How to stay warm AND dry?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    How to stay warm AND dry?

    I've been winter biking for a few years now and have built up a decent collection of cold weather gear. But this is my first year commuting to work by bike and as the weather gets cooler, I'm having a hard time staying comfortable.
    One key piece that I am lacking is a good and proper cycling jacket. I have a shell that I've always worn over various layers of vests, merino wool, etc which worked out great in the woods for weekend rides. But how do I survive the stop and go, freeze and sweat of commuting? I am thinking it's time to finally invest in a cycling jacket, but as the good ones are not cheap I want to make sure I get the right one. As I'm not sure what I need/don't need, I am turning to vast wealth of knowledge, experience and colourful opinions of the forum.
    Go on, educate me!
    I love riding my bike!

  2. #2
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    I did the daily commute for about 5 years (all year, 11km each way, 30-45 minutes).

    I never got super technical with my clothing, but what I found was that it was rarely perfect.

    For jackets that I use for anything that is 'higher output', armpit vents are a feature I always look for. Very effective at getting some airflow through when it gets too hot (prevent sweating, which is was always a goal, warm but not sweating or no moisture build up). You'll want seam sealed with reflective bands as well.

    I actually wore a warm vest for a large chunk of the year. I found it to be my favorite commuting garment. Kept my core warm, but I could stay cool with my arms exposed.

    A trick that used to work for me in general, especially in the cool months, especially if I happened to over dress. I would completely open my jacket for the first 5 minutes of the ride, get borderline shivering, then seal it all up. I would warm up just fine, but never get too hot.
    Straight outta Rossland

  3. #3
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    I have tried two different bike jackets. My current one has vents at the armpits and I had the zipper changed so It also opens from the bottom. I have used merino and other layers but found that anything over a 30 minute ride, and I would begin to get wet. I basically gave up trying to be perfect with the clothing. I am not sure I understand the stop and go thing with commuting and getting cold that you mention. I stop for lights, but that's about it. I never stop long enough to cool off. I had to give it up years ago with the requirement to visit clients on occasion.
    Burnt Norton

  4. #4
    More than a little slow
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    I've been riding to work for over twenty years now. Clothing perfection is a moving target and I'm a very bad shot.
    I sweat easily so I always end up wet. That's actually not so big an issue as long as you keep moving. Flats can be deadly, make sure you can fix a flat quickly.
    Re clothing: Base layers (synthetic stuff is good, but it stinks on me so I stick with wool), a good jersey (wool) or light sweater) and then a wind proof shell on top. Use ventilation in the shell to adjust the warmth of that setup. Think of your hands and arms as a unit, if your arms are cold, your hands will be too. Feet and legs aren't quite the same unit thing, I guess 'cause you're using your legs that much more. Hands and feet are always difficult though. Don't wear tight gloves or shoes ( or tight anything for that matter ) and practice being light on the bars and the pedals.
    I'm looking forward to seeing what else gets added to this thread, I'm always looking for new winter clothing/ideas.
    Cheers, Dave

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by secret agent View Post
    I have tried two different bike jackets. My current one has vents at the armpits and I had the zipper changed so It also opens from the bottom. I have used merino and other layers but found that anything over a 30 minute ride, and I would begin to get wet. I basically gave up trying to be perfect with the clothing. I am not sure I understand the stop and go thing with commuting and getting cold that you mention. I stop for lights, but that's about it. I never stop long enough to cool off. I had to give it up years ago with the requirement to visit clients on occasion.
    the 30 minute cutoff concurs exactly with my experience.

  6. #6
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    I forgot to add that I would bring a complete set of clothes to change into or have some there. I used to visit my sister at UofT downtown. Just over an hour ride. I would bring extra clothes and throw what I was wearing in the dryer for the ride back. I have brought extra clothes on many winter road rides and changed at my midway point. It is a drag to have to bring a knapsack, but on long rides like that, having an extra layer and different weight gloves, has saved me a lot of grief. Now I fat bike on trails in the winter. I always end up a lot wet from those, but it doesn't matter cause when I stop, I am in the truck.
    Burnt Norton

  7. #7
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    Unfortunately there is no way you will ever stay dry in winter. Because one is riding there will always be a bit of sweating which unless you get overheated due to a change in the temp or you have to many clothes on. When you are moving you won't notice but when you stop you notice it as you get cold.

    Keep in mind that dressing in winter for riding will vary from rider to rider. Some will run hotter while others get cold easier.

  8. #8
    No. Just No.
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    Where I am the temperature doesn't dip as low, but we do face the double whammy of often trying to protect from moisture from both inside and outside during days which are frequently wet. In my experience, it's possible to get it just right some days, but this is probably more from sheer luck than anything else. There are so many variables involved and just a bit of change to tip offside that it's more realistic to assume that most days you're going to be offside one direction or the other (a bit too warm and perspiring, or a bit too cold). You need to pick your poison and decide which you are less uncomfortable with, and then hold that line as close as you can with clothing choices and mid-ride adjustments.

