Here in the NorthEast we can certainly get some winter weather, but the typical temperature is just above freezing which is definitely bike-able with the right gear. Here is what I wear:
1, 2, 3: Base Layers
Once you get used to form-fitting lycra it’s hard to put on a tent to go out in the cold. As such I opt for the baclava approach: multiple thin layers. The inner layers wick the moisture away and trap the heat. The upper layers take the edge off the wind coming in.
4: Winter Vest
The windproof fleece-lined vest is one of your best tools for riding in the just-above-freezing zone and probably the only specialized piece of clothing you need down to the mid-30′s. It keeps the most important part of you warm (your core) but allows you to vent off steam via your arms (and chest when you unzip for climbs)
5, 6: Windproof tights, Bibs
You don’t need much on your legs as these big muscles don’t get cold that easily and will obviously be working hard enough to take care of themselves. I do a windproof base layer and then my club bibs because, you know, you have to represent!
7, 8, 9: Shoes that are not too tight, wool socks, shoe covers
Feet are tricky. You need enough insulation to keep them warm but not so much that you become waterlogged. I’ve found a livable combo to be smartwool socks which make a reasonable effort keep you warm while damp. On the outside I like the Castelli Narcisista shoe cover. It’s got a little fleece for insulation and as importantly, don’t look like you’re wearing two giant plastic bags on your feet.
10, 11: Liner gloves and medium weight gloves
Continuing on with the I-don’t-like-baggy-stuff theme I don’t like oversized gloves. I’ve found that you can layer on your hands to the same good effect as your chest. Combine ultra-thin liner gloves beneath a middle weight set of gloves and you’ll not only stay warm, but the liners are thin enough to dry quickly if you stop for coffee and a donut which helps with the motivation to get going again.
12, 13: Helmet, head/ear cover
Being from Minnesota I’m pretty conditioned to the cold and like to use my head to regulate my temperature. In the 40′s you’ll see me wearing swix cross country skiing earmuffs which are paper thin and fit well under a helmet. Once you get closer to freezing I’ll throw on a bandana to retain a little heat.
Shameless plug: You can buy the Jersey, Vest and Bibs pictured here in our shop!
- If you’re going hard you may not want to stop as multiple layers aren’t going to dry out with you wearing them, at least not quickly! Avoid the temptation to grab that coffee and plan your trips so you can go out and back without stopping.
- Your feet and hands are the first to go when it gets cold. If you have room in your pockets you might pack an extra pair of socks and liner gloves. If you do stop some dozens of miles from home changing into these two dry items can provide quite the mental boost!