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  1. #1
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    Winter riding gear

    Ok so I need some recommendations on winter riding gear. I have lived in Seattle for 5 years but haven't been really serious about riding until the last 2. I came from AZ so winter riding gear meant maybe a long sleeve t-shirt. I ride 1-2 times a week, usually at St Edwards in the morning before work from 6-7am. I also hit up Duthie and Tapeworm whenever time permits. So my current morning rides are starting to get pretty cold and will get wet soon, but I am going to ride through the winter and enjoy it. So I need some general advice, do you guys wear riding pants, different gloves, waterproof shoes, etc? I also need a recommendation for a good solid all around jacket, waterproof and hopefully breathable. Thank you!

  2. #2
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    The first rule for any winter physical activity is to Start Cold. You're going to warm up! That said when it gets below 40deg I add knee pads to go along with my normal shorts, t-shirt (not cotton), and full finger gloves. It's relative but below 35deg I replace cotton socks with ski/snowboard socks. I have a Go-Lite shell that is super thin and goretex which I use when it's raining or cold. If it's just cold out the jacket is only serving as a windblock. I normally take it off after I get warmed up. The perfect riding temps around here in the winter are below freezing!!

  3. #3
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    I rode through the last 2 winters, and had a great time riding all by myself, winter riding can be really fun and you feel like you have the woods all to yourself.
    I find I need an extra jacket and heavier gloves until I get warmed up. I ride in a fairly small area and do a couple of laps, so once I get warmed up I stick my jacket under a fern and pick it up on my way out. I have notes about what I wear for the temperature, so I'm not constantly guessing or trying to remember. I have two weights of tights, the heavier is a lower end older set made like sweatshirt material, but it has worked well. I add arm warmers (which are awesome, everybody needs a pair) and add jerseys and a sweatshirt as needed. I also wear wool socks on all the cooler days. I have a cheaper pair of Diadora shoes without any mesh venting, those are warm enough down to about 35f with wool socks.

    I ride in some rain, I avoid the really heavy rain, I find I'm ok without waterproof fancy stuff, I get a little wet but so what, I just hang it all up to dry, -you're going to get kind of wet no matter what if you ride in the rain. When it's in the 40s or lower I add a thin hat under my helmet, a ski-type headband also fits around the ears and works with my regular helmet. Snap on fenders are very helpful.

    My favorite 'overjacket' for cooler (not super cold) weather is the thin Army digi-camo jacket you can find for $5 to $10 at the Goodwill. The sleeves have Velcro at the ends and open for more ventilation, the camo hides well in the bushes if you're stashing it after getting warmed up, and if it disappears you're only out $10.

  4. #4
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    I highly recommend good waterproof shoes and gloves. I find if my hands and feet are dry and warm I can tolerate a really wet/cold ride. For shoes I like the Specialized Defroster. They are warm and waterproof! For gloves I really like the Endura waterproof stuff like the "Strike" model. They are warm and keep your hands very dry.

    I also have waterproof pants and jacket, but I tend to sweat a lot in them so I only use them if it is really cold and wet out. The good stuff instant cheap, but with the right gear there is no reason you cant ride all winter long.
    13 SJ Evo, 14 Aurum, 14 Fatboy, 15 P.3

  5. #5
    Justin Vander Pol
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    First, ditch anything cotton. Anything. Like Lynch, I don't like most waterproof gear since you'll just get soaked from sweat.

    Here's my totally dialled winter gear. Wool is your friend. Let it get wet, you'll be totally comfortable and happy.

    Merino wool long-sleeve shirt with either merino wool t-shirt over it, or maybe a poly shirt over it. Light weight for the base layer unless it's below 45, then 200 weight or layers. Throw on an extra t-shirt if it's really cold. Go thin and layer up! Then pedal your ass off to warm up

    Funny thing, on a really cold day I start out with cold hands, and they'll stay cold unless I stop for five minutes. Then they warm up and I can pedal all night long.

    For windy conditions get a running windbreaker vest. Non waterproof, since you're wearing wool and don't need it. Waterproof just gets you wet from sweat anyway. I usually take this off and stuff it in my pack once I'm up to temp.

    The only time I'll wear a goretex shell is when it's absolutely pouring buckets. In that case I just grab a ski shell jacket, and then usually decide to build/maintain trails with friends instead of riding.

    Hands: winter biking gloves. Not many good ones out there, but I've been using Gore brand. They're OK, not great since they have crappy finger grip for braking. If it's raining, bring a second pair of gloves to switch out half way through the ride.

    Feet: Ditch the high-performance bike shoes with hard plastic soles. Your feet will freeze. It's hard to beat Five.Ten Impacts with light wool hiking socks (bike socks are too thin). Drop the coin for winter riding shoe$ if you want to be clipped in. Get your shoes big enough to wear lightweight wool hiking socks, and you don't want them too tight.

