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Winter Cycling Don't let snow and ice discourage you this winter. The key element to year-round cycling is proper attire! Check out this winter cycling forum to chat with other ice bike fanatics.

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Old 10-12-06, 07:11 PM   #1
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Thinking outside the LBS

During the summer, most of my cycling clothing is real cycling clothing ... padded shorts, jerseys, cycling gloves, etc. But during the winter, the situation changes and many of my cycling clothes do not come from a bicycle shop, instead they come from other sources such as department stores, thrift shops, etc.

So ... if you use non-cycling attire in the winter, tell us what you use and where you got it.

Here's mine (from the perspective of someone who will ride at any temp, even -40C/F):

-- Ski gloves and mini-gloves purchased very inexpensively from local department stores
-- Headbands, balaclavas, neck gaiters, etc. also purchased very inexpensively from local department stores
-- Socks (all my socks, actually, even the ones I wear in the summer, but especially my winter wool ones) purchased from either Walmart or Superstore
-- Top layers on both upper and lower portions of my body (i.e. sweat pants and sweat shirts) purchased from Walmart or thrift shops
-- Wind/Splash pants purchased from Walmart or thrift shops
-- Polypro base layers purchased from Sierra Trading Post
-- Sorel winter boots for the particularly cold days purchased from a shoe place I worked for a few weeks

How about you?
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Old 10-12-06, 09:20 PM   #2
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I've never used cycling shorts, maybe I should give them a try.

Winter tights -
Headgear - My hunting balaclava and a neoprene facemask I ordered from
Gloves - Full fingered cycling gloves with home made pogies
Upper body - and Wal-Mart
Socks - 80% wool 20% polypro from Sams Club, a 3 pack for $4.00
Rain gear from
Winter boots from Wal-Mart

That about covers it
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Old 10-12-06, 11:04 PM   #3
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Gloves - for moderately cold weather, MEC windproof fleece gloves; for colder weather, Gore-tex insulated mountaineering gloves
Waterproof shell jacket - Lowe Alpine eVent jacket
Windproof soft shell - Mountain Hardwear Vertex jacket
Balaclavas - one silk and one fleece
Waterproof pants - Marmot Precip full zip
Windproof, insulating soft shell pants - Patagonia climbing pants
Socks - heavyweight merino wool hiking socks
Long underwear - polyester or silk

I get all of these from online outdoor gear stores like REI, Sierra Trading Post, Backcountry, Campmor, etc. Really I just use Froogle to search for the lowest prices. I'm also a hiker/mountaineer so I like to buy clothing that can be used for hiking as well.
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Old 10-13-06, 11:50 AM   #4
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I'm totally with Machka. Winter riding is hard on clothing so I can't see spending a fortune on it. Also, I don't think cycling gear companies do a lot of research on cold weather gear, because there's such a small market for it. So most of the LBS stuff won't even keep you warm, and it's way too expensive.

I buy winter stuff at discount stores, thrift shops, ski shops and hunting/camping stores. I wear summer cycling shorts under long johns and pants, because I have a sensitive butt.

Oh--one more point. I can afford a lot of gear if I buy cheaper stuff, so I can find stuff in my clost for every kind of weather. Also, even the discount gear is better than the gear my ancestors had when they came to the wilderness of Michigan and chopped down every tree they found. And the native people that they wiped out would be practically naked all winter, at least when they were hunting.

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Old 10-13-06, 11:58 AM   #5
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I'm just the opposite. When it comes to freezing and sometimes life threatening temperatures, cost becomes less of an issue. In the summer, one could presumably ride naked and be ok.

I wear cycling specific stuff in the summer and winter but agree that you don't have to have ALL cycling specific stuff for winter or summer. But it sure does work better than non specific stuff. A jacket is a good example. It is very nice to have pit zips and long arms with a long tailored back. Everything stays covered, even when seated on the bike. The pit zips are great thermostats allowing one to heat up or cool down quickly.

My non cycling specific winter stuff:

Wolverine insulated hiking boots: I wear these when it's too cold for the Lake Winter boots. That temp is right around 20 F for me.


All my winter gloves come from Target or Walmart.


My heavy wool socks all came from Walmart

Ear bands: Walmart again.

Everything else is pretty much cycling specific.

Last edited by Portis; 10-14-06 at 10:31 AM.
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Old 10-13-06, 04:06 PM   #6
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Maybe I'm just immune to the cold from living in the PNW for my whole life, but I get by with layering under a set of warmups I picked up from Wal-Mart for $20 or so. I wear wool socks inside my shoes, and if it gets really cold I can wear long johns. Right now I'm riding in shorts & long-sleeved shirt under my warmups in the morning (35-45F) and just shorts and long-sleeve shirt in the afternoon (55-75F). Then again, here in the PNW everywhere you need to go is a 1000' climb from where you're at, or so it seems!
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Old 10-14-06, 12:01 AM   #7
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I find that cycling specific clothes used for layering in winter are too expensive and uncomfortable due to zippered pickets bunching up and further, form fitting clothes don't feel good when used with too many layers.

