Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Winter Cycling Gear

In my previous post I discussed winter cycling and the joys of riding in the snow.  After heading out this past Sunday as the mercury dipped down to a frosty -16*C, I have a few thoughts on cold weather gear.

Cold weather gear specific to cycling is definitely the best option as far as performance and comfort is concerned but there are other options you can try that are a little less costly, especially if you are trying winter cycling for the first time or you are only planning to ride occasionally during the winter months. Also, if you participate in any other outdoor winter activities, some of the winter cycling gear doesn’t transfer well to another winter sport.

Upper Body

I think the most important thing you can do when preparing for outdoor winter activities is to layer your clothing. I use a Nike Dryfit compression fit long sleeve shirt (it doubles as my shirt I wear under my hockey equipment), a long sleeve cycling jersey and one of a couple different light weight, cold weather jackets I use for XC skiing. I doubt these jackets are much different that the cold weather cycling gear so if you already have something similar in your closet you may not have to shell out any additional money.

Lower Body

There are plenty of options for cold weather cycling tights and even though I don’t use them, I have heard that they are well liked by those cyclists who do. I feel that this is one of the items that I can come up with a customized option from my existing wardrobe. Like most people who ride frequently, I already have a large chamois collection which have no other use than cycling. As far as keeping my lower legs warm, I have Nike Dryfit compression fit pants (also wear these under my hockey equipment) and I have a pair of cold weather pants that I use for XC skiing. When I layer these items I don’t think there is any reduction in performance and I stay warm the entire ride. I would say my current mix-and-match of gear is an adequate alternative to specific cold weather tights.


Cycling specific winter gloves are great. The most commonly used style is called Lobster Claws. They are a combination of mitts and gloves with only a thumb and two fingers. Your index and middle fingers go in one side and your ring and pinkie fingers go in the other side. This will keep your fingers a bit warmer in the way mitts do as each finger isn’t isolated as they are in gloves, but still allows you to two finger brake. Again, I use my existing winter gear as I have plenty of gloves that I use for XC skiing. On colder days gloves aren’t as effective as Lobster Claws, but in temperatures warmer than -15*C I have not required anything warmer than my existing gloves.

I will come back to this topic on my next post to address the last two, and in my opinion most important, areas of concern - your head and your feet.  Stay tuned!

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