Mother Nature has hit us hard this season.
We’re already experiencing February-like temperatures in December and we’ve seen more snow than we’ve seen in some recent winters.
So, how does one dress for cycling in cold weather?
One answer, of course, is to wear your usual cycling attire and head to the CompuTrainer Studio to train indoors all winter! But there are some who wish to continue to ride outdoors – to commute or to train, even in these temperatures.
Cycling presents unique challenges when gearing up for colder temps. First of all, the “windchill” factor is increased by the speed at which you’re riding. You are, in effect, creating your own wind – above and beyond any existing wind conditions.
Then there’s the sweat factor. When you’re putting a decent effort into cycling, your body is going to sweat. That sweat, if not properly wicked away, serves to cool you down, not something you want in the winter temps.
Add to this the accessibility factor – you want cold weather gear to keep you warm but you still need to be able to move. You need your fingers to brake and shift. You need clothing that moves with you and works for you.
Last year, Bicycling Magazine published a great article by Neil Bezdek about Cycling in Cold Weather, citing five principles of heat conservation along with some insights into what they mean for cyclists. What follows is an excerpt from that article. In response, our Higher Gear staff offers their recommendations for dressing for heat conservation.
Convection occurs when air that contacts the skin is heated and blown away, which is replaced by new air that warms itself at the expense of body heat. Convection threatens to rob a wind-battered cyclist of more warmth than any other type of heat transfer.
Everyone knows that wearing additional clothes is the best way to stay warm, and that layering provides options for dressing and undressing as conditions change. But layering is also effective because it traps pockets of immobile air next to your body. In other words, layered clothing is greater than the sum of its parts.
Heat loss through convection warrants covering as much of your skin as possible. This is especially true for extremities because they have a large ratio of surface area to volume, as well as areas with high blood-flow such as your head and neck because they transmit lots of energy to the air they contact (like a radiator in a car).
Higher Gear Recommends:
Endura Stealth Jacket is a Eurobike award-winning and first ever fully waterproof, breathable soft-shell cycling jacket. The externally seam-sealed waterproof breathable soft-shell fabric with stretch fabric front collar, underarms and side panels create a superbly well-fitted garment. The stretchy fleece-backed material provides warmth offers a close fit with ultrasonically welded seams that create a smooth internal surface for comfort. Flexible ventilation via side and underarm zip vents is accessible even when wearing a back-pack.
Endura Luminite II Jacket is the ultimate commuter cycling jacket. This cleverly-designed waterproof, breathable jacket a red LED light strip integrated into the rear pocket that gives you 50 hours of flashing light. Emblazoned with high visibility 360 degree reflective safety chevrons, you’ll light up the night from any angle, especially in the high-visibility colors, but even the black is extremely high-vis when in a headlamp. A single-layer waterproof, breathable shell features a bonded and laser-cut double storm flap, to keep the wind and rain from getting in.
Endura Windchill Biblongs are the perfect solution to keeping your legs warm on windy, chilly days. Pull these insulated bibs over your cycling shorts to keep out the wind and cold. Teflon HT treated Thermolite provides insulation and comfort while the membrane on the front legs, ankle and crotch keeps the wind out while offering the breathability Endura is known for. The ankle features rear-facing reflective detail and a slimline zipper with a snapdown zipper pull.
Endura Thermalite Tights are ideal for those who prefer tights to bibs. The Thermolite fabric was designed for ultimate cold weather comfort and durable water repellency. Double layer over the knees for added warmth where your legs meet the wind. Fully flatlocked seams for added comfort. Details include a slimline zipper with a snapdown zipper pull, ergonomic body paneling and reflective logos on the thigh and rear, making this a great tight to pull over your cycling shorts or even one you can wear for cold weather running.
Endura Superlite Overtrousers are perfect for commuters who want to minimize the clothing they have to carry to the office. To make yourself invincible to the elements, throw these Overtrousers on over your work or cycling pants. The perfect choice for commuters who risk unforeseen weather and need layering pieces they can travel with. The fully seam-sealed fabric keeps the rain and wind out. The lightweight fabric means they get compact enough to stow in their own rear pocket.
Heat transfers through substances that directly contact your body. This is called conduction.
Metal handlebars, brake levers, and pedals—and even sunglasses and headphones—all threaten to sap heat from vulnerable body parts. Double-wrapping your handlebars, wearing heavy gloves, and using thicker insoles all provide a layer of insulation that can mitigate heat loss through conduction.
