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  1. #1
    db9
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    New question here. Dressing for the weather...and cold weather riding tips

    Wanting to extend the season.. but I find that I constantly struggle with being over dressed or under dressed almost to the point that I won't even go. Put this Q in this forum as weather and riding tends to be local (Southern Ontario)

    I tend to think (correct or not) that if I'm coolish in the parking lot then I'll warm up as I go - I guess I sweat enough that I don't or the wind chill from moving just makes it worse. So then I add a layer and become over heated as I ride

    Main complaint is I get cold core, feet and head get cold (neck as well) this leads to a headache and then I'm done. Hands are never an issue as I have that dialed in pretty good. As my intensity goes up I also find that at cool and colder temps my throat and airways get really irritated from the cold air.
    I see other riders at the trail head dressed like the Michelin man and I wonder how are they not overheating.

    Realizing that we are all different - What are others doing?

    Thanks for reading..

    What I'm currently using...
    My outside (top layer) is an older Norco activa jacket (zips open or closed as needed) - and I layer below that. Adding or subtracting merino or Under Armour layers (my ski layers)
    Legs are long 'sausage' with padded liner, but no extra layer.
    Feet, since I run clips, are a pair of Shimano 'hiking' style boots and smartwool socks.
    Head is always tough as finding something that fits under the helmet without applying pressure across my head is problematic (maybe the helmet is too narrow) - cold ears will give me a headache (same with overheating) currently using a X-country skull cap under my Giro helmet.

  2. #2
    namagomi
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    Extra und-e-wears, make sure they are clean ones!

  3. #3
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    Get a balaclava, it will keep your neck warm at the same time. You can buy them with a removable mouth piece in case you face is warming up too much. You need to ensure you are pulling the sweat off your body with the clothes you wear as a base layer, from there wear enough to keep the wind and cold out.

    Better to be too warm then cold, the body focus' its energy on keeping its temperature.

    Other food for thought, you body will focus all of its heat on your bladder if you have to pee. Never hold it as it will just make you cold.

  4. #4
    Evil Jr.
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    I've found that a lycra running cap fits nicely under my helmet and it keeps my head warm enough until about -20 when I'm in full-on balaclava mode.

    For the core, I just keep piling on thin layers by degree ranges. From 5 to 0, I usually do just a long-sleeve jersery and a shell. From 0 to -10, I'll switch to long sleeve merino with a short sleeve jersey and shell. From -10 to -20, I'll throw an undershirt on below the merino. From -20 and beyond, I'll have all that but switch the shell for a lined jacket.

    If it's wet out, I switch the shell for a rain jacket.
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  5. #5
    humber river advocate
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    to hell with fashion, lose the clips and use platforms with a warm waterproof lightweight snowshoe boot.

    lots of more info here...
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  6. #6
    Ms. Monster
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    My tights are quite thick and windproof on the front. Makes a difference. I wear shorts with a chamois underneath. Also, proper winter shoes make a difference. If you won't be off your bike, those neoprene booties aren't bad, but they pack up with snow like crazy if you do any walking (inevitable if you're snow riding in the forest). It sounds like you're dialed from the waist up.

  7. #7
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    Having commuted throughout the year for 5 years (35-45 minutes each way), they best advice I can give is, get experience.

    Though here are a couple pieces of a more off camber advice

    1) If you hate being cold, just dress a little warmer and take it easy, it's winter anyway an you ain't racing (if you are, you'll need no more than a couple layers anyway). Wear a pack and carry extra stuff, or to be able to remove things.

    2) If I end up being over dressed, I just open everything right up and put a little chill into myself. When I start to feel uncomfortable, zip it all back up. I find I'm good for a while without over heating after that point. I might cycle this. (Generally only a good idea if you are relatively 'close' to were you can get heat in case things go wrong).

    3) I always carry an extra hat and gloves. I sweat significantly from those area's, so it's a nice treat to replace them part way through.

    4) Wear whatever you like, but if you like clips, a proper set of winter shoes are the best investment I have bought for winter/foul weather. Your feet won't fall off.

    5) I find I am happiest and most comfortable when my core is well insulated, but my arms legs are a little under dressed to expel heat. I find that's a good, relatively safe way to keep me from over heating. As such, I always ride with a vest, I love them. Unless it's really brisk (or windy), often my outer top layer.
    Last edited by CptSydor; 12-02-2011 at 08:06 AM.

  8. #8
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    I have a balaclava made of some kind of thin material intended for running that works well under the helmet. it keeps the head, face and neck warm to about -12 or so for about 1 1/2 hours. I have not found that I can find the perfect combination of jacket and layers where I will not end up soggy at some point. I have tried a combination of lots of materials and thicknesses. I now just carry a knapsack with a change of clothes and I will just get changed quickly about 45 minutes to 1 hour into the ride. Then I am usually back home or at the truck by the time I begin getting wet again. As to running clips, I tried booties and different socks, but did not work. I just went to platforms with a really well insulated hiking shoe.