For the top, under a cycling jacket I use wicking ski underwear or sportsmans wicking thermals. Cheap fleece pullovers or jackets without rear pockets work well. Especially if they are stretch fleece and one size smaller than you would wear for casual use. Because they fit a little more snug under the cycling jacket.

One thing that works really well for 50 degree F rides is a single snug polar fleece jacket under a very wind resistant cycling jacket. No shirt is needed as the fleece wicks very well.

For gloves I make my own out of 10 dollar walmart ski gloves by ripping out the fleece linings and waterproof barrier. I combine a nylon shell with a fleece glove and this works very well.

For pants I use a bike tight over biking shorts if not below freezing. Below freezing I use inexpensive snowboarding pants from the local discounter. Lightly insulated ones of lightweight nylon or polyester work the best. In other words, the cheap kind. I sew the lower legs so they are not so baggy at the bottom but I leave them baggy at the knee and hip and they work very well. I just wear bike shorts under them with no long tights. They are very warm and very comfortable. I don't know why but the large air space combined with nearly total wind block and light insulation create the perfect leg environment. My legs sweat far less in these pants and when I do they still are more comfortable than tights.

I have tried everything for my feet and although I have winter cycling shoes they don't keep my feet warm for more than an hour when it's much below freezing. The normal shoes with neoprene socks and wool socks and neoprene covers work about as well as the winter shoes with thick socks but still not good for more than about an hour below freezing.

I have a new plan this year for the feet inspired by extreme altitude mountaineering boots.

The only thing that has really worked to keep my feet really warm has been a pair of light weight winter mountaineering boots. However, I want to use my SPD pedals and I don't want to destroy the boot soles. And in any event they are heavier than I want in a bike boot even though they are relatively light by mountaineering boot standards.

Even many winter riders who have Lakes and other cold weather cycling shoes seem to agree that they are not warm enough for prolonged really cold tempertures.

One expensive idea that I had was a pair of ultralight ice climbing boots from La Sportiva. They have a very stiff sole and are insulated but are about three pounds. Light for mountaineering boots but heavy for cycling. And they are 400 USD so I need a cheaper solution.

This is what I am going to do this year. The idea is based on the double boot concept. The inner boot should serve as the backbone of the cycling pedal stroke and need to have the following properties. Light weight, very rigid sole and very breathable. And have total ankle flexibility. Guess what, this is served very well by a good quality standard cycling shoe. I just bought some Sidi bullet 2 mega's. They are wider for wide feet but also give more room for thicker socks.

Now the outer boot is the real problem but should be easy to solve in the DIY fashion. I have found that neoprene overboots have two problems. They are great for wet conditions and the cold as long as it's not really too cold. They just don't have enough insulation. And it seems that there is also a practical limit with how many thick socks you can wear under oversize cycling shoes because once your lower legs are so thick with socks you can't get your tights zipped up. I also find that neoprene socks next to the skin as a vapor barrier work quite well but are a pain to put on.

This brings up the second problem with neoprene overboots. They don't let your foot breath and moisture gets trapped in the insulating layers and makes them less effective. That's why I wear a neoprene sock next to the skin when using neoprene over boots because they keep the vapor from going into the wool sock. But as I stated above, I hate to put these things on because it is so much work and conflicts with my KISS desire for bike riding.

So, unless you are in tempertures at or above freezing or are going to be crossing ice flows in the Iditrod you don't need waterproof overboots. In fact, keeping the whole system wind resistant but breathable will yield warmer feet because moisture from the foot is not trapped in the shoe or the insulation layers. Even if you do need waterproof soles and rands around the foot for standing a short time in slush while commuting the top of the outer overboot needs to be breathable.

I found this out rather by accident when I bought an inexpensive pair of winter snow boots that were not the rubber toe kind. They are moderately insulated but completely breathable and my feet always stay warm in them.

So it turns out the best solution for below freezing riding is also the lightest and cheapest. And that is to make some homemade overboots out of basic outdoor materials. The only design issue is that they can't be very thick on the inside of the foot where the cranks rotate because there isn't much clearance.

I figure aerodynamics aren't that important in winter since the air is so dense at really cold temperatures that you can't pedal that fast anyway. Actually, you can pedal fast but it's just more work to move at the same speed as in warm air conditions. And since you've got more clothing on, higher cadence pedalling is also more difficult.

So I plan to make my own overboots that are well insulated and fully breathable. Simple Nylon and polyester shell material will do with a