    Legs: I wear shorts with knee pads for warmth. Nylon bike pants are fine if it's cold but not wet, but they get really soggy. I've got Endura gore-tex shorts for wet days which work well but fit kinda weird (John Stockton, anyone?) Tights under shorts works pretty well if it's cold, and once again I prefer a merino wool or wool blend.

    Undies: I prefer a light poly running compression short since the average bike-diaper (oops, I mean chamois) is horrible when wet.

    Head: get one of those thin poly skull caps that fit under your helmet. Find them at any bike shop.

    I hope that helps!

  6. #6
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    Mostly echoing what others have said. I grew up riding around Chicago, so was already used to riding in super cold temps (think below 0), but out here all my gear was overkill.

    5.10 Impacts and wool socks work great at keeping the feet warm as Juice said, the Impacts rarely get soaked through unless it's a multi-hour ride and the wool socks keep me warm then. If I'm not wearing my knee pads, I use some of those lower leggings that just slide under the bottoms of your shorts. Easy to take off if you get warm later in the day, and I can keep using my regular riding shorts.

    Normal riding shorts and chamois for me, nothing fancy there. I asked this question last year someone recommended the smart wool shirts as a base-layer over the poly stuff I was using. HUGE difference, very warm for how thin they are, and they stay warm when wet from rain or sweat. Usually I'll put a 3/4 sleeve jersey over that, and if it's a dry but cold day, maybe a baggy light weight long sleeve poly shirt on top. If it's misting or super windy, I might use a light weight running jacket instead.

    As others said though, usually anything too water or wind-proof just makes you sweat and increases the cold, so that's a last resort these days. Probably the best change I made since riding out here was just sticking to more breathable fabrics and ditching the goretex stuff except for extra rainy days (and honestly I'm rarely that motivated to ride in that weather anyway).

    For the head normally just a bandana under my helmet, maybe a thin wool ski cap if it's super cold. I use 661 Storm gloves for the bitterly cold days (Stinky Spoke?), otherwise a mid-weight pair of regular riding gloves works fine for me.

    It's always cold at the start of a ride, but pretty much every ride out here starts with climbing so that only last a couple minutes
    Tarekith.com

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  7. #7
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    Oh, and keep an eye on places like Chain Love and Amazon for deals too. This stuff can get expensive, especially the smart wool, but if you keep an eye out you can find some real steals out there.
    Tarekith.com

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

  8. #8
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    Under Armour Cold Gear thermal compression layer. Until it gets to freezing I don't need anything else for my main thermal layer. After that I throw on a hoodie. Helps to also pick up some winter shoes, I run the Specialized Defroster. For the hands I just use water proof and cold temp biking gloves from REI. I picked up the ones with the coldest rating.

    I've got a rain jacket shell that I sometimes wear too.

    You dont want any cotton.

  9. #9
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    I should get some of those winter shoes like the Defrosters, since I wouldn't be using them all the time they'd probably last quite a few winters. Freezing feet are no fun.
    Costco usually has 3 packs of wool socks for about $10 iirc.
    Knee warmers are good for cool days, last time I looked nashbar had arm warmers and knee warmers for really cheap.
    I also have one of those cycling vests that's nylon in front and just mesh in the back, those are pretty nice for cool weather.

  10. #10
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    Can't go wrong with wool and multiple thin layers as others have said. Last winter in IL, I wore thin wool socks with Five Ten Freeriders and was comfortable down to about 20 degrees. Below that and I had to wear some thicker wool socks.

  11. #11
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    For a base layer all I use now is Under Armor coldgear. It is amazing stuff.
    13 SJ Evo, 14 Aurum, 14 Fatboy, 15 P.3

  12. #12
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    +1 on merino wool. I've got a pair of long-sleeve 200-weight baselayer shirts I got on clearance from icebreakers that are incredible. They're warm, wick moisture away quickly and, somehow, don't stink even though I wore them constantly during the last winter season.

    I'm also a huge fan of gore-tex oversocks from Rocky. They're bomber and keep my feet nice and toasty, even fully submerged. You do need to get a good fit, though -- if they're too small, you'll wear a hole through the big toe and they're done.

  13. #13
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    +1 on most of the comments above. I have feet that get cold very easily and I finally bought some winter riding shoes after a decade of numb feet, many attempts at bags, gore text socks, voodoo, and other work-arounds, and couldn't be happier about the purpose specific shoes.

    I also think that fenders are a really important part of the riding gear for winter. Preventing yourself from getting firehosed by your wheels makes a big difference in comfort and level of soakedness. My setup includes a downtube-mounted fender, a rear fender and a tube zip tied on between the fork crown and fork bridge.