  9. #9
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    my go-to items...

    • Shimano MW-80 Goretex Shoes. A must for any winter commuting / extended riding
    • merino base layer(s). wicks the sweat up to the next layer efficiently.
    • GORE windstopper jacket. This thing is unreal. Worth the $$. Pitzips are a must for when you are warmed up to exhaust the heat you're generating.
    • PROPER FUELING! This one to me is most important. I find as soon as I start to get hungry, my extremities are the first to get cold. Stay fueled, stay warm. You burn more calories in the winter to stay warm.
    • I like to use a neck guard as well to prevent any wind coming down your neck and cooling your torso


    phil shep

    COMM|T OR EAT SH|T

  10. #10
    Team NFI
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    Wool socks. Neoprene is okay if you like the nasty smell that develops after use. Especially good if you want your spouse to stay away from you after you get home.


    Other then what else is mentioned. Old school Roach vest I only use in winter. As well as a bomb proof Core Rat Deluxe jacket.

    And when it is cold enough.

    TeamNFI: Handlebar Booties

    One not mentioned detail especially if commuting or doing trg on the CX bike on roads is knowing the locations of coffee shops. When it's cold out it's handy for when you need to warm up and get warm fluids in. Though I'm really the oddball here. Joely can confirm that if I have the choice between turbo trainer or riding outside in minus 20 in a snow storm. I'll take the snow storm.
    Last edited by Enduramil; 12-02-2011 at 10:25 AM.
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  11. #11
    Evil Jr.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enduramil View Post
    One not mentioned detail especially if commuting or doing trg on the CX bike on roads is knowing the locations of coffee shops. When it's cold out it's handy for when you need to warm up and get warm fluids in.
    I'm 100% certain a Tim Horton's hot chocolate was the only thing between nspace and certain death on one of our Spring rides in Niagara. He was shaking so bad, he could barely hold on to the cup!
    Please enjoy seeing this terrible collection of me - something wonderful is about to happy.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by garage monster View Post
    I'm 100% certain a Tim Horton's hot chocolate was the only thing between nspace and certain death on one of our Spring rides in Niagara. He was shaking so bad, he could barely hold on to the cup!
    Buttertarts can help as well.

  13. #13
    Team NFI
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    Quote Originally Posted by garage monster View Post
    I'm 100% certain a Tim Horton's hot chocolate was the only thing between nspace and certain death on one of our Spring rides in Niagara. He was shaking so bad, he could barely hold on to the cup!
    That's one overlooked aspect. That being you can read all the stuff about winter riding and buy all the gear. But in the end you need the knowledge to go with it. You need to know how you personally react to these situations. As like everything else we each individually will have different reactions to cold. Some will get cold really quickly while others like me don't.

    I'm fortunate that I have spent alot of my life outside in winter so have a good idea how my body will react. And you can't get that knowledge from a book. It only comes from experience.
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  14. #14
    db9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enduramil View Post
    I'm fortunate that I have spent alot of my life outside in winter so have a good idea how my body will react. And you can't get that knowledge from a book. It only comes from experience.
    I agree, having spent my youth (so long ago) xc skiing from the house into the local field and forests I got to know what worked. Now winter is driving to work - shoveling snow (when do we really get snow anymore) and teaching skiing (DH) - none of this is really high intensity. I just like being outside in the winter and cycling is one of the activities that I would like to continue into the cold weather. Let's see if I can 'fit' some riding.

    Thanks for the suggestions

  15. #15
    Chicken or egg? Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enduramil View Post
    That's one overlooked aspect. That being you can read all the stuff about winter riding and buy all the gear. But in the end you need the knowledge to go with it. You need to know how you personally react to these situations. As like everything else we each individually will have different reactions to cold. Some will get cold really quickly while others like me don't.
    Agreed, but people also need a way to get started. Suggestions based on the experience of others, and sometimes taking a best guess at buying a few pieces of starter gear gives people a way to get out there and gain that experience for their own needs so they can make the necessary adjustments from the generic / 3rd party advice. Getting in the ballpark with initial suggestions often means less iterations (and potentially less expense incurred) while doing it wrong a couple of times.

  16. #16
    Dorkimus Prime
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    I'm a big fan of balaclavas and wool socks ( not like Granny used to make).

    Also, in my experience pre-warming your gear. My Wife maskes me keep alot of my stuff in the (unheated) garage, so I take it in beforehand and preheat it on a heating vent, especially shoes. May sound dumb, but I preheat my coffee mug and my coffee carafe as well!!!
    "I love being on a bike. It helps me feel free. I get it from my dad", by Guillaume Blanchet

  17. #17
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    This year I replaced a pair of mitts, gloves and a windshell that I had been using for quite a while. Needless to say I was stunned at the vast number of choices in the these product categories that have crept up over the years. I experienced moderate to severe choice paralysis and ended up just grabbing whatever was on sale. Well, two of the three items turned out to have polyurethane-coated nylon - a product feature which was comparatively rare when I first put together an outdoor kit. That stuff is bad news in winter; don't make the same mistake I did.

