Cold Weather Riding- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Cold Weather Riding

    It's winter in my part of the world, and while the days are quite lovely for riding, the night and early mornings are damn freezing. As an early-bird, I'm keen to do some pre-dawn riding, as I love this time of the day. But.... for me the cold is hard to bear.

    Any ideas on how to stay warm ? My helmet is so snug that I can't wear a woollen beanie under it, and I haven't yet bought any gloves (but might pull the trigger on a pair of Fox Dirtpaws tomorrow if my LBS stocks them in XXXL, but they don't seem to be very thick).

    The rest of the body is fine, I can dress in layers, but the head and face especially is a bit too cool for my liking.

  2. #2
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    How cold is cold? Others here ride into the negative Fahrenheits with regularity in the winter. In my part of the US -10 to -12 C is about the bottom of the "normal" winter weather. Your body is your guide, but I use 45NRTH Nokken gloves down to those temps and right about -10 C is where they start to get iffy for me, but I run warm. They may be perfect for you as they are not a true insulated winter glove. While more bulky than a standard glove they still give you great feel on the bars.

    On my head i have a cheesy Under Armour skull cap for when it gets really cold but I never really use it above -7 C. I will occasionally where a mask, but I really need a proper baklava system as my mask is cheap and gets too hot. I hope I did the F to C correctly, it felt weird .

  3. #3
    The White Jeff W
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    Search the fat bike and clothing forums. There's a ton of information to be found there.
    No moss...

  4. #4
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    get a cycling cap that is shaped to cover your head and ears. they are usually a fleece material that is plenty thin to fit under a helmet. I also wear earmuffs that wrap around the back of my head.

    look for a "neck gaiter" that can be pulled up over your nose to keep your face warm.

    where I live, it's rarely very cold, but my biggest problem is keeping my toes warm.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay719 View Post
    It's winter in my part of the world, and while the days are quite lovely for riding, the night and early mornings are damn freezing. As an early-bird, I'm keen to do some pre-dawn riding, as I love this time of the day. But.... for me the cold is hard to bear.

    Any ideas on how to stay warm ? My helmet is so snug that I can't wear a woollen beanie under it, and I haven't yet bought any gloves (but might pull the trigger on a pair of Fox Dirtpaws tomorrow if my LBS stocks them in XXXL, but they don't seem to be very thick).

    The rest of the body is fine, I can dress in layers, but the head and face especially is a bit too cool for my liking.
    Too many layers=sweat. The idea is to stay dry.

    Yoga pants under shorts work good for milder cold temps. Chem heaters work magically in your shoes and when holding to the handlebar (chem heaters). Winter gloves are terrible on bikes IME, you can only go "slightly" thicker than summer gloves before you start to have serious bike control problems due to the thickness of the gloves.

    Little things like turtle-neck collars help to boost heat a bunch. Buffs work great under helmets and around your neck for milder cool temps. If your helmet isn't big enough for at least this...get another helmet.

    When it gets down to about freezing, I start to take more active measures, dressing like an XC skier (they have similar issues with exertion and sweating). Use your bike-bag or some external revelate feed-backs to take some extra layers. There are some lightweight full-zip pants and packable jackets that will fit into those kind of containers. Take extra chem heaters (the boot style, since they work for both boots and hands). Take extra gloves so you can put on a dry pair halfway through the ride. Frame bags help immensely for this stuff, it's all light, but space is a premium. If you ride with a pack, you can use the pack to zip a jacket to it, using it like a torso, buys you a little more storage.

    When it gets significantly into the sub freezing temps, I use a ski-helmet. Stretchy balaclavas over the face. Only when it gets down to about -20F or colder do I consider goggles, but in general they just tend to fog up when you are riding (stopping or exerting).

    I prioritize drying and options. Some people will swear by wool-this-or-that, but I find it's more about making smart choices with the gear and having options. Being wet, wool or no, will still be miserable and I don't want the conditions to dictate the length of my ride, I want to enjoy my ride and be out as long as I want. Look to the fat-bike forum, lots of good advice there.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  6. #6
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    Thin balaclava. If it doesn't fit under your helmet, get a new helmet.