  14. #14
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    I'm finally going to go the fender route myself this year I think. Any recommendations for a 6" all mountain bike? Most of the ones I see are more for commuters and look like they would break so quick on a rought trail....
    Tarekith.com

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  15. #15
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    A buddy of mine is running the SKS Grand M.O.M. and Grand D.A.D. on his 2011 Enduro. No issues with them at Tiger or Tokul. They are really wide compared to most other fenders so you get great coverage.
    13 SJ Evo, 14 Aurum, 14 Fatboy, 15 P.3

  16. #16
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    Thanks!
    Tarekith.com

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

  17. #17
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    I've been running these on both my bikes since early last season and they work surprisingly well for how small and light weight they are. Mucky Nutz | Mountain Bikes | Road Bikes | XC | DH | UK Made Parts & Accessories I ordered mine directly from the UK but they came within a week and were pretty reasonably priced. It looks like they've added more options too. I might try out the swing arm models. help out with all the mud build up.

  18. #18
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    Winter riding gear

    +1 on the Mucky Nutz. Super light, easy to install, work great. Have lasted for a long time - 3yrs so far of full time use- so light I just leave on all the time. Beats stretching an inner tube across the top of the fork.

  19. #19
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    Thanks, cheap too!

    Well, cheaper anyway.
    Tarekith.com

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

  20. #20
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    I also have a couple mucky nutz. The front works better than the back, although it looks like they have more product than I knew they did. They are super lite weight.

  21. #21
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    I've got a version of those mucky nutz fenders that Mr. Lynch made from a cutting board. Very nice!

  22. #22
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    You can get flexible cutting boards for $2 each and make your own! Super easy and you can custom fit it to your bike for more coverage.
    13 SJ Evo, 14 Aurum, 14 Fatboy, 15 P.3

  23. #23
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    That'd work well too. They're just really thin sheet plastic cut to shape then velcroed or zip tied to your fork arch and lowers. Quick to install and very lo profile and weigh next to nothing.

  24. #24
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    Good tip, thanks!
    Tarekith.com

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

  25. #25
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    i like the idea of using velcro. That would make them easy to take on/off.
    13 SJ Evo, 14 Aurum, 14 Fatboy, 15 P.3

  26. #26
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    Mucky Nutz uses Velcro so they are easy to take on or off. Of course, every time I take it off, it starts raining again. Stays on all winter and work well. I like the look much better. They have a bigger one to install on the back I may try, or build one if I can figure out a template.

    Mucky Nutz Bender Fender XL - Slik Graphics

  27. #27
    Justin Vander Pol
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    Those types of fenders work amazingly well, a bunch of us have been running a version a friend made for a few years now. I think they work even better than the tire between the stanchions for keeping mud out of the eyes. I just leave them on all summer, they're low profile and they protect from "Minion spittle", those little teeny bits of gravel that fling up into your eyes when it's dry out.

    IMHO, rear fenders are an epic fail on full suspension bikes. They either don't work or get in the way.

  28. #28
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    I thought the Mucky looked familiar, did you have that on your bike for the BC trip?

    Funny, it was after my first ride on the new Minions DHF's earlier this week that I started thinking that a fender might be a good idea this winter. LOL, those things are like little sticky rock catapults.
    Tarekith.com

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

  29. #29
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    I don't know if these were mentioned: Lake winter boots.

  30. #30
    Justin Vander Pol
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tarekith View Post
    I thought the Mucky looked familiar, did you have that on your bike for the BC trip?
    Yeah, I had a home made one up there. It hasn't come off my bike since I put it on. They're brilliant at keeping stuff out of your eyes, and you forget they're even there.

  31. #31
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    I keep mine on all year too. Amazing how well they keep little pebbles from flying up into your face.

  32. #32
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    My shimano mw81 gore text shoes, smart wool base layer and knee warmers have helped me deal with our wet winters. I purchased a high end $300 riding jacket which has been a let down. If the temp is above 38 I will be soaked with sweet. Maybe I got a bum product. If I could find a jacket that vented and was waterproof like many companies tout I would be stoked.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Lynch View Post
    You can get flexible cutting boards for $2 each and make your own! Super easy and you can custom fit it to your bike for more coverage.
    Great tip, that worked perfect for my bike, made a front and rear tonight. Lots more color options too if that's your thing.
    Tarekith.com

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

  34. #34
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    I've been riding in Capitol Forest year-round for five years. Here's my winning combination: Merino wool shirt(s), insulated chamois tights or wool tights over bike shorts, burly rain jacket and knickers/rain paints. Wool ski or snowboard socks. I wear booties over my shoes but I've heard winter shoes are great, I've just been too cheap to buy them.

