
Aug 9, 2002 4:29 AM
You could always invest in a polar bottle and fill it full with a nice hot buttered rum. The polar botlle will keep it nice and hot and the drink will warm you up too.

Josh, your suggestions are always helpful...thanks...nmmlester
Aug 9, 2002 4:36 AM
re: Winter ridingJS Haiku Shop
Aug 9, 2002 4:50 AM
last winter i went down to the low 20s (and lower in the morning, in the dark) on the road. imho, when you're riding in lower temps, aero be damned. i'm out there to keep the miles up (or increase mileage), but lower intensity, and my primary concern is warmth. you have to consider too--how to stay warm when you're stopped (repairs, etc.).

as far as jerseys, the layering approach seems to work well, as in:

wicking layer base
warmth layer mid
shell layer outer

i.e., fitted jersey on the bottom (long sleeve or with arm warmers), fleece or similar on the next layer, and a windbreaker or similar on the top. MB1 made some awesome suggestions to me last year for wind, rain, and cold, but i haven't diverted the funds to inclment weather wear, yet.

my biggest problem last winter was extremeties: fingers and toes. this year i hope to get a good sale on the lake winter mtb shoes/boots, and find some gloves worth their snuff. currently have the specialized lobster gloves for down to freezing temps, and PI amfibs for lower. it's not working.

good luck.
try this linkMJ
Aug 9, 2002 4:54 AM

neoprene booties are (IMO) the most critical piece of winter kit

aero is not a consideration - not losing extremities or being forced in because of lack of cold weather gear is the aim
Great site....thanks, MJ (nm)mlester
Aug 9, 2002 5:08 AM
Aug 9, 2002 7:32 PM
The feet are my problem so I go with shoe covers under neoprene booties, two pair of thin wool socks, a wind proof inner sole (I use a piece of 2.5 Inch inner tube) and I tape over my shoe vents. I can get by with a spandex head cover under my helmet and a thin wool glove inside a Gortex glove. Polypropelene tights over shorts plus three layers on top and I'm good to about 30 degrees F. I like a jacket that is polypropylene in back and Gortex in front because in breaths well. I did about 1000 kms from Dec - March in Toronto last year
Winter Riding Is Fun...Gregory Taylor
Aug 9, 2002 5:18 AM
I've collected a pretty good set of clothes and gear that get me down to below 20 degress very comfortably. The key pieces are:

Pearl Izumi Amphib Windfront Tights: I like the Pearls, but any heavy tight with a windstopper front will work. Make sure that the windstopper covers the "naughty bits".

Craft Windstopper T-Shirt: What a beautiful piece of clothing! Silky poly, with a windpanel up front. This is a good base layer. Otherwise, go with a good poly t-shirt for a wicking layer, and rely on a vest, etc. for windstopping duties.

Wal-Mart Poly Thermal T-Shirt: This is a bargain -- you can get a thick poly t-shirt built to U.S. Army Cold Weather specs for under $15. I use this under my jersey and over my inner-layer. Look in the hunting section.

Good, Heavy Jersey. Long sleeve. Cheap ones from Performance work ok. Think loud colors.

Poly Balaclava under the helmet when things are cold. I have a poly headband that covers the ears for warmer weather. Both are cheap Performance stuff. Works ok.

Smartwool Socks: These things rock, and keep your tootsies warm when they are wet.

Goretex Socks: Work decently well, but eventually leak in a heavy rain. No warmth value, so you need to wear these over wool socks. I use these in "nice" weather as they are lighter than the neoprene booties.

Neoprene Booties: I have an old pair of booties by Trek. Very nice. Very warm. I break these out when the temp drops below freezing.

Shoes: I use mountain shoes in the winter. Basically, I want the option of walking a decent distance if I have a flat or a mechanical.

Gloves: On really cold days (below 25 degrees) I'll use some ski gloves. Otherwise, Pearl Izumi poly knit liners over some cheap Nashbar gel gloves works well.

Fenders: Fenders rule in bad weather. They keep your feet dry, and deflect crud from your bike. Go full size fenders, front and rear. Yes, you will look like a Fred, but you will be a dry, clean, toasty Fred. And you will be out riding.