  7. #7
    well mannered lout
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    The difference between climbing and descending in the cold weather is vast.

    A balaclava/ neck gator is best if you can pull it over your mouth and nose when you're rolling, and pull it down for climbing. If it's windy I'll put cotton balls in my ears.

    Felt insoles in the shoes. Neoprene socks if it's likely to be wet. When it's too cold to be wet I wear alpaca socks.

    I like pogies for my hands more than thick gloves. Cheap ones made for ATV riders work 90% as well as the best cycling specific ones.
    Well my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle.

  8. #8
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    For my head I can use this down to 10F or so, even though its intended purpose is wicking and cooling. It is thin, so it fits well under a helmet, and it covers the tops of my ears:
    Cold Weather Riding-heat_out_cool_r_helmet_liner_grey_750x750.jpg

    They have a warmer one as well:
    Cold Weather Riding-heatout_helmet_liner_750x750.jpg

    If it's colder, or windy, I might go with a balaklava.
    Cold Weather Riding-fb_img_1520805794459.jpg
    (that's the Wm. G. Mather maritime museum over my left shoulder)

    Any old gloves are better than nothing, but they need to breathe a little to stay dry. I often have liners with heavy outer gloves so I can swap the liners if they get sweaty and cold.

    -F
    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  9. #9
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    When it starts getting cold, there's an enormous amount of variability in cold weather gear that may or may not work for you.

    To a certain extent, you're going to have to experiment to find what works for you.

    I already wear generally the largest helmet size available, and there's not much room left. I'm fortunate that I run warm, so a Buff under my helmet is all I need. If I needed more insulation, I'd have to buy a different helmet, probably a ski helmet.

    I also have developed a pretty strong preference for more thin layers than for layers marketed specifically for insulation. There's a point where I'll pull out the specific insulation layers, but it's got to be pretty cold before I get to that point.

    My focus is almost always on wicking sweat, with a secondary focus on blocking wind. Sometimes I can achieve both goals with the same layers. Sometimes not. When there are big descents where I generate a lot of my own wind (and corresponding big climbs where I'm generating lots of sweat), I've got a separate wind-blocking layer that I pack away for the climb, and put on for the descent.

    Personally, layers over my face simply don't work until temps are below 0F. I'll cover my head/ears and my neck separately before I'll cover my face. Reason for that is condensation from my breath wetting whatever I put on my face, and then that wet layer gets cold and makes me cold.

    I also don't wear winter-specific gloves. I'll wear slightly thicker full-fingered gloves (I'm partial to softshell gloves) and then once temps reach about 20F, I'll switch back to summer gloves and then add pogies so I can maintain tactile feeling and good dexterity for the bike's controls.

    Another general strategy that's a good idea to follow is that you SHOULD be a bit cold when you start out. As you get moving, you'll warm up. Warm your core, and your extremities will warm up alongside. So I wear more/thicker layers on my core, and less on my arms/legs/hands/head to help vent excess heat.

  10. #10
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    Put layers on with wind blocking. My strategy is to warm up before going (calisthenics work) and then ride fairly vigorously without stopping. As long as I keep the circulation going, I don't need a lot of insulation and my hands and feet stay good. I can ride for a 2-3 hrs like this in near 0F. Once any of the extremities start getting cold, it's nearly impossible to get them to warm up and they just start getting colder.

    As I ride I open front zippers for air flow to try to somewhat reduce the amount of sweat that accumulates. I always wind up sweaty anyway.
    What, me worry?

  11. #11
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    All of the replies to date are very appreciated, thanks everyone. As a mew member (and new rider) I'm finding that this forum has a very good vibe

    To address some of the comments:

    Compared to some of you mad bastards, I'm going to sound like a wimp here. Winter dawn temperatures in my location rarely get below 0C/32C. Flea's post #8 give me frostbite just looking at his selfie. But I do suffer from the cold weather more than others I know, particularly in the extremities. And when riding, it's the face and ears that just don't warm up, no matter how far into the ride I get. It's unpleasant enough to make me not ride, until I find a solution.