    If it's not raining, I often prefer to bulk up with multiple layers that don't include a jacket, as the jacket is always going to be the least capable of moisture transfer and most likely to trap moisture inside.
    Nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

  9. #9
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    My commute is 11km, so right on the 30 minute threshold. On my way to work, I have a grade that ends with a crossing signal I have to wait at. (Cootes Multi-use Path, for those in the Hammer area) I get warm on the hill, unzipping as I go, but I start sweating while waiting to cross. Then I have another 20 minutes of getting progressively soggier at each stoplight. It's not such a big deal now, but it will be as the weather gets colder.
    I prefer to ride clipless and bought a pair of the Shimano winter shoes a few years ago, so my feet are always happy. I have a variety of gloves but will probably add a pair of windstop material ones to my arsenal.
    Despite my use of panniers to keep from having to wear a backpack, my back gets the sweatiest. My current shell jacket has armpit zips, but I'm now pondering back vents as well. That poor shell isn't very waterproof anymore as it's been through the wash so many times. The notion of replacing it was the basis for this thread, as I pondered upgrading from shell to jacket.

    DSkunk, that's a very good point about flats! Perhaps I will throw a C02 cartridge in my blowout bag.

    CptSydor, your trick of starting out unzipped sounds interesting. I will probably try that tomorrow.

    All of this has reminded me that when I started doing winter rides on weekend, I kept a little log of what the weather was like, what I wore and how it worked out. Sounds like something I should do for my new commute.
    I love riding my bike!

  10. #10
    Lemmy Rules!
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    I commute from Oakville to Toronto 2-3 days a week (80km round trip) and will ride any day where the ambient air temp is above -10c and the roads are dry. It is a 75-90 minute ride depending on how vigorous I am feeling.

    As a general rule, I find it is better to dress so that I am cold for the first 5 minutes of the ride. If I am warm when I get on the bike, I will overheat for sure. I have never had too much of a problem with overheating, or getting too cold.

    The key to any winter cycling kit is a good base layer. I use d-feat un-d-shirts - nothing fancy, and they work well. For my mid-layer, I have a 10 year old Patagonia expedition-weight capilene long-sleeved shirt that wicks away from the skin better than anything else I have tried. On top of that, I will wear either a Rapha winter jersey and a light vest to keep the wind off, or my club jacket (sugoi thermal jacket). On the bottom I will wear a pair of castelli winter tights, or if really cold, regular shorts and leg-warmers with a pair of outdoor running tights from Running Room (they have nylon on the front and reflective stripes on the calves). For hands and feet I wear Pearl Izumi lobster mits, ski socks, exustar winter boots (a size big) covered by neoprene shoe covers. A balaclava under the helmet is a must.

    I think the key is the capilene mid-layer. Wicks way better than merino. It is generally soaked by the time I get to the office but it works well in absorbing the moisture and keeping it from my skin. I use a similar outfit when snowshoeing, x-country skiing and snowboarding with similarly positive results.

    This is all subjective and although it may not work for everyone, it works well for me. Hopefully you can adopt some of this to make your commutes more fun.
    Strava made me do it....

  11. #11
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    I also believe that the temperature your feet feel is quickly spread throughout the rest of your body. Although I do have winter cleats, when the mercury dips real low I switch to hiking boots and flats.

    I also have a Sugoi long sleeve base layer with the built in balaclava, it one of my favourite pieces of kit.

    Cold is cold wherever you may be, on the "Commuter" Forum there are several great, and really long, threads on this subject.
    Last edited by Biggie; 09-15-2014 at 02:52 PM. Reason: to add the last bit
    "I love being on a bike. It helps me feel free. I get it from my dad", by Guillaume Blanchet

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  13. #13
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    Layer up!

    Base layer - polypro tech T, Patagonia Men's CapileneŽ 1 Silkweight T-Shirt

    Mid layer - polartec powerdry grid fleece, eg MEC T3 Zip-T (Men's) - Mountain Equipment Co-op. Free Shipping Available or Patagonia Men's R1 Fleece Hoody

    Shell - waterproof breathable eVent fabric, eg Showers Pass Elite 2.1 Jacket (Men's) - Mountain Equipment Co-op. Free Shipping Available or Men's Quasar? Jacket | MountainHardwear.com

    You want your base and mid layers to aid with moisture management (wicking). Polartec powerdry fleece is really awesome stuff that is equally good as a base layer or mid layer depending how cold it is. A good waterproof breathable shell will help you not overheat while cutting the wind (and precip). And yes, eVent really is much better than Goretex!
    Last edited by horto; 09-25-2014 at 07:11 AM.

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