Intro: Winter biking is something special with potential surprises and adventures waiting just around the next corner. Snow and ice may hinder the progress forcing you to work harder along otherwise simple sections or even forcing you to walk. The low temps require specific clothing and accessories. Here at Twenty Nine Inches we have decided to share with you a few of our favorite pieces – things that have helped us get more enjoyment out of winter riding – each one after their requirements and needs.
We know comfort is something very subjective and personal and with the multitude of offerings in functional bike wear we ask you not to perceive this little series of articles as a “Best-Of” list, but merely as a personal collection of items we found that worked for us. You may be able to apply some of it to your needs or not, but we hope you find this informative and useful.
Guitar Ted’s Gear
When riding in the Mid-West of the U.S.A., one must be prepared to deal with a very wide range of conditions in Winter. One day can be 50°F and the next can be in the teens with a below zero wind chill. Of course, we also can get copious amounts of snow and ice. These sorts of conditions can present several challenges for the cyclist who wishes to be out doors year round.
For my list, I am including a few extra peices since the kit is ever in flux to meet current conditions. I broke up the list into sections, so it will be easier to show everything I use, (well- almost everything!)
On the bottom half I usually layer starting with my wool “long johns” by Omni-Wool. (Middle of image above) You will notice that I do not use a chamois or traditional cycling short in really cold weather. Personal preference there. For me, it’s another layer that doesn’t keep me warm or block wind, it just collects perspiration in all the wrong places in cold weather. The Omni-Wool’s thin layer moves perspiration off my skin and keeps me warm. Next I use a thermal tight, (left in image above), if it is really cold, (which for me is anything below 25°F, your needs may vary), and this keeps the perspiration moving to the outside layer while also being a warm, insulating layer. This particular tight is from Trek. Many times I will cycle with a pair of Dickies twill pants for an outer layer, but here I am showing you the Zoic Blackmarket Pant, which we just reviewed here. I have come to enjoy it as an outer layer for Winter. It seems to do a decent job blocking the wind, yet does breathe a bit, keeping me dry. Finally, on the feet I typically use at least one pair of thick, wool socks. For really cold weather, I will add these Sock Guy long wool/polypro socks. Then my feet go into my Keen Brixen boots, (not shown), and my feet are ultra toasty even at really low temperatures. (Note: Keen no longer offers the Brixen, but their Summit County II is quite similar)
I mix up my kit for the upper body depending on wind conditions. This is my set up if it gets raw and windy out, and I can cycle comfortably down into the 0°F range before wind chill with this. On the right I have a Craft Pro Zero Windstopper base layer. This wicks really well, but the wind stop fabric on the front prevents my core from getting chilled while the rest of the top is allowed to breathe and wick. Next up is an old Nike hooded thermal jersey, (middle). You can find similar jerseys now from other companies. This absorbs perspiration off the base layer and transports it to my outer shell. The hooded part of the jersey goes on the head and covers up the sides of the face quite nicely. One could use a balaclava, but I can’t stand the claustrophobic feeling of a balaclava, so those are not for me! The outer shell, (left), is my new Bontrager Thermal Windblock Jacket. This has some nice pockets, and does a great job breathing while preventing wind from reaching my core. During a recent fat bike event, I rode 65 miles comfortably in this set up, and the jacket was soaking wet with perspiration afterward.
If things are not so windy, I will opt for a wool get up, and depending on how cold it is, I may use all, or just a couple of the following layers. The base layer here is always a traditional cycling jersey. Over that I use a Twin Six Woolie. It keeps me pretty toasty down to the upper 30°’s if the wind is calm. If it gets colder, I will go with a Twin Six Merino Hoodie for additional warmth. To keep the wind out, if there are some breezes, I will use the aforementioned Bontrager jacket, or like winter outer layer.
For the head, I will wear a helmet if the temperatures are over 25°F and if it isn’t really windy. In that case, the hood of the thermal jersey or the Twin Six merino hoodie goes on first. Or I may go with the cap on the left. This is a Walz “Ear Flap” wool cap. If the wind and cold are too much, I ditch the helmet and use the hood and put on my hand made Polar Fleece cap made for me by a kindly lady I once knew. (You’ll have to source your own! ) The combination of the hood and thermal properties of my hand made cap are no match for wind and cold down to below zero temperatures.
For the hands I will mix it up with something like either the Answer Strike or Sleestak, (reviewed here) depending on how cold and windy it gets. The Strike works well down to 30°F for me, then I switch over to the Sleestak with the addition of some SmartWool Liner Gloves if the temps get really low.
That’s about it for my kit with the only thing missing here being eyewear, which when riding in snow is very important. I like something polarized and dark, even if it is cloudy, because snow can reflect a lot of light.
Hopefully that helps get your thoughts going on how you can roll in Winter if you live in a very cold climate. Next up will be Grannygear and c_g with their own unique look at what it takes to ride in Winter where they live. Stay tuned…….