Winter Riding, Part 1: The Rider

From the workbench of shop manager, Kurstin Graham

Fall temperatures go through some big swings in the Truckee Meadows, near freezing in the morning to a warm 70 degrees by mid-afternoon. We often have brilliant sunshine but it can cloud over. Still days can give way to winds gusting to the point of knocking down fences. Add a bit of rain and snow all within a day’s commute and one might wonder if it is worth commuting November through April. Cycling wisdom suggests there is no weather you cannot dress for.

Your head and extremities: If your feet are cold, put on a hat! It may not be that simple but the idea is heat loss through your head cools your entire body. But back to your feet, wool and wool blend socks are fantastic! My go-to are Woolie Boolie and Wooleator socks from DeFeet. Next level protection includes weather proof shoe covers and winter specific shoes. Finding a favorite pair of winter gloves can be a greater challenge. You need to find the right combination of insulation and dexterity to match your riding needs. There are gloves, mits, and lobster claw hybrids. Unfortunately most cycling specific apparel is very expensive but I have been very please with investing in a variety of glove styles from Pearl Izumi. I also use Bar Mitts pogies with a liner glove. When it comes to head wear there are many options to cover as little or as much as you need. The ski-mask balaclava offers complete coverage while Rox Dog Earz fit in the triangle of your helmet straps just to protect your ears from the cold. My go-to is the fleece ear band but often on early morning commutes I wish I wore my balaclava. For arms and legs there are removable arm, knee, and leg warmers or if the temperatures are less variable try long sleeve, tights or pants. 

Your core: The wind vest can be a cyclist’s best friend for the shoulder seasons. If you need more there is the wind breaker jacket. Dressing in easily peeled layers is key, wicking undershirt (base layer), insulation layer such as fleece, then weather proof outer. Unzip for the climbs, zip up for the descents, remove during mid-day. Stay dry, ride comfortable all day. Dressing for high speed, high aerobic activities, with large temperature swings is a grand experiment.

There are lots of popular articles on the web and print media for the commuter to competitive cyclist. Hopefully some of these suggestions resonate with your experiences rinding in colder temperatures. Locally we are fortunate not to have extreme temperatures. Stay dry, stay warm, stay on your bike!

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