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Burnum Upus Quadricepus
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lacofdfireman said:
Typical temp range for me will be for me Lows in the mid to high 20's and Highs in the 40s... I live at about 4500ft so Snow will come and go but of course I won't ride in the snow...
What do you mean by "of course I won't ride in the snow"? For many of us, it's "of course I ride in the snow".

Mid-20s to 40s is actually pretty mild. There isn't a awful lot you have to do.

It helps if you think, not of keeping warm, but of managing heat and sweat. The idea is to remain cool enough that sweat does not become an issue. In that regard, cycling at 10°F is no different than cycling at 110°F.

You will build up heat as you ride. The trick is learning how to dissipate just enough. Dissipate too much, and you become cold. Duh. But dissipating not enough can be worse--much worse. Sweating through your layers is the first step towards hypothermia. Unless you're wearing wool (which I can't afford), your clothes rapidly lose all insulating properties when wet. The goal is to not let this happen.

The general principle is to underdress slightly, then use the heat generated by pedaling to keep warm. The standard advice is that when you step outside, you should feel a chill. If not, you're already dressed too warm.

Then, you should feel cool for the first two or three miles. If you warm up before that, you're dressed too warm.

Somewhere around three or four miles, I notice all traces of cold vanish. That's just about right for me. A few miles further on and I'll start unzipping and loosening to let a little bit of air through.

CAUTION: Since I'm underdressed, I always, always, always carry extra clothes in my trunk bag in case I flat or have some other emergency.

Notice the snow in my the background of my avatar. It was 25°F and damp that day, and from all outward appearances, I'm wearing standard roadie kit. That's what I mean when I say there isn't a lot you have to do for temps down to the mid-20s.

Starting at the top, I wear a winter cycling skullcap. Some people prefer a balaclava (bank robber mask) to keep the wind off their neck. I use my neck to dissipate heat.

On top I wore a baselayer, armwarmers and a regular cycling jersey. My commuting alternative at the same temp is a long-sleeved wicking t-shirt under a mid-weight cycling jacket with the pit-zips open. Not the jacket in the pic above--that was an experiment to see if cheaper highway department stuff was workable. It's not. These days I wear an Endura Gridlock cycling-specific jacket.

On the bottom, regular cycling shorts under wind-front mid-weight tights. I ride every day. It's cheaper to wear padded shorts since I don't have to buy seven pairs of padded tights, and it's easier since I don't need to wash tights after every ride. That's why I use unpadded tights over regular shorts. Plus it's another layer to keep the boys warm.

Somewhere in the 20s, I switch to windproof insulated tights. An alternative is to add kneewarmers under mid-weight tights. When adding layers, I've found it's important to buy tights and kneewarmers that have an articulated knee. This helps maintain freedom of motion in the knees, and eliminates binding across the front, and bunching in the back.

I've found wind-front tights to be essential. Plain tights only seem to filter the breeze as it passes through them. IMHO, bib-tights are a must for comfort. Two sets of elastic waistbands makes it uncomfortable for me. I don't mind regular shorts, but I can only wear bib tights.

I also use wind-front gloves. Cannondale makes nice ones--their Slice glove. Around the mid-20s is where I change to double-gloving. I wear regular summer-weight long-finger gloves inside a larger pair of wind-front gloves.

On the feet, there are two things to consider about your regular summer cycling shoes. First, they're designed to keep your feet cool. You have to work against their design to keep your feet warm.

Second, you probably have a nice, snug fit. This eliminates the possibility of wearing extra or thicker socks. It's the extra air space that keeps your feet warm. Compress that out, and you get cold feet. Plus, extra socks inside tight shoes compresses the blood vessels that supply heat to your feet. Double whammy.

I advise a second pair of cycling shoes for winter. I went full boat and own a set of Lake MXZ-302s. They're clipless winter boots purpose-designed for cycling well below freezing. They keep my tootsies toasty well into the single digits, before adding extra socks. They're actually too warm to wear above freezing.

You may be able to get by with a cheaper (read: less well ventilated) three-season shoe, a size or two larger to accommodate warmer socks, then booties to keep the wind and wet out. Think too about replacing the insoles with insulated ones so the cleats don't suck heat out from the bottom.

This is in broad strokes. Everyone is different, so there are as many variations in winter cycling gear as there winter riders and the temperatures we ride in. Count on getting it wrong a few times before you figure out what works for you.

Burnum Upus Quadricepus
2,017 Posts
Becky said:
Bruce nailed it, IMO.

Bruce, what do you recommend in the way of insulated insoles? My winter boots could use a pair....
Thanks. I learned most of that the hard way.

My Lakes came with really nice insulated insoles, so I haven't had to buy any myself. Other winter cyclists I know swear by Toasty Feet.
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