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  1. #1
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    Gloves, boots, and smartwool or how to enjoy freezing conditions

    The last week or two of frozen conditions is kind of a once a year thing around western washington. My reminder of how to thrive in frozen dirt came new years day when my canvas top shoes left my feet numb at 38 degrees. Also my neoprene gloves great for light rain in the woods left my hands numb.

    My new years resolution became to thrive during the freeze. Easy fix 1 was dump the summer shoes and put on full coverage leather boots and thick wool socks. I found and bought thick winter cycling gloves and my fingers tingle with sensation. Smartwool: below 40 I wear midweight and a decent shell and all is well. What about the legs? Thermals and jeans will work. I use some stretchy rei pants Peter showed me for snowshowing over light or midweight smartwool.

    In ice I'm snug as a bug in a smartwool rug.

    Get out there folks, these are great limited time offer riding conditions!

  2. #2
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    Winter riding here is some of the best riding year round if the trails are frozen. Coming from Chicago where I used to ride down into the negative digits many times, I'm always surprised so many people around here refuse to ride cause it's cold.

    I finally bit the bullet and got some of those leggings you can slide on under your regular bike shorts. I hate the look (I like the baggy skater look myself), but they do keep your legs warm. Even on the Stinky Spoke this year I was toasty the whole time.

    The only thing bad about winter riding is when you stop, you need to have dry clothes available asap or you get cold and stay that way pretty quick. Otherwise, it's really not so bad riding in the winter here. Good chance to actually ge tout and see which trails need work too.
    Tarekith.com

    '12 RM Slayer70, i9 Torch, Flow EX, XT Brakes, 5050 s3.

  3. #3
    Climbs = necessary evil
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    I rode in 12F weather during the day in CO last week. I was wearing Gore tights and an Under Armor long sleeve as a base layer with Novara Headwind pants and jacket (from REI) and wearing 45Nrth Wolvhammer cycling boots with a baclava on the head and Pearl Izumi Pro Barrier WxB gloves. I was pretty warm for the 90 minute ride. My toes got a bit cold on the last 10 minutes, but I was only wearing a single pair of thin merino wool socks.

  4. #4
    Justin Vander Pol
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tarekith View Post
    The only thing bad about winter riding is when you stop, you need to have dry clothes available asap or you get cold and stay that way pretty quick.
    Ditch the poly and try merino wool as a base layer. It doesn't get near as cold when you stop. Amazing stuff.
    Issaquah & Seattle real estate agent. Buy or sell a home with me and I donate $500 to Evergreen MTB Alliance
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  5. #5
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    Good idea, thanks for that. I need to get some new base layers soon, will take a look.
    Tarekith.com

    '12 RM Slayer70, i9 Torch, Flow EX, XT Brakes, 5050 s3.

  6. #6
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    Ive tried various cold weather bike tights and shirts and i find the best option is the Under Armor Cold gear. It is fleece lined and always keeps me toasty warm and it wicks away sweat really nice. It was 20 degrees at Tokul this morning and I was nice and warm. The beat part is the cold gear tights are $40-50 vs the $100+ biking specific ones seem to be. You also have 4 fitment options from compression to loose, so there is something for everyone. I personal prefer the fitted version. Not too tight but not loose at all.

    I pair the UA cold gear base layer with Endura waterproof shorts and Jacket, Endura waterproof gloves and Specialized defroster shoes with smartwool socks. Im generally dry and warm no matter the conditions and it makes winter riding actually enjoyable!.

  7. #7
    Justin Vander Pol
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tarekith View Post
    Good idea, thanks for that. I need to get some new base layers soon, will take a look.
    The stuff is bloody expensive, about $65 for a long sleeve tee, and never goes on sale. Worth every penny! But the good news is it lasts a long time, never ever gets stinky or funky, and you only need one or two pieces. I actually only wash it every 2nd or 3rd ride, or when muddy. It truly never smells! I always end out binning my poly stuff after a year when it gets that perma-funk. I get about 4 years out of merino tees before they're shredded. I hate waste, so try to avoid poly for base layer.

    Now the downside to merino wool is that it snags and tears easier than poly. So I use poly or nylon for outer layer or when doing DH riding and I know I'm going to eat shmidt.

    Best merino is Ibex, followed by Smartwoold and then IceBreaker. Some brands like Icebreaker need to be washed 5 times before it's softer than cotton and they don't recommend using the dryer, but the others are perfect right from the store. Ibex is best for tall skinny guys. Smartwool is perfect except the fit is better if you're not rail thin and tall, plus you can throw it in the dryer.