    If there is one piece of advice I would give, it's this: bring a change of clothes, and change immediately! New undies, socks, pants, shirt, jacket, all of it. You'll arrive back at the car warm from the ride, but things get cold and wet quick, and you don't want to be soggy and miserable for post-ride beers, or the drive home!

  35. #35
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    So is the general consensus on wearing a waterproof jacket to just not wear it in the first place? I've always had issues of getting too warm and sweating, but thought it was perhaps due to the cheap jacket. Bought myself a nice "breathable" one and still have the same issue... I stick with a merino wool baselayer when it gets cold, so perhaps I just need just stop trying to avoid getting wet and focus on staying comfortable?

  36. #36
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    I wore my REI stowable rain jacket over an Under Armour coldgear compression shirt during the the Tiger mtn. enduro this year (8+ inches of rain). I was definitely soaked to the bone but the jacket helped me keep a couple little dryspots on my chest. I didn't really need it to stay dry but it helped keep a little heat in. There's only about a month per year (DEC/JAN) where it's not so cold that your soaked gear won't help keep you warm like a wet suit if it is in fact raining.

  37. #37
    Justin Vander Pol
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayonays View Post
    So is the general consensus on wearing a waterproof jacket to just not wear it in the first place? I've always had issues of getting too warm and sweating, but thought it was perhaps due to the cheap jacket. Bought myself a nice "breathable" one and still have the same issue... I stick with a merino wool baselayer when it gets cold, so perhaps I just need just stop trying to avoid getting wet and focus on staying comfortable?
    Yup, you nailed it!

    I think a nylon windbreaker vest is better than a jacket for keeping you warm until it's below freezing. Cheap, breathable, and packs down to nothing.

  38. #38
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    If it's raining really hard, I'll wear a goretex jacket, just for heat more than anything. Otherwise I'm likely going to get sweaty and wet anyway, might as well be comfortable.
    Tarekith.com

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

  39. #39
    Justin Vander Pol
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    Yeah, when it's really raining hard, then a jacket makes sense. What makes even more sense is not riding but instead grabbing a McLeod and a shovel (and a Goretex jacket) and working on the trails. Seriously, hard rain = perfect trail building conditions. Puddlekillah!!!

  40. #40
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    Cheap & Cheerful Fenders

    I'm running this combination of SKS fenders. Easy to put on & take off. They do about 90% of what a full coverage fender will do:

    Xtra-Dry Rear Fender ~$15
    X-TRA-DRY - mudguards - us - SKS Germany

    X-Board Front Fender - ~$14
    X-BOARD - mudguards - us - SKS Germany

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by wfo922 View Post
    I purchased a high end $300 riding jacket which has been a let down.
    Which one?

    I think that the duration of the planned ride is a factor on what I'll wear or bring. Another thing to consider when riding in the winter is that an unplanned stop due to a mechanical or injury could lead to a bunch more time not moving in cold and wet conditions. I tend to pack some contingency plans into my pack too.

  42. #42
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    Endura mt500. Great quality jacket with nice zippers and plenty if vents, but being a hard shell I think it's too much unless it's 30 degrees out.

    The 40 degree and raining days are the hard ones to figure out what to wear for an XC ride.

  43. #43
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    Keep the head, hands, and feet happy and the rest is OK. Head=thin skull cap (budget tip-hard hat liners are way cheaper than sports store stuff), Hands=decent gloves, (buget tip-if it's really wet and or cold put latex style gloves on underneath, keeps your hands dry, peel them off if you sweet too much). Feet=wool socks, or double layer with thin Marino wool socks, bootys if it's wet. I have yet to find a waterproof jacket that does not sweat me. I use layers of thin wind stop type stuff. I have a pair of Fox riding paints that have held up very well. Yes a Mucky Nuts type fender works great.
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  44. #44
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    I'm sure it's been said already, but here is my set up I've been using for the last 5 years:

    Under Armor Cold Gear base layer.
    Short sleeve riding jersey of your choice. (I like the pockets for quick access to food or a tool)
    synthetic wool cap
    thermal bib pants
    wool socks
    toe covers (when it's not raining)/Full neoprene covers (when raining or really wet)

    If it's raining, I'll add my thin shell (old commuting rain jacket). If it's below 40* and dry, I use a fleece vest on top or rain shell.

    I can use my full finger gloves to 45*. Below that, I use Burton boarding glove liners (thin, insulated, and tactile)

    I have the SKS X-board up front and rear fender permanently attached to rear (hardtail).

    I'll also echo having a beach towel in the car and dry clothes waiting to change immediately upon return.
    Just get out and ride!

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