I went for my first spring ride on Monday of this week. Just shy of 10 degrees, roads still super dirty and salty, and drivers not quite ready for cyclists on the road. I dressed perfectly for the ride which got me thinking, how should the new to cold weather rider deal with cold temps. Even the most seasoned rider rolls the dice a little when it comes to staying warm, there are so many variables that can affect your core temperature. There are a few simple rules to keep in mind that should help you decide what to wear and what not to wear.
Rule #1 – outer layer – block the wind, the wind in winter/spring riding is the enemy, it can pull the heat out of you so fast, no amount of pounding on the pedals will help you keep warm if you don’t block the wind.
Rule #2 – cold extremities can quickly ruin a ride, your hands get stiff and unresponsive resulting in slow reflexes for braking and makes shifting difficult, and cold feet can be rather painful, so keep your hands and feet warm. A descent set of booties and good winter gloves are essential for every cyclist.
Rule #3 – Insulation – the number of layers between you and your outer layer is really the tough part, but I tend to err on the side of caution, I dress a little heavy, I would rather be too warm than too cold. Every -5 degrees I add a layer, but as I said earlier, there are many variables that help with this. IE: sunny day low wind – or cloudy and blistering windchill will determine the amount of layers necessary.
Rule #4 – cover your head, you lose most of your heat through your head.
This is what I wore on Monday, but each rider has their own special needs so lets get into some of the details and you can put your own personal spin on it.
Layer #1 – I tend to wear my shop kit as my first layer, couple of reasons why I do this. Firstly, I have yet to find a chamois better than the one I have in my shop bib shorts which makes my ride enjoyable for my bum. Second reason is even simpler, my kit is like a second skin, comfortable beyond belief, and it moves very well with me. It is always a good idea to buy a really good set of shorts and jersey, one great kit is better than three bad ones.
Layer #2 – Since it is 10 degrees, I was able to get away with a set bib tights without a chamois (chamois is in the shorts), and a cycling winter jacket, add a set of booties over my cycling shoes and a simple wind stopping cycling specific beanie (very thin hat that fits under my helmet and keeps my head and ears nice and toasty) and I was good to go.
On my ride i did not layer as much as I would normally on an overcast day, without the sun, even at 10 degrees the low lying areas around Oakville can be downright chilly, but I knew since this was my first ride of the season I would be pushing pretty hard and therefore creating more heat.
I hope this helps a little and see you out on the road.