Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Winter Gear: What to Wear.

    I was going to write about, what to wear this winter and how to stay warm but it's hard to talk about the weather when for the past couple weeks it was above 40. I figured the weather gotta bust sometime soon, you know the drill 50 one day and then the temps drop 20 degrees and the snow is falling. In any case here's what I learned over the years.

    Winter tights are an excellent choice, because you will find that regular sweat pants or nylon running pants are difficult to ride in and once wet they are very cold. I have been using these Performance tights. They have been so warm and as an added bonus, they have leg zippers which made it easier to get yer wool socks streamlined under the tights. These tights aren't padded, soI wear my loose bike shorts over them for padding and for the pockets. You can also wear long johns under the tights but I'm sure you'd have to buy a larger size tights to accommodate the extra material otherwise you'll look like a sausage riding a bike.

    Breathable fabrics are key here. The newer Polartec (and similar) fabrics are really great for high-exercise activities. You can work hard, but still vent most of the moisture and it's not unusual to be out on a cold crisp day and see frost forming on your jacket from all the vented moisture.

    Shoes are the single biggest problem area. My feet freeze in the winter and cramp so easily. I have wool socks, a gortex liner soxs and the shoe booties. There are only a couple brands of cycling shoes that are warm enough for real winter use. Some can be expensive like the Sidi GTX Winter shoe or you got the Answer Kashmir winter shoe. It looks like Shimano has there own winter shoe, SH-MW02 All Weather Off-Road shoe. I might bite the bullet and buy a pair, I figured they gotta be cheap to buy right now, since most of the country has warm winter weather. I was just wondering if it's wise to buy a size larger, to accommodate 2 pairs of soxs or wool socks? Some winter cyclists may switch to toe clips and straps. There are all sorts of other combinations of overbooties, neoprene underbooties, plastic bags and duct tape (i have tried the last 2). My advice is to either spend the money and get the winter cycling boots which are compatible with clipless pedals or just switch to clips and straps and use winter or hiking boots.

    Studded Tires are expensive, but last 3 to 6 winters. I hear they make a big difference on icy roads, or hard packed snow and I'm sure your confidence level is higher with studs than without.

    Fenders are good to have to keep the slush spray off yer back and butt. They will still cake up and cause the the slush/snow to build up in certain areas. But for preventative measures, I spray the underside of the fenders with WD40 or Pam, cooking spray or RainX (a windshield product) to avoid the build-up on the fenders.

    Lights are another key item because darkness comes fast. Cold temperatures will affect battery performance. Lead Acid batteries are more affected by cold than are NiCads. The amount of power a lead acid battery can produce is greatly reduced by the cold. I don't have any lights, so my knowledge is very little about lites and I'm sure just talking about lights can be extensive and expensive.

    Camelbacks supply tube and bite valve will freeze. After you take a swig of water, you should blow air back into the bladder, keeping the tube clear of water. Also I have seen people put the camelback under their jackets and rout the tube up and under the collar. I also know Camelback sells an insulator cover for the supply tube.

    Gloves are a personal choice. I just use wool gloves under a gortex liner glove or the wool glove with bike glove over that. Nothing to bulkly for me, i don't need to have any problems trying to shift or brake while riding.

    Well i guess all this information isn't important right now. As I look at the 10 day forcast i see it's only going to be cold at night with the lowest low at 32 degress and the highest high at 53. It's just crazy.

   Thanks Global Warming!

~dirty bert
happy "snowless" trails


Fat Lad said...

those are the boots where and with a decent thin pair of cycling socks they are the shit!

Winter took a little while to break in blighty but it has done now :(

I find that the only to even vaguely keep up my fitness is to keep riding through the winter so you've got to be ready for it

Fat Lad

P.S. Don't suppose you can turn on the atom and/or RSS?

Picky said...

Hello Bert,

Another UK mountain biker here (and friend of Fat Lad).

It's cold here in Yorkshire....21 mile night ride yesterday in freezing fog at a proper rate of knots!!

I've been out riding for a week or more....I've not ached like this for a long time!! ;-)

Picky said...

Some good advice there mate.

I just got the latest box of MTB goodies delivered this morning;
Waterproof/windproof/breathable gloves.
Waterproof/breathable/thermal overshoes.
New shorts (for under the tights).
New lid (Giro....nice!).
Riding glasses.

I generally wear a decent baselayer with a good quality fleece backed jersey. To top off, I'll wear the windproof/waterproof/breathable jacket! It was OK for the 21 mad night miles in the freezing fog last night!

Hope you had a good Christmas, happy new year!!


Dirty Bert said...

My feet always freeze first, i found a heated insole by Sidi, called Toasters. Check it out, http://www.sidiusa.com/winter.html#a
But for 300 bucks i'll buy them disposable packs for under a dollar.