Dressing for the winter can be tricky until you get the hang of it.
We could talk all day about gear (and we often do): what gloves to wear, how to care for your rain gear, which jacket is best, etc.
But arching aver all of those specifics is a very important concept: Layer Up.
It’s Getting Hot In Here!
Ever notice how once you really get going on your bike you start to heat up? That’s the fantastic sign that your blood is moving, your heart is excitedly pumping and you’re getting healthier. Sometimes it takes a mile, sometimes less. It depends on your particular body and your riding style.
There are usually several phases to warming up. After your initial spike in temperature, you’ll ease into the ride for quite a while. As soon as you’re body is at another comfortable clip, you’ll usually notice another temperature rise, especially if you’ve loosened up and are going faster. If the temperature of the day comes into play, that will add another phase.
At each of these intervals, you can strip off a layer of clothing to maintain a comfortable riding temperature, but you want that process to be easy and, ideally, you won’t even need to stop.
Build From the Base
Start with a non-cotton base, a wicking fabric or a soft thin wool. A tucked in tank top works nicely to warm the core.
Layer with a fitted long sleeve shirt as a thermal layer – so choose something sleek (so you don’t feel bulky) but warm. Thin performance wool, such as the offerings from Icebreaker, Ibex, works great for this. With reputable brands like these, you get high quality wool and a lasting garment. Because wool doesn’t develop a stink as quickly as synthetics, you can get a lot of use out of these base layers before having to wash them. Easier on your life, easier on the fabrics.
From there, it depends on what your day has in store and what your attire is. It’s perfectly acceptable to bike in normal clothing and the Layer Up concept still applies.
What About my Winter Jacket?
Biking in a parka: puffy jackets and bikes don’t mix.
If you’re headed out for the night with some friends on a leisurely ride to the bar (or wherever you entertain yourself on weekend nights), a winter jacket can be a cozy way to ride. Or if you have a short commute and don’t plan to work very hard.
But once you’re traveling significant miles and know you’ll work up a sweat, a big jacket on the outside usually gets in the way, unless you’re willing to strip down layers that are underneath your jacket as you ride along.
Make it Easy and Fun
Riding a bike in winter should be easy and fun. You don’t want to have to stop all the time to adjust your clothing, and you certainly don’t want to arrive to your destination a sweaty mess.
Plan ahead a few clothing combinations that work well in cold weather for specific attire situations such as:
Very cold – Work meeting
Very cold – Casual office day
Very cold – Running errands
Very cold – Going out for the night
That way you’ll have your go-to outfits that make you look and feel great on the bike, without having to spend much time planning and, most importantly, no matter the weather.
What Are Your Layers?
What are your tricks for layering up and dealing with a changing temperature as you ride? Share your thoughts below.