Winter is Coming: Riding in the Cold
Brace yourselves: winter is coming, and for a lot of riders, this means months of misery in the saddle.
Being cold is just no fun: but what can you do if heated gear is a little over your budget, and you still want to ride whatever the skies look like?
Pile it on
This one looks like a no-brainer, but layering is a true art form. As someone who gets cold even when it’s 80 degrees out there, I have tuned my layer system down to a precise calculation: optimum breathability, maximum warmth, and freedom of movement are my three criteria I stick to. Usually, this involves a thin long-sleeve shirt as the base layer, a thermal long-sleeve shirt on top, a puffy vest as the third layer, and a riding jacket. Sometimes, I’ll don a thicker windproof jacket between the puffy vest and the outer layer. If I’m truly freezing, long johns under riding pants usually do the trick, but I also recall adding a third layer – yoga pants – underneath the whole ensemble in Labrador, where icebergs and relentless rain made my existence truly miserable.
Let Some Air In
The reason I mentioned a puffy vest above is this: air pockets help keep your body warmer. By having some air between your body and your sweater or jacket, you create a layer of natural insulation that keeps you nice and toasty. A simple puffy vest or jacket will do, but if you’re feeling truly frozen, this variable air vest is the next best thing before a heated jacket:
Carrying the little pump in your pocket might feel a little weird, but it allows to pump the vest full or air or let it out, whatever the conditions require. You can have it air-tight, half-inflated, or empty, depending on how cold you are.
Cover your neck
I don’t have a windshield, can’t stand turtlenecks (thanks, Big Bang Theory), and pilot-style scarves just don’t work for me, so my only other option is a neck warmer with a chest piece. It’s not exactly the most elegant specimen of clothing out there, but when the going gets freezing cold, it’s amazing how big of a difference it makes.
Double Your Gloves
Don’t want to lug different pairs of gloves around? Invest in thin cotton gloves: they pack down to nothing, and you can always use them as a second layer to reinforce your regular riding mitts.
If all else fails, install heated grips on your bike. With cheaper heated grip systems available at $50, this is a great investment to keep the cold out of your ride. Overmitts are another great option to keep your hands warm!
Fluff it up
Woolen socks are a true miracle: real alpaca, sheep, llama, or merino wool socks will wick the moisture and keep your feet toasty warm. Layer thin baby alpaca or merino sports-style socks with your grandma’s woolly winter socks for more warmth and comfort.
If your boots feel too small with all the fluff on, remove your inside soles – when the weather gets better, just slip them back in.
Eat Your Breakfast
If you get cold much quicker than your partner or your riding buddies, it might mean you have a slightly slower metabolism or a lazy thyroid – or, like me, both. This means you simply need more energy to keep your body warm, so make sure you eat a hot, hearty meal before your ride: a traditional eggs and bacon breakfast, a generous helping of hot sizzling sausage or, if you’re a vegetarian, roasted or grilled veggies smothered in butter or coconut oil. Fat takes longer to digest, doesn’t spike your blood sugar levels, and provide your body with healthy building blocks and insulation material for those cold winter months.
What works for you? Share in the comments below!