  18. #18
    Team NFI
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    Quote Originally Posted by Circlip View Post
    Agreed, but people also need a way to get started. Suggestions based on the experience of others, and sometimes taking a best guess at buying a few pieces of starter gear gives people a way to get out there and gain that experience for their own needs so they can make the necessary adjustments from the generic / 3rd party advice. Getting in the ballpark with initial suggestions often means less iterations (and potentially less expense incurred) while doing it wrong a couple of times.
    Yes. Though people need to also learn a bit for themselves a bit.
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  19. #19
    Team NFI
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    Two little details...

    - If you are dressed to ride and you are already hot and sweaty before leaving you are wearing to much. The general rules is when you step outside you should feel a wee bit chilly. It's simple really.. to much gear on will get hot sweaty and wet when you start exerting yourself. Bad idea.

    - Hydration is important.You lose moisture from breathing while riding.
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  20. #20
    Evil Jr.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enduramil View Post
    Yes. Though people need to also learn a bit for themselves a bit.
    Trial and error is all part of the process. When I started, it was sweatpants and T-shirts and it's improved as my experience and budget allow.
    Please enjoy seeing this terrible collection of me - something wonderful is about to happy.

  21. #21
    namagomi
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kay. View Post
    This year I replaced a pair of mitts, gloves and a windshell that I had been using for quite a while. Needless to say I was stunned at the vast number of choices in the these product categories that have crept up over the years. I experienced moderate to severe choice paralysis and ended up just grabbing whatever was on sale. Well, two of the three items turned out to have polyurethane-coated nylon - a product feature which was comparatively rare when I first put together an outdoor kit. That stuff is bad news in winter; don't make the same mistake I did.
    P U!! I don't blame ya.

    Replacing gloves/mitts often is a good idea as insulation packs down on the palms and looses it's value.

  22. #22
    More than a little slow
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    I spent last year riding in a wool jacket as well as wool base layers and wool jersey. The wool jacket is great for most conditions for me. As long as the temp is below zero the air is fairly dry and I don't get nearly as soaked with sweat as I do with a shell. I know there's shells and then there's shells, I just haven't found the perfect one yet and I begrudge spending what seems like an awful lot of money on something which may or may not leave me feeling like plastic wrapped sausage. Below a certain temp ( I'm still working on figuring out what temp ) and wind factor, I add a shell for a bit of extra warmth.
    By the way, I've been riding to work year round since '93 and I still haven't got the clothing completely figured out. What works one year doesn't cut it the next, and there's always new stuff to try.
    Cheers, Dave

  23. #23
    Chicken or egg? Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by garage monster View Post
    Trial and error is all part of the process. When I started, it was sweatpants and T-shirts and it's improved as my experience and budget allow.
    My biggest mistake in learning was to have too much change in my setup when making adjustments on the road or trail. In other words, I would add or lose a major article or layer of some kind (although this was partially dictated by what clothing I had available).

    Now I tend to build my layers from many more small pieces like arm warmers, knee/leg warmers, polypro glove liners, headbands, etc. so that I can make more incremental changes to fine tune for changes in temperature, wind/air flow, and effort level that can occur during a ride. Usually I can leave my major pieces around my core areas in place, and then use these incremental changes to my limbs regulate my overall condition. Sometimes, I will even bring more than one set of these small pieces packed along on a ride, so that if the first set becomes too moist I can "reset" mid-ride.

    I also learned that - like most people perhaps - my feet and hands are very prone to cold while riding. People usually think of starting with larger items like the jacket first, but in my opinion if funds are finite it's better to allocate resources to gear for feet and hands first - after they've acquired some idea of what the right gear is based on their needs. Nice jackets and legwear, etc. are great too, but I find I can get away with less than optimal gear more easily on these items than I can with the feet and hands which are the real deal breaker for me.

  24. #24
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    Merino wool base layers have been the biggest improvement over the years. Having a nice itch free wool layer next to skin does wonders for moving moisture.

    Breathable shell is the next major thing. There are lots of trade-offs between waterproof and breathable and windproof. For riding I'd side towards breathable and windproof over waterproof.

    For anyone looking for some merino a company I work with is doing 10% and free shipping right now.

    10% off and Free Shipping | I/O BIO Merino

  25. #25
    Team NFI
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    Now lets add in one area not at all covered. Eye wear. 2 reasons being hard to ride when you can't see because you had none so your eyes watered. And your lashes froze together.. not fun.

    Other reason is called snow blindness.
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