Other considerations: remember, if you have a flat or a mechanical, things can get interesting if it is very cold. You lose heat very quickly when you stop riding, so in very cold weather you have to take into consideration (1) your ability to fix things with frozen fingers, and (2) the risk of freezing your ass off if you can't fix it. Sometimes it is better to jog the bike along to warmth and shelter and fix it there. Or jog it to a place that serves beer, and call the significant other to come and pick it up while you ponder a pilsner.
Where to obtain Craft Windstopper T-Shirt? (nm)mja
Aug 9, 2002 10:22 AM
Colorado Cyclist had them last year ...Gregory Taylor
Aug 9, 2002 10:39 AM
Dang...that didn't workGregory Taylor
Aug 9, 2002 10:40 AM
Go to,16732,16737,16742,26363,26372

That should pull it up
Aug 9, 2002 11:33 AM
I rode until Thanksgiving, made a few dry days in February, but spent the bulk of the winter indoors at the Gym. I don't mind the cold- it is the road conditions.

I'm actually thinking of trying cross-country skiing. Last winter was so wimpy that I saw plenty of "skiers" roller-skiing on the MUTs.
A Minnesotan's formula for successful winter riding.Quack
Aug 9, 2002 5:36 AM
#1. Gore-Tex pants with velcro ankles. They block all the wind and allow you to wear light tights or shorts even in single digit temps, and are somewhat breathable to boot.

#2. Good gloves. I use PI comfortemp gloves that are good down to about -10F.

#3. Shoe covers. Neoprene covers like the PI Typhoons are good for anything below 30F. Otherwise, light covers or toe covers are usually fine.

#4. Long sleeve jerseys with brushed fleece interiors and breathable windbreaker. You will never need the heavy top layers as the old furnace will be going strong. I usually will wear a tight undershirt like the Craft stuff if it is below 10F.

#5. Thin fleece balacalava. It allows your helmet to fit mormally, it keeps your neck, ears, and face warm, and it stretches enough to be pulled down under the chin if the windchill isn't too bad.

#6. Glasses or goggles. Glasses work great down to about 20F but goggles will be better to combat the -30F windchill.

#7. Fill your bottle with warm water before you leave. It takes about 30 minutes for the mouths of my bottles to freeze up in December and January.

As far as tires go, I just run normal road tires unless it's a real heavy accum, at which point I break out the MTB. I do however use my rain wheels all winter. Salt/sand and aluminum don't do so well together, and your brakes wear the crap out of your rim sidewalls.

If you are a commuter, keep your batteries for your headlight in the house until the time you leave. My NiMH batteries aren't so good when the temp drops below freezing. I get about a fourth of the normal capacity in the cold.

One last thing that you may run across that affects road bikes is wheel clearance. If it's snowing and the roads are slushy, take the MTB. Last year, the rear wheel on my Trek actually froze solid and locked up while I was doing about 15MPH and I had to take it to a JiffyLube to thaw it out. The tight rear clusters on road bikes fill with slush and freeze pretty rapidly and prevent your chain from engaging the cluster so I usually put the bike in the big ring and use the top cog in back and just leave it if it's slushy. Keep your chain lubed with a wet oil based lube. The salt/sand will destroy your chain no matter what you use but if you are lucky, you can make it through the winter on one chain using oil.

Enjoy the cold! It's definitely worth it, you'll be kicking all those trainer rider's asses in the spring.
A Wisconsinite's formula for successful winter riding.bigdave
Aug 9, 2002 8:19 AM
The Quack is not a quack after all! :-) Very good stuff.

I'd only really add this: Lake MXZ-300 winter shoes if you're going to be riding outside a lot and don't like cold feet. I hate cold feet. has them for as good a price as you'll find anywhere. I buy them a size large, then wear heavy socks... works like a charm. The only time I need to add neoprene booties is when it's below 20F outside.

Oh, and a camelback is a good thing. Get a relatively small one (not a Hawg) and put your jacket over it. When it's below 20F outside, my H2O bottles are useless. But the Camelback stays warm(ish) from your body heat and the bite valve thaws quickly in your mouth if it freezes. I found that I needed water almost as much as summer, so that's definitely something to keep in mind.

