12 Tips for Staying Warm During Winter Bike Rides

Wear Wool

When I started mountaineering in the 1960s in Washington, the best gear was army surplus wool clothing. We wore it hiking in the rain and climbing the snow-covered volcanoes. I still wear wool for warmth because it retains its insulating quality even when wet from sweat or precipitation! Wool is both a great wicking layer and an excellent insulating layer.

Get a Good Coat

When you go shopping for a winter coat, look for these characteristics:

  • A two-way zipper or Velcro closure in the front to adjust the ventilation. Also, by opening from the bottom you can reach your jersey pockets. Zippers have a fabric baffle on the inside of the zipper--test that this is large enough that it won't get caught in the zipper.
  • Pit zips to allow you to increase or decrease the ventilation, which should be covered on the outside by the coat fabric.
  • A long tail to cover your buttocks. On some coats this flap can be folded up inside and secured with Velcro when it isn't raining.
  • Adjustable wrists, which can be tightened with Velcro. Elastic wrists can let in a lot of cold air.
  • A high protective collar to keep your neck warm and dry.
  • Reflective material across the back and front and down the sleeves.

More: Cycling in the Wind: Beginner Basics

Cover Your Knees

Your knees have very poor circulation and chill easily. As they get colder their lubricating fluid gets thicker and doesn't do as good a job of lubricating the joint. This increases the risk of injury. Around Boulder, I see the pros that are paid to ride wearing knee warmers even with temps in the 60s! To protect your knees, wear knee warmers, knickers or tights when the temperature is below 65 degrees.

Legs

Because your legs are working and generating heat they need less protection than your torso. Depending on conditions you could wear knee warmers, tights, knee warmers under the tights or tights with a wind-proof front. Rain pants tend to get in the way. If your legs are getting wet, try mountaineering gaiters or spats, the English combination of a gaiter and bootie.

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