The weather outside can be frightful, but don’t despair, if you’re dressed right…it’s delightful? Well sort of. If you are brave enough to ride in the cold this winter, you’ll need to be prepared. Staying warm isn’t just about comfort, it’s also a good way to prevent joint injuries.
Everyone’s body is different, but there are some basic guidelines that can be very helpful when it comes to figuring out your kit.
20 C: Shorts and short-sleeve jersey, optional thin undershirt.
16 C: 16 degrees is usually the cut-off temperature for shorts. Not only will you find your legs to be a bit chilly, but you are doing your knees a favour by keeping them covered. Shorts with leg warmers or knee warmers, and a jersey with arm warmers.
10 C: Shorts, with tights or leg warmers, accompanied by a long sleeve jersey, or thin jacket with a wicking undershirt underneath. You may also want to wear a vest to break the wind and prevent a chill.
7 C: Shorts and leg warmers, or bib tights with a shammy. You’ll need a long-sleeve wicking undershirt and cycling jacket; some thin full-fingered gloves; a headband or hat under your helmet. Thicker socks and booties or shoe covers will keep your feet warm. A bandana or neck gaiter.
4 C: Bib tights or leg warmers, with a long-sleeve jersey, a lined jacket or windbreaker. Thicker gloves, a headband and hat, winter shoe covers, thicker socks. A bandana or neck gaiter.
2 C: Heavier tights, heavy undershirt with heavy cycling jacket. Headband or skullcap under helmet, thicker shoe covers or booties, thicker socks. A bandana or neck gaiter.
Under 0 C: Heavy tights; thicker undershirt or base layer. Heavy cycling jacket, heavy gloves or lobster mitts, winter booties and thicker socks. A vest or windbreaker will help with the chilly wind. A bandana or neck gaiter. Plastic bags under your booties
-5 C and below: Winter tights and a long-sleeve full turtleneck undershirt/base layer. A long sleeve jersey along with a thicker cycling jacket; lobster claw mittens. A neck gaiter and balaclava. Some people like to wear ski goggles, and even though they will look very goofy, they will provide another layer of warmth for your face. Plastic bags under your booties and winter socks.
Tips for staying warm
The tried-and-true method of layering is the best way to stay comfortable. A layer in reserve can help when the temperature drops, and something waterproof will keep the wet stuff at bay.
Don’t sweat it
Sweat can reduce a cyclist’s core temperature rapidly, even on the warmest winter days. You need to strike the balance of keeping your core warm and dry. Again, the layered approach is best. It takes a little more preparation; however, it works.
Winter-specific cycling shoes are better than regular road shoes, which are designed to keep your feet cool in the summer. Although winter-riding shoes are more cumbersome, they are well-insulated and waterproof. Another option is winter booties or overshoes. A proper winter bootie is thick and water-resistant. Bigger is usually better. Remember, warmth trumps speed in the winter. For even more protection, especially against the wet, pull out the plastic. Wrap each shoe with a plastic bag, then put a bootie overtop. It’s not waterproof, but it does delay the cold water from reaching your feet.
When buying clothes, think of space. Cycling clothes are typically streamlined and tight. Winter clothing should be bought to fit a little bigger. The extra space ensures better blood circulation, which means a warmer body. The same principle can be applied to glove and sock choice. For example, thicker wool socks can actually make your feet colder if they are too tight.
The double jersey trick
Out of undershirts? Put on two summer jerseys. A second jersey can serve the purpose of an undershirt. You can also resort to three layers: two jerseys and a lighter jacket. With numerous thinner layers it is easier to adapt to changing temperatures.
On very cold days, exposed skin on the face is susceptible to frostbite. Rub some petroleum jelly on your nose and cheeks, which will takes the sting out of the cold and protects your face.