    The 'neck gaitor' product looks like a good start, to at least cover half of my face. I'm going to order one online today. As for a skullcap-type head covering, I'll have to look into what ultra-thin products are available to me locally. As a heads-up to USA members, I just found this ridiculously low sale price on the 'freeze-out', reduced to $1.97 ! No good for me, since shipping cost is prohibitive, but some of you might want to snap this up.

    https://www.cyclegear.com/gear/freeze-out-helmet-liner

    Some have mentioned 'buy another helmet'. Maybe that's a consideration, to then use a regular cold-weather beanie that I already own (am wearing it right now actually, it's 5am as I write). In a case of some strange body dismorphia, I always assumed I had a small head, but the opposite seems to be the case ! When I bought my helmet back in April, the LBS had a 'no apparel try-ons, no refunds' rule, as a knee-jerk response to Covid-19, so I went for an adjustable fit model, and found that it only just fits at the highest setting that can be dialled out. That leaves no room for a regular beanie, since it's already a bit tight. I'm going to drop into the store today or tomorrow, so I'll see if their ridiculous apparel rule has been lifted, and I can try on some other helmets.

    It's worth a mention that the regular daily rides I'm discovering in my area are mostly flat, sealed tracks and about 1 hour back to base. I'm getting a top speed of 35kph/22mph, so higher speed = more wind resistance on the face.

    As for body temperature/layers - this is something I can experiment with for myself, perhaps overdressing and taking a backpack for a few runs so I can shed layers until I find the optimum clothing for the task.

  12. #12
    LMN
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    Sort of cold like you are riding in is almost harder than really freaking cold. (Well not really, well not even close, but let us pretend)

    My advice:
    1. Get winter shoes and winter gloves. There are a ton of cycling shoes designed of 0-10C absolutlely worth it.
    2. Get some rain shorts. Water proof leg layer is amazing.
    3. If you take care of your hands, feet and legs it is super easy to take care of your core.
    "The best pace is suicide pace, and today is a good day to die." Steve Prefontaine

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by LMN View Post
    Sort of cold like you are riding in is almost harder than really freaking cold. (Well not really, well not even close, but let us pretend)

    My advice:
    1. Get winter shoes and winter gloves. There are a ton of cycling shoes designed of 0-10C absolutlely worth it.
    2. Get some rain shorts. Water proof leg layer is amazing.
    3. If you take care of your hands, feet and legs it is super easy to take care of your core.
    It can be. Good advice. I also find a lot of "winter shoes" to be only halfway passable as such, making them decent in milder cold conditions. There are some much heavier duty ones that may be worth it, but for 35-45 degrees F, Lakes and Wolfhammers are still a great idea IME, nothing better than happy warm feet and it's just not worth it to fight this in the conditions. Agree with the hands and feet part, except the winter gloves, wind-blocking gloves help a lot, but I don't go full winter for gloves because my hands immediately sweat and eventually I cool down on a DH and the gloves stop being insulators and then become heat sinks, no matter what. Bringing dry gloves, some chem heaters, and pogies when it gets cold enough, works a lot better for comfort and control IME.

    But if you are well prepared, all the cold temps can be fun and nice to ride in. Started out chilly last weekend for a 30 mile 4K+ ride in variable cool/chilly conditions. Taking lightweight stuff that can be used as layers makes a huge difference, and actually using those layers...
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  14. #14
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    I live and ride year round in Ottawa so the temperature and preciptation can vary immensely. From 40C with humidity in summer, to -40 with windchill in winter.

    But above all, riding at around the 0C mark is tricky, as someone above mentioned. You're either too hot or too cold most of time. For those conditions, merino tights with baggies over top. Wool socks and Wolvhammer boots. On top, a synthetic T, with a long sleeve merino on top, and some kind of a windproof shell. I add arm warmers underneath to start.