I'd also totally second the balaclava suggestion. I got a Sugoi one because they were out of the PI's, but it's basically the same thing. It's basically the same material as the PI ear band (another good thing for temps below 45 but above 30), which has a windstopper on one side and wicking material on the inside. Don't get a heavyweight one as your head will cook. The lightweight one works wonders at keeping the wind and cold out.

re: Winter ridingtarwheel
Aug 9, 2002 5:44 AM
I ride year-round, but live in North Carolina where the winters are mild. I've ridden in temperatures as low as the 30s but don't care to invest in the gear that I would need for lower temps. As Haiku said, the most important thing to know about winter riding is layering. Start with a good wicking t-shirt as a base, then a long-sleeve jersey. I seldom use a jacket as it just gets too sweaty unless it's very cold, but have found a vest to be very useful. Vests protect you where you need it the most and are easy to rollup and stick in a back pocket if it warms up. Good sport glasses are important as your eyes tear up more in cold temperatures. Leg warmers are great for days that start out cold and warm up, and tights are necessary for colder days. Gloves are perhaps the hardest thing as many people seem to have different tolerances for cold hands. I've had good luck with Pearl Izumi long-fingered gloves. Shoe covers will help keep your feet warm, along with wool socks. For my head, I wear a microfleece-lined skull cap on very cold days. Finally, I've found that it's better too wear too little than too much clothing in cooler weather (but then again I don't live in New England). If you wear too much, you sweat a lot and then get even colder when you stop or hit downhills. It takes a lot of riding and experimentation to find the right combinations and layers for different temperatures, but eventually you figure it out.
re: Winter ridingTomS
Aug 9, 2002 5:57 AM
I'd agree with all the other recommendations; booties, lobster gloves, a thin shell over a couple layers, etc. Aero doesn't really matter since you're most likely not going to be racing, just riding for fun and to stay in shape. Last winter I kept commuting, but cut back on road rides to just on the weekends.

If you really want to get hardcore, you can get some nokian studded tires, either in 26" for your mtn bike, or 700c for your road bike if they'll clear your brakes. I haven't tried these but I heard they work great on ice. We don't get a lot of ice here though, mostly just snow.

Also, especially if you have a steel frame, it's recommended to leave it in the cold (i.e. a garage) if possible. Bringing it in and out of the cold will cause condensation inside the tubes, which could lead to rust.
re: Winter ridingmlester
Aug 9, 2002 6:09 AM
Interesting point about the steel frame, I never thought about that. Alas, I have an aluminum frame...should I keep that cold as well?

not sure...TomS
Aug 9, 2002 6:47 AM
Aluminum can corrode, especially at contact points (like between the seatpost and frame, etc) but I don't know how moisture affects that process. It's a good idea grease areas like that though, either way.

The icebike site mentioned above has a mailing list, you might try asking there. I'm sure somebody would know.
This topic makes me cold!!!94Nole
Aug 9, 2002 6:43 AM
I'll not ride in the winter. I'll stop riding when the temps drop below, say...50-ish and will then start riding again the following Monday as winter will be over.

I knew I moved back to Florida for something. This is just one other reason.

Sorry to rub it in.
Some great advice here...empacher6seat
Aug 9, 2002 9:02 AM
It's great to see so many different suggestions and options. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going outside to lay in the sun. =)
re: Winter ridingbrurider
Aug 9, 2002 9:52 AM
You don't have to get too fancy schmantzy to ride in the cold. See what you've got on hand first. If you're an outdoorsy type at all, or work outside, you may already be ready to go.

This works for me, best as I can recall.
To 32 deg, lightweight runners spandex will work over riding shorts (not the best, but it works), or use long riding tights with a chamois. Long sleeve sweatshirt over common t-shirt. Or, maybe just a long sleeve tshirt with bright cycling shirt (for visibility) over top will work also. Put on regular winter gloves as your fingers tell you. Neoprene booties also as the piggies speak.

To 20deg or so, hooded sweatshirt plus long sleeve t-shirt. Letting the facial hair grow also helps.Putthe hood under the helmet, or try a hard hat liner. THose liners work great, even just a cotton non quilted one will do. Cycling shirt over top as before. Heavy weight InSport runners spandex over cycling shorts (wish they made these with a chaomois). Silk liner socks under wool. Regular riding shoes.

Some readers will shudder seeing no wicking undergarments here, but I survived a SE PA winter and getting ready for a 178 miler in June using this stuff. As others have said,layering is key, and keep moving. You'll figure it out as the weather gets colder. And if the budget allows, drop the bucks for the more high tech stuff, I'm sure it's nice.
True enough, butbigdave
Aug 9, 2002 11:22 AM
The wicking undergarments are really not all that expensive if you know where to look. And they do make riding more pleasant. Sure, those windstopper things from Colo. Cyclist are nice, but pricey.

