Intro: Winter riding 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.
c_g’s Gear- Part I:
Here in Southern Germany winter biking means riding in quickly changing conditions and lots of humidity – from above and below. Most of our winter riding is happening between are +5 and -5°C (that is 20 to 40 °F) – depending on altitude and location with or without snow, sometimes frozen, frozen over, sometimes soft to deep and very often wet.
Priority No.1 – Keeping my head warm head
For years winter biking for me had been something rather risky – with very sensitive sinuses I frequently would end up with awful headaches after longer rides. Everything I tried from head caps, helmet covers and such were only crowned with limited success. Until now …
The POC Receptor+ is part of the solution: It is the only one helmet we know of that is officially certified for winter and water sports as well as skateboarding and biking. The package includes a variety of pads, a removable earpiece and neck roll and other accessories that help customize it to almost every need. If you like, you can even run it with the optional “Communication Neck Roll“ and listen to your favorite music or make phone calls with your helmet on.
Safety is POC´s highest priority and the Receptor+ is no exception. It features a double shell made of a very robust outer and an in-mold multi-impact EPP inner shell. Other safety features are the Aramid-Anti-Penetration system (directly visible in a little window on at the back of the head) and the reinforced ventilation intakes … all summing up the POC´s patented concept, called VDSAP (or “Ventilated-Double-Shell-Anti-Penetration”). Of course ventilation isn´t like a normal bike helmet, but considering the minimal size of the vent openings, it is surprisingly effective and I found it to be just perfect for cool temps below 10°C (< 50°F) – if you want you can switch off the ventilation by inserting a specific pad.
In real world riding my bright orange sample did really well. Just like I know from wearing the Trabec Race pretty much all the time last year – the Receptor+ spoiled my head with a perfect fit. The earpiece/neckroll unit did a great job of keeping the elements and draft out and did make for a very good winter performance. All in all the POC Receptor+ became my one and only go-to head cover whenever temps got low – be it for biking, skiing, or bob sledding with the kids.
The only downside I had found with the Receptor is that you cannot mount the common Velcro strap headlamps to it.
OK, at a Msrp. Of $199.95 it is not what most would call bargain, but there are other Receptor versions available (lesser in features, especially the winter part and not certified for cycling, though).
For more details you can look here www.pocsports.com.
When temps drop below freezing or when it was particularly windy, I very often wore a Merino-headcap by ICEBREAKER (called Unisex Quantum headliner) underneath. It is nicely manufactured of 260g/cm2 Merino and gave me the prefect feel-good experience for cold days – no overheating, rather effective climate control and absolutely no itching or skin irritation even after days of wearing and sweating. I have worn many under caps in the last years but none ever made me feel as good as this this very understated piece of Merino wool. Another benefit is the great smell preventing characteristics of the material – I would only toss it into the washer when salt marks were showing me it was time. This piece is really great!
Another great accessories I only discovered this winter are the benefits of Merino for Buff-style tubes. I have worn one by ICEBREAKER called Unisex Quantum Chute, made of the same 260er thickness. I usually wore my synthetic BUFFs and often found them too drafty and clammy feeling when used over my mouth, but the Merino piece somehow did much better there – it kept me warm even when wet and felt great all around. It is another little accessory I feel has made my cold weather rides more comfortable.
Of course eyewear is essential for winter riding, too – for this I favor goggles. Most skiing goggles have tinted lenses which is good for daytime riding, but simply wouldn’t do in foul weather and night rides (which I do all year round but due to the short days a lot more in the winter time). Luckily clear lenses are common in motocross and so I purchased a set of budget MC goggles by SCOTT and have been running these happily ever since.
The combination of the POC Receptor+ multi-sports helmet, clear lens goggles and those Merino accessories turned out to perfectly meet my needs for winter biking. I have never before felt so comfortable and if I say I haven´t once had those nasty headaches after extended bike rides this season, it is the biggest compliment I can give.
Tomorrow I´ll continue with the lower levels of my winter riding favorites.