Cold Weather Riding Advice

by Roger Pierce

On many winter mornings we will get an opportunity to practice our cold weather riding. It is important to know how to dress in order to be reasonably comfortable during the ride. On a typical winter ride we expect temperatures in the low 40's at ride start, going up into the 50's before ride end. As spring approaches, starts in the 50's going up into the 60's and 70's will become common.


Layering is important in these conditions. You will probably want to remove one or two layers as the day warms up. The best material for your base layer is a modern "technical" fabric such as coolmax, thermax, thermalactyl, polypropylene, or something similar. For temperatures not expected to get out of the 50's, I will use a long sleeve base. Other materials to consider are wool and silk; cotton is not a good choice as it will keep cold moisture directly in contact with your skin.

The next layer should go only on your front. I have a wool item with a velcro fastener that goes in back of my neck. Any non-cotton t-shirt should do the job. Over this (keeping it in place) is your jersey. The final layer on your body should be a jacket or wind shell (something with one layer, not a lined jacket). If your jacket is not wind resistant, you may want to put a large tyvek envelope or part of a paper shopping bag under the front of your jacket.


If temperatures are expected to get above 65 during the ride, you will want to be able to remove everything from your arms. This means wearing short sleeve t-shirts/jerseys. Arm warmers are all you will need for temperatures starting in the mid-50's. Below that, the sleeves on your jacket will complete the job. If temperatures are not expected to get out of the 50's, a long sleeve t-shirt or jersey can be used to provide a permanent arm covering.


You will need a glove that covers your fingers. A glove liner under your regular cycling glove will work. Heavy gloves will probably get too hot before the ride is over.


For most of us, shorts with leg warmers will be sufficient for the lower parts. If you have lightweight tights these will also work. Thermal tights may get too warm when temps reach into the 50's.


Wear two pairs of socks. If you have toe covers for your shoes this might be a good time to use them. If you have really cold feet, shoe covers may help, though they may feel very hot when temps get into the 50's. Plastic sandwich bags over your socks will help for temps in the 40's.


Something to cover your ears will be welcome if temperatures stay in the low 40's very long. Some riders can tolerate a head covering for temps in the 40's; I get too hot with something on my head at around 45 degrees.

Have some way to carry stuff that you take off during the ride. As it warms up, you will want to remove layers to keep from overheating. Your jacket and the extra layer on the front will probably go, as will ear protection and shoe covers. If you are wearing heavy gloves, you will need to switch to lighter ones before finishing. Your jersey pockets can only hold so much. Consider bringing a fanny pack, rack pack, or expanding seat bag.

Winter rides meet at 9 am Saturdays and Sundays. With proper clothing, you can get a good, brisk workout.


Gainesville Cycling Club Web Site