Try or your local surplus store. You'd be amazed at the really inexpensive polypro you can find at these places. I remember a long-sleeve polypro at a surplus store for like $9 bucks. It's been about 5 years now and the things still won't fall apart.

So wicking does not have to be expensive.


PS -- if I wore regular riding shoes at 20-degrees, my feet would be popsicles! you have tougher feet than I. :-)
This works for me..coonass
Aug 9, 2002 3:16 PM
after layering with one item or another (Polartec Windstopper,etc) on days when it varies from 28° to 45°, you can get very tired of dragging 3-4 layered items for the ride...I finally got smart and spent the $$ for total comfort down to 25°...
Assos Gator Proline Jacket, Assos Proline long sleeve shirt, Sidi FREEZE winter shoes (1/2 size larger for heavy wt. Smartwool socks), Hinds Polypro. tights, Bellweather tights longer do I feel like 'Shoney's Big Boy'; and gloves vary, depending on the temps... PI helmet cover and a neck gaiter that pulls up over the nose/cheeks for riding into the North winds...before riding, apply a verryy light coating of A&D Ointment over face, BUT NOT your nose (or your glasses will have a tendency to slide down)..this will keep the skin from the 'freeze' effect.
It's all about what you're wearing . . .Geardaddy
Aug 9, 2002 3:35 PM
I've been commuting year round in Minnesota for many years. The most important thing is just wearing the right stuff for the conditions, which varies for different temperature ranges. The easiest mistake to make is actually in overdressing!:

50F and up: That's not winter riding. Just put on a long sleeve jersey, suck it up, and ride!

32F and up: Hell that's still balmy! (at least it feels that way after riding getting used to 10F conditions) Wear a headband or lightweight ski hat to cover your ears. Pull out the long fingered lightweight gloves. A long underwear top combined with a jacket that provides some warmth and windblock, preferably with lots of zippers to vent works good (I've been very happy with an REI "randonee" jacket , complete with extended flap in the back to deal with rear wheel spray). You can still get away with just full leg lycra pants, but you could add long underwear if you want extra warmth. You could still use you normal road shoes as long as you can use a warmer sock without having a tight fit. Otherwise, switch to a warmer, beefier shoe (it always sucks to have cold feet).

15F and up: You'll need to start using a balaclava. They work great! In fact they'll keep you warm to well below 0F. Use a thicker glove, but remember to not wear a glove that is tight fitting. I found these Pearlizumi fleece outer gloves that are not bulky at all like ski gloves, and work great even below 0F. Add additional warmth between the long underwear and the outer jacket. I prefer not to use fleece, as it doesn't breath very well and is bulky and which sometimes makes it hard to vent. On the bottom, wear long underwear and definitely a pant that will provide warmth and windblock. I prefer to use some Pearlizumi ones with the windblock on the front. You probably don't need any other layers in-between at this point. As far as shoes, neoprene over booties provide some warmth, but not a whole lot so you might want to ditch the road shoes for simply a warm boot and use toe clips.

0F and up: Just add more thin layers in-between the long underwear (wicking layer) and the outer windblock jacket/pants to your satisfaction.
Road or MTB shoes and clipless pedals become worthless at this point. Switch to a hiking boot/Sorrel with toe clips (Or try the ol' double length Power-grip straps).

Below 0F: More layers. Balaclava will still do the job. Concentrate on keeping your hands and feet warm. You'll start noticing some things getting cold that you wouldn't expect. For instance even with the windblock jacket, your mid-section will succumb the the wind. I solve this by putting a fleece hat under my jacket and over my stomach.

IMHO, the worst conditions are actually when it's in the 30s and 40s and it's wet and sloppy. I'd take 0F over that any day because below 20F it's generally dry fluffy snow. Rain and slush are insidious at that temperature, and the only answer to keep things as "buttoned down" and waterproof as possible.

Also, I'd second the idea of using a camelbak under the jacket instead of water bottles. Also, I prefer to wear no eyewear at all, in any conditions. Glasses and goggles are a major hassle. Your eyes are not going to freeze (trust me, I've X-C skied for years in temps -20F and below and never used anything). You will experience some dryness in the eyes though.

Hope this helps.