    XC ski gloves, and for the head, just a helmet.

    The key is many thin layers. You do not need to overdress when putting out effort.

    BUT, riding in the north, on anything other than a quick local rip, ALWAYS pack a puffy. Just in case.

  15. #15
    Duck Fonald
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    Quote Originally Posted by ddoh View Post
    Thin balaclava. If it doesn't fit under your helmet, take out the pads.
    Fify?
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  16. #16
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    Well, I got myself a pair of Endura windchill gloves, they make a huge difference to styaing warm on a morning ride. These are definately winter gloves though, as I could imagine them being very hot and sweaty during warmer months.

    Also got myself a skully, and it keeps my head a bit warmer, but is a little tight when my helmet is on, and I can't wear my glasses (this is not a major problem) I think I need to consider a new helmet sometime soon, as it feels like it could be a little bigger internally.


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  17. #17
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    I am still sweating from my ride 24 hours ago in 90 degree heat and about 300% humidity. #northernhemisphereproblems

    Sent from my SM-T387V using Tapatalk

  18. #18
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    The most useful things I have for mild winters (>32):

    arm and leg warmers
    marino wool socks
    packable wind vest
    toe covers
    mid-weight winter gloves
    mid-weight thermal top and bottom

    These cover a lot of temp range, can be layered, and easily stored in a pack if you overheat

  19. #19
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    So I wear a buff in the winters over my head. It it very thin so it fits well under my helmet. I pull it over my head and cover my ears with it. If it gets warm, I just pull it down around my throat. I'm not a fan of winter gloves. I wear some fleece lined gloves that aren't meant for winter riding. My hands often get hot from the riding.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by d365 View Post
    The most useful things I have for mild winters (>32):

    arm and leg warmers
    marino wool socks
    packable wind vest
    toe covers
    mid-weight winter gloves
    mid-weight thermal top and bottom

    These cover a lot of temp range, can be layered, and easily stored in a pack if you overheat
    That's a good list. The change I'd make is: light winter gloves with a light merino glove liner (Smartwool makes a good one).

  21. #21
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    How to stay warm, yeah buy heated clothing or sew chromium vaperizor wire/carbon wire into your clothing and hook it up to a battery source that will produce sufficient heat for the weather you are riding.

    Lots of places sell heated clothing and jackets, HiltonHilti power tools, Willfookyee aka Milwaukee have jackets, other independents have UL certified gloves, there are heated boots.

    I find layering helps, good gloves helps, a good wind proof layer is good, good boots for good riding. When it gets really cold out, good ski goggles, good ski pants, good good good what else to say, all pretty simple stuff to figure out. Good thick socks. Its tough out there bro

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by matt4x4 View Post
    How to stay warm, yeah buy heated clothing or sew chromium vaperizor wire/carbon wire into your clothing and hook it up to a battery source that will produce sufficient heat for the weather you are riding.

    Lots of places sell heated clothing and jackets, HiltonHilti power tools, Willfookyee aka Milwaukee have jackets, other independents have UL certified gloves, there are heated boots.

    I find layering helps, good gloves helps, a good wind proof layer is good, good boots for good riding. When it gets really cold out, good ski goggles, good ski pants, good good good what else to say, all pretty simple stuff to figure out. Good thick socks. Its tough out there bro
    It seems like these ideas would lead to excessive sweating and moisture. Maybe ok if you can get back in time and your battery doesn't fail, but it wouldn't be my choice for being comfortable in the cold. Ski pants, as in downhill ski pants, are a very bad idea. Way too much insulation with poor breathability, unless we are talking like -25F. Layers isn't all that great an idea either, a few layers, but too many layers quickly becomes non-breathable and works against you. Usually no more than 2 and 1 will be close to the skin/form fitting so it can wick moisture away.

    It was a nirvana when I became comfortable in the cold, even with my reynauds, vs. going out when it was cold and fighting to have a good time before I got too cold and had to emergency-tail-it back to the car. I wish I had just a bit of the clothing and sense back then that I do now.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

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