The Easy Guide to Dressing for Cycling in the Winter
20th November 2017.If the summer is the time of year most cyclists love best for its abundance of warm, clear, and good weather, then the winter is the time most cyclists start to think about hanging up their helmet. From the chilly wind to the unpredictable and sometimes unpleasant weather, cycling in the winter provides all kinds of challenges separate from the rest of the year. By the time spring arrives, we're all often happy to be able to stop thinking about all the extra wear and tear to our bikes. However, the biggest challenge that accompanies winter riding has more to do with what you're wearing instead of what you're riding. One day, the temperature might be fair and pleasant. Three or four days later, the mercury plunges, the wind picks up, and snow might even enter the forecast. How can you dress appropriately when the weather is so unreliable? Remember that the best way to be prepared for the winter temperatures is to maintain a diverse wardrobe with several different possible outfits. This way, you can mix and match as you need to find the right combination for the conditions of the day. The first and most important principle to understand for success in the way you dress is the concept of layering. Once you know how to layer properly, everything else becomes a matter of choosing items for comfort or utility.
The basics of layering: why is it so important?
If you try to just throw on the clothes that seem appropriate, you'll often find that you're either too cold on a ride or far too hot. Overheating in cold weather can be a real problem, primarily because as you perspire more, the effect of the wind chill will increase. That is why you should always start with a very simple first layer, followed by additional clothing as the temperature drops. In cool but not cold weather, basic cycling shorts will be all you need for bottoms, while your top should consist of a "base layer,? which is often a garment made from a fabric whose sole purpose is to form a breathable layer between your skin and the next garment ? or the air. This breathable element allows your perspiration to be wicked away from your skin, preventing you from feeling cold and sticky. As the temperature gets colder, you will cover this base layer with warmer clothes and ultimately a jacket. Remember, though, that you should always dress as if it were slightly warmer than the real temperature. Why? As you ride, your body will heat up, and you won't feel as cold as you do when you begin. In some cases, you can just remove some layers and regain your comfort. What type of outerwear should you choose for your next layers?
Picking the appropriate outerwear depends on temperature
Wearing a basic cycling jersey over your base layer is often all you need in most cool weather. As it gets colder, though, you may want to switch to a jersey with long sleeves. Ultimately, a jersey that fits more closely and made of a warmer material will be the next step when the temperature drops to the lowest part of what is comfortable riding weather. Wear arm warmers to provide your body with additional coverage, especially on windy days. Add a light jacket that can help to deflect the wind, but which you can quickly take off and stow if the weather shifts in the middle of your ride. Protect your legs with tights once the temperature drops below 10C, and consider wearing leg warmers just as you protect your arms. You don't have to ditch the riding shorts, either; they can be an essential part of adding in extra warmth on the chilliest days. A waterproof pair might be a good idea, too ? you never know when you might encounter a day with freezing rain or just a weak drizzle. You'll want to stay dry. A wet rider is a recipe for an early return home and a hot shower!
Choosing the right gloves to match the weather
What about your hands? Your fingers can be the first part of your body to feel the cold weather once you get going. If you lose the feeling in your fingers due to the temperature, it can represent a real safety risk. Not only will you have reduced dexterity and control over the bike, but you will have trouble determining how much pressure you apply to the brake handles. Therefore, choosing the right pair of gloves is just as important as knowing how to layer. In cool weather, opt for a light pair of gloves made from a breathable material with bare fingertips, which will give you the most control of any option. For snowy days, ditch the fingerless gloves and choose something that is windproof, waterproof, and warm. However, be sure to select a thermal fabric that still retains some breathability. You don't want to end up with hands that feel sweaty in the middle of your ride. One more tip: pay attention to how much of your wrists the gloves cover. Be sure that you aren't going to leave a gap between your long-sleeve jersey and your gloves ? the wind will find its way inside in no time.
What kind of hat should you wear while cycling?
Speaking of protecting your extremities from the cold, let's turn our attention to what you should wear on your head. Obviously, you can't ditch your helmet just because the season changes. You still need that protective element, but with many helmets designed to provide superior airflow, you'll quickly find it's a recipe for feeling even colder. However, you can't just throw on any old hat and expect your helmet to continue to fit appropriately. While you may be able to get away with wearing a loose-fitting skullcap made from a light fabric, it will only provide enough protection for days with better weather. For the real cold, choose a riding cap that you can wear without a drastic change to the fit of your helmet. Some loosening is acceptable if your helmet is still secure once you're wearing the cap. The hat should be long enough that it can cover your ears since you won't have any way to wear earmuffs ? and cold wind can cause some frustrating pain in your ears! You'll find caps made from both wool and synthetic fibres; there are pros and cons to each, but it comes down to personal preference in the end. Just don't forget to keep at least one good hat in your winter gear.
Protecting your feet during winter cycling
Woollen socks are a cyclist's best friend. They wick moisture effectively, they have natural anti-bacterial qualities, and they resist odours that are common to other materials. As soon as you start feeling your feet chill on your ride, it's time to start wearing socks. However, what if the winter is harsh enough that even thick socks don't stop the chill? Shoe covers are the answer. While it might seem silly at first to essentially cover your feet with bags, the added warmth will make the slightly strange aesthetic worthwhile. You won't lose any authority over the pedals, though you may need to spend an afternoon practising with your covers before you feel entirely comfortable. As a bonus, these covers can sometimes double as effective waterproofing. Keep them out once the spring thaw arrives and splash through the puddles with ease!
Unpack your winter wardrobe and start preparing
When you first start to think about how to layer your clothes for winter bike riding, the task can be somewhat overwhelming. With practice and time, though, it'll soon become second nature. You'll peek at the weather forecast on your phone, grab the right clothes from your closet, and be ready to go for a ride in no time. Plus, you can view the coming season as an opportunity to go shopping and pick out some riding clothes with personality. Whether you're looking for gloves with just the right amount of thickness or a hat that you can wear comfortably with your helmet, always try to think about what it will be like to wear the item in the middle of a ride. With that, you should be ready for any weather. Follow @SportNessUK