    Too much wool info, I know. But this stuff has truly made my year-round riding much more pleasant! Hey New Zealand, can I get that commission check now?
    Issaquah & Seattle real estate agent. Buy or sell a home with me and I donate $500 to Evergreen MTB Alliance
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  8. #8
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    Much thanks, already looking into the smart wool stuff.
    Tarekith.com

    '12 RM Slayer70, i9 Torch, Flow EX, XT Brakes, 5050 s3.

  9. #9
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    Smartwool has been a godsend for me this winter. I bought a mid-weight, long sleeve, zippered shirt that I wear over a Craft light-weight long sleeve and then top it off with a poly Garneau jacket. This combo keeps my core warm enough that I don't need heat packs in my gloves. The Smartwool shirt was expensive but I think will end up being money well spent.

  10. #10
    Slothful dirt hippie
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    Quote Originally Posted by juice View Post
    The stuff is bloody expensive, about $65 for a long sleeve tee, and never goes on sale...
    I recently got a midweight Smartwool shirt for $39 from Campmor.com. Inventory comes and goes, but worth keeping an eye on.
    "...Some local fiend had built it with his own three hands..."

  11. #11
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    I'm really sad that I was too busy the past couple weeks to get out and enjoy the cold and clear. It's the one time of the year that I don't have to worry as much about sweating when riding. Shorts, a short-sleeved jersey, windproof gloves, and a mid-weight jacket that comes off after the first 5 minutes is all I need.

    Smartwool socks are great, too, but I wear those all year round.

  12. #12
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    [QUOTE=Agate;10093936

    Smartwool socks are great, too, but I wear those all year round. [/QUOTE]

    Ditto... Even great for summer rides and river crossings...

  13. #13
    That Waters Guy
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    Quote Originally Posted by juice View Post
    Best merino is Ibex, followed by Smartwool and then IceBreaker.
    Glad to hear you had good results with Ibex, I ended up donating mine to skinnier people than I when it shrank.

    Hot ticket for Smartwool is Sierra Trading Post dot com, sign up for their flyer and take another 25% off their posted price typically.

    I've also had good luck with LL Bean wool, which often comes in tall sizes too.

  14. #14
    Nouveau Retrogrouch SuperModerator
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Sagebrush Slug View Post
    Glad to hear you had good results with Ibex, I ended up donating mine to skinnier people than I when it shrank.

    Hot ticket for Smartwool is Sierra Trading Post dot com, sign up for their flyer and take another 25% off their posted price typically.

    I've also had good luck with LL Bean wool, which often comes in tall sizes too.
    Sorry to hear that. I machine wash my Ibex gear. Cold, gentle. Most of the time throw it in the dryer on delicate. Never had any of it shrink.
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  15. #15
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    I love wool because it keeps you warm even when wet but it doesn't have the wicking properties some of the high tech materials have. I have always relied and swear by the Craft base layers and what ever mid layer is appropriate(like smartwool) for the temp and wetness. I have an assortment of Craft long sleeve, short sleeve, sleeveless baselayers. For me, using a base AND mid is key to keeping me dry and warm from the inside out in the wet cold months.

  16. #16
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    Gloves, boots, and smartwool or how to enjoy freezing conditions

    Quote Originally Posted by snwwlkr View Post
    I love wool because it keeps you warm even when wet but it doesn't have the wicking properties some of the high tech materials have. I have always relied and swear by the Craft base layers and what ever mid layer is appropriate(like smartwool) for the temp and wetness. I have an assortment of Craft long sleeve, short sleeve, sleeveless baselayers. For me, using a base AND mid is key to keeping me dry and warm from the inside out in the wet cold months.
    Wool may not wick as well as some synthetics, but it is WAY more comfortable and better at temperature regulation than any synthetic and most conditions. I layer, all with wool. Can wear the exact same thing at 45 degrees and 105.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy View Post
    Wool may not wick as well as some synthetics, but it is WAY more comfortable and better at temperature regulation than any synthetic and most conditions. I layer, all with wool. Can wear the exact same thing at 45 degrees and 105.
    I've tried every combination you can imagine while climbing the cascades. Although wool is nice, there are better options for baselayers that doesn't retain water, stretches and get's scratchy when wet. I still have a few Campagnolo wool retro cycling jerseys but I wouldn't wear them for daily use. For me, a high tech light weight, low maintenance base, mid and outer layer with a softshell jacket if needed is key when really cold and wet and I can mix and match accordingly.

  18. #18
    Nouveau Retrogrouch SuperModerator
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    Gloves, boots, and smartwool or how to enjoy freezing conditions

    Quote Originally Posted by snwwlkr View Post
    I've tried every combination you can imagine while climbing the cascades. Although wool is nice, there are better options for baselayers that doesn't retain water, stretches and get's scratchy when wet. I still have a few Campagnolo wool retro cycling jerseys but I wouldn't wear them for daily use. For me, a high tech light weight, low maintenance base, mid and outer layer with a softshell jacket if needed is key when really cold and wet and I can mix and match accordingly.
    Never been an issue for me on either side of the Cascades, except for a sagging jersey because I had too much in the pockets of an older jersey.

