Freeze! The Cyclist’s Guide For Winter Warmth Is Here!
That time of year is upon us and for many parts of the UK, it’s already happened: the glorious sunny days of summer are over and the dark nights are drawing in, along with a decent dose of biting winds, heavy showers and later on, frost, sleet and snow. Luckily, this all comes as no surprise to us and the cold and wet isn’t exactly classed as ‘freak weather’ but it’s coming, whether we like it or not. In a recent blog post, we mentioned how to get your bike ready for winter and promised that we’d follow it up with a guide on getting yourself prepared. Here it is! We’re going to tell you what you should be wearing if you want to survive the winter on two wheels.
If your bike isn’t ready yet, follow this link to find out what you need to do; setting your bike up properly is the first point in your line of defense against the winter weather. There’s no point getting dressed up for a ride if you’re only going to be splashing water all over yourself; get your mudguards on before you even think about your clothing choices!
The key to keeping warm isn’t about how thick your clothing, it’s how you trap the air in between it. A big coat isn’t ideal for cycling so you’re going to have to revert to layering. Layering is the only tried and tested way of keeping warm on two wheels and if you’re not layering, you’re going to freeze in a heartbeat. It’s not just about the layers either, it’s how you layer them that’s important. To layer correctly, you need to tuck one garment into another, trapping a layer of warm air inside each layer – hence the name. Fortunately, modern cycling gear is specifically designed to be nice and tight, so there’s isn’t much tucking to do at all. You just need to have the right gear!
The Bottom Layer
Starting from the bottom, you’ll need a decent layer to work up from; for your legs and top half, you’ll want long sleeve base layer that feels good against your skin; you want nothing that chafes, something that locks in heat and doesn’t let the cold in. The bottom layer is like your core and it needs to be effective if you’re going to stand any chance of staying warm; there are plenty of good brands that offer varying styles of base layers. If you cycle every day, it’s well worth investing in the expensive gear.
The Middle Layer
Your middle layer of clothing can be as thick or as thin as you see fit; you might have a decent, thick jersey, or you might want to double up a couple of thinner ones. What you do here is really up to you, it all depends on how well your body deals with the cold. A mid weight winter jersey is a great choice because they’re usually made of polyester with a good fleece lining underneath. This type of middle layer for your top half is great but it won’t keep the wind or water out. Depending on your heat tolerance, you might want to save the waterproof and windproof stuff for the top layer; if not, try searching for a lightweight and fleece lined wind and waterproof jacket. You can call that your middle and top layer and be done with it. If you can find brands that use water resistant fabrics for lightweight and mid weight jerseys, call that a result and invest, especially if they come equipped with a high collar and strong, elasticated cuffs.
For the bottom half, your regular cycling shorts can be used but you will run the risk of chafing. Ideally, some bib style tights that slip over your bottom layer will work wonders. If you can’t get your hands on any, try using leg warmers and knee warmers to keep your legs warm.
The Top Coat
The best bet for your layer is a decent, lightweight waterproof jacket. If you can get one that packs down to a small size, then that’s the one for you. The majority of waterproofs on the market these days are completely wind and waterproof, utilizing Gore-tex technology to prevent any rain getting in but allowing any unwanted vapour to get out.
The real benefit to the lightweight shell is that you can easily take it off and transport it; they’re not cumbersome items of clothing and you can put them on when you feel a change in the weather and take it off when it’s mild.
It’s all very well layering your top and trousers but you’ve also got to consider your more exposed parts, like your feet and hands. Luckily, the UK winter is fairly predictable so you can guarantee that rain is going to be a daily threat; the best way to counter rain is to invest in a decent neoprene overshoe. If you’re commuting in the city, this is all that you should need; if you’re in the wild, you might want to invest in a fleece and thermal bootie. The important thing to remember about either type is to get the fit right; if they don’t fit you perfectly, the cold and wet will find it’s way in. Team them up with winter socks and you’re good to go.
Gloves are a difficult one to call; too thin and you may end up freezing, too thick and you may be struggling to brake! Obviously, your choice of glove should reflect the weather conditions; if it’s mild with a hint of rain you can get away with a pair of lightweight gloves; if it’s a cold and dry day, you can opt for thicker, better lined gloves; if the heavens are open and it’s cold, you’ll want something fully waterproof and warm too, or you’ll have cold hands for the duration of your journey.
The gloves that you wear should reflect your environment and there’s no ideal ‘all ‘rounder’.
Pretty much all cycle helmets are equipped with decent vents on the top; great in summer, not so great in winter. Although the ‘you lose the majority of your body heat from your head’ myth has been busted, it doesn’t mean you should let it freeze. Wearing a beanie hat underneath your helmet is one cure but if you want to go further a proper skull cap will really help you to keep your head warm – in fact, a shower cap is probably better than nothing!
You can team up your warm head with a warm neck by investing in a decent neck tube. Neck tubes aren’t only reserved for motorcyclists; they can offer you amazing protection from the elements in a variety of different ways. Neck tubes come in a wide range of styles and materials from light cotton to neoprene; having something around your neck and face will really help to keep the cold at bay.
So that’s all there is to it; wear the right gear and wear it correctly and you should be able to face even the toughest conditions this winter!