Higher Gear Recommends:
Sugoi RSE SubZero Lobster Gloves, made with 100G Thinsulate liner, provide excellent insulation from the cold air. They offer windproof thermal protection in a split finger format for ultimate warmth for extreme weather rides. The split finger design offers excellent cycling mobility for braking and shifting, while the pre-curved designe offers a better ergonomic fit and comfort grip. The Hipora waterproof breathable membrane liner makes them a perfect response to whatever Mother Nature throws your way this winter.
Evaporative cooling occurs when water changes state from liquid to gas.
Being wet makes you cold for two reasons: Water is 240 times more conductive than air, and you lose heat when water evaporates. Avoid getting sweaty by anticipating changes in temperature—shed a layer at the base of climbs before overheating, and remember to bundle up before descending cools you down.
Higher Gear Recommends:
Endura Baa Baa Merino Long Sleeve Baselayer and its fine-guage natural merino wool offers natural insulating properties and doesn’t hold in the odor like synthetic materials. MTB Magazine found that Endura’s Baa Baa Merino wool “provides a superb natural layer that’s itch-free, unlike most normal wool jerseys.” Soft, comfy and it’s great at wicking sweat away. “Where it beats synthetics is that if it gets wet it stays warm.” The fitted cut makes it a great layering piece and the flatlocked-stitched seams means that, even with added layers or a backpack, there’s no rubbing.
Shunting Blood Flow
The human body reacts to cold by shunting, where it restricts blood flow in extremities to protect vital organs at its core.
If you want to keep your hands and feet warm, wear a jacket. Keeping your core toasty promotes blood flow to extremities. And don’t limit circulation to your feet by over-tightening shoes or squeezing on additional pairs of socks. Shoe covers are better option.
Higher Gear Recommends:
Bar Mitts are designed to keep hands warm and comfortable in the cold, rain, snow and wind. The windproof neoprene “mitts” stay secure on your handlebars, providing a protective layer for your hands while riding, braking and shifting. Bar Mitts offer so much protection from the wind and cold, we recommend combining with only a light winter or liner glove. You can easily slide your hands in and out for shifting and breaking, while the mitts stay secured on the handlebars. Bar Mitts are ideal for those who suffer from Raynaud’s Disease.
Sugoi Firewall Bootie offers windproof foot protection for the deepest winter cold, featuring an updated step-in design. Sugoi’s Firewall products are designed for wind and water protection. This Bootie’s horizontal zip step-in design, allows for easy shoe adjustment during rides.
Sugoi Firewall Sock is a stretch sock for internal coverage and thermal insulation. Firewall construction offers protection against cold air and rain. Flat seam construction allows for low profile fit inside a fitted riding shoe.
Sugoi Wallaroo Sock in merino wool provides natural warmth and comfort. Wallaroo is Sugoi’s super-fine Australian performance wool. It’s especially well-adapted for high exertion activity in a wide range of temperatures and conditions. This sock’s design includes structured cushioning at footbed and dense cushioning at heel and toe where maximum impact occurs. Features include supportive arch compression and a mesh ventilation channel
SockGuy Wooligan is the best winter sock you will ever wear. These socks will keep your feet dry and warm in all weather conditions. Features include a 4″ Easy-Fit cuff, arch support, moisture wicking channels and a padded foot bottom for extra warmth and comfort. These socks are made with 75% TURBOwool, a superior blend of 50% Merino wool and 50% polypropylene – the combination of which provides five times the strength and durability of Merino wool alone. These wool socks are shrink-resistant and itch-free.
Thermal Regulation – Keep Your Hat On
The head and neck are your heat sensors. In addition to gauging temperature signals from the nerve endings all over your body, your brain monitors its thermostat based on the warmth of the blood that flows to it.
Keeping your head and neck protected is about more than just heat loss; insulating your melon and its stem will make you feel warm.
Higher Gear Recommends:
Sugoi MidZero Balaclava offers full-coverage technical head warmth with cozy fleeced inner surface. Full head, face and neck coverage is designed for seasonal protection. The MidZero fabric is a full stretch wicking midweight base layer that is fleeced on the inside for amazing comfort. Flat seams offer increased comfort.
- Check out the Endura cycling clothing we now have at Higher Gear.
- See why our Gearhead Cyclocross Jersey makes the perfect layering piece.
- Also check out the Sugoi layering pieces we have available at Higher Gear.
- See the original article in Bicycling Magazine by Neil Bezdek about Cycling in Cold Weather.
- Not quite sure how to dress for the weather? Bicycling Magazine made an interactive guide for new cyclists or those new to cycling in colder temps.
Have other bits that get cold or that need coverage? Higher Gear can help. Our expert staff is eager to listen to your needs and direct you to cold weather gear that will work for you and your style of riding. Stop in to either location.