    Modern wool jerseys are nothing like your old Campy.

    I have never been colder than when I was wearing all synthetic layers. I was dry, but stupid cold.

    My wool gear is easier to care for than the synthetics (I do still use synthetic shorts/knickers). Same wash cycle, can put it in the dryer, do not need to wash as often.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy View Post
    Never been an issue for me on either side of the Cascades, except for a sagging jersey because I had too much in the pockets of an older jersey.

    Modern wool jerseys are nothing like your old Campy.

    I have never been colder than when I was wearing all synthetic layers. I was dry, but stupid cold.

    My wool gear is easier to care for than the synthetics (I do still use synthetic shorts/knickers). Same wash cycle, can put it in the dryer, do not need to wash as often.
    You mean modern wool jerseys have some high tech synthetic fabric in them? I guess that would be a way to make them more flexible, softer with better moisture management. Otherwise, the sheep are still the same. I don't think wool will ever be as easy wearing and caring as synthetics. Plastic is hard to wear down by washing! I think a good layering system will keep you warm by locking layers of warm air in between the layers. I have a mid layer and the fabric is woven so tight, the wind has a hard time cutting through it, a thick wool sweater would not cut the wind nearly as well as this thin lighweight shirt. So if you're cold, wear a a few more layers. But Typically, 2 or 3 lightweight layers and a shell is all I ever need for the PNW and I'm hardly ever cold.

  20. #20
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    Gloves, boots, and smartwool or how to enjoy freezing conditions

    Quote Originally Posted by snwwlkr View Post
    You mean modern wool jerseys have some high tech synthetic fabric in them? I guess that would be a way to make them more flexible, softer with better moisture management. Otherwise, the sheep are still the same. I think a good layering system will keep you warm by locking layers of warm air in between the layers. I have a mid layer and the fabric is woven so tight, the wind has a hard time cutting through it, a thick wool sweater would not cut the wind nearly as well as this thin lighweight shirt. So if you're cold, wear a a few more layers. But Typically, 2 or 3 lightweight layers and a shell is all I ever need for the PNW and I'm hardly ever cold.
    No. You are way out of touch with wool garments.
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  21. #21
    Justin Vander Pol
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy View Post
    No. You are way out of touch with wool garments.
    OK, let's keep this civil or I'll have to call in a moderator

    Modern wool is actually quite a bit different. I won't touch that old wool stuff, it's horrible. Whatever they do in sheep to make them "Merino" works. The fibers area way thinner, they don't scratch at all and get softer with many washings. Some brands can even be put in the dryer (Smartwool).

    Wool isn't for everyone. It doesn't dry as fast, so if you're an ulta-heavy sweater, synthetic might be better if you can handle the horrible stank. Wool also tears easier if it's super thin like a base layer. But for 90% of people, they'll find wool much more comfortable and longer lasting.

    I hate synthetics against the skin, but like them as a second layer. Yes poly will wick, but they also get clammy and cold as soon as you go from climbing to descending. Wool does stay wetter, but you never know this since it feels dry and warm.
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by juice View Post
    Whatever they do in sheep to make them "Merino" works.
    Merino wool is named after the breed of sheep, just like cashmere is a breed of goat.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merino

    They do have to treat wool to make it washable, though. (Sorry, know too many knitters)

    Superwash wool (or washable wool) technology first appeared in the early 1970s to produce wool that has been specially treated so it is machine washable and may be tumble-dried. This wool is produced using an acid bath that removes the "scales" from the fiber, or by coating the fiber with a polymer that prevents the scales from attaching to each other and causing shrinkage. This process results in a fiber that holds longevity and durability over synthetic materials, while retaining its shape.

  23. #23
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    Gloves, boots, and smartwool or how to enjoy freezing conditions

    Quote Originally Posted by Agate View Post
    Merino wool is named after the breed of sheep, just like cashmere is a breed of goat.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merino

    They do have to treat wool to make it washable, though. (Sorry, know too many knitters)
    Thank you.

    Judging current merino wool gear by old Euro wool jerseys is like thinking current synthetic garments performance is equal to '70s leisure suits.
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  24. #24
    FM
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    Quote Originally Posted by juice View Post
    Whatever they do in sheep to make them "Merino" works.
    Come over sometime and I'll show you!


  25. #25
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    Gloves, boots, and smartwool or how to enjoy freezing conditions

    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy View Post
    Thank you.

    Judging current merino wool gear by old Euro wool jerseys is like thinking current synthetic garments performance is equal to '70s leisure suits.
    That's it...next race must be done in a baby blue 1970's leisure suit. :-)
    I'm off to value village.

    Cheers,
    Mike

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