Winter is upon us (sort of). With no snow, but plenty of cold it feels like it’s tough to get out and do anything. Riding freezes your toes, fingers and nose, running is a drag, and skiing is impossible.
But, if you can conquer the cold with the right clothing, riding outside is not only possible, it’s fun. I’ve been putting in two and three hour rides as well as bike commuting for the past month and I’ve loved every second of it. You’ve got the roads and trails to yourself if you’re bold enough to venture out.
Staying warm is fairly simple. You’ve got to layer properly for the temperature and block the wind. Pay special attention to your hands, feet, and face as they don’t get great blood flow and tend to get frosty first.
For your hands:
Gloves are good.
Lobster mitts (mittens split in the middle, pairing your fingers) are better.
Full mittens are the best.
Choosing one is just a matter of figuring out which offers the best compromise between warmth and allowing you to operate your bike. Single-speed riding can be a great help as it’s easy to brake with mittens on, and running a low gear and spinning easy is a nice way to get ready for faster spring and summer rides.
For your Face:
Get a balaclava. Make sure it’s thin enough to fit comfortably under your helmet. If your head still gets cold, try taping over the vents in your helmet to keep the wind out.
For your Feet:
Booties are a great solution for insulation, but most don’t cut it for long rides in temps below freezing. I cut cleat holes in a big pair of socks and pull them over my shoes first, booties go second. Sidi, Lake, and Shimano all make a cold-weather cycling shoe as well.
A low cost alternative can be putting your feet in plastic bags before they go into your shoes to keep the wind off. Tin foil inside of your booties works well, too.
Finally, consider going to platform pedals and just wearing a big warm pair of boots. If that doesn’t give you the performance you crave, try a pair of Power Grips on your pedals. Just put your boots through and twist slightly. This is also a great compromise for later in the year when it gets icy.
As far as the rest of your body goes, a good pair of thermal tights go a long way. I like the ones with a softer, almost piled lining made by Pear Izumi. I buy them without the chamois and just pull them over my bibs, but many people like the chamois.
For my torso I generally layer well, with a long-sleeve base layer, a nice mid-weight layer, and then a puffy vest or a wind-vest depending on the temperature. If you leave the house and feel a bit chilly, you’ll probably end up at just the right temperature after pedaling for five minutes or so.
Get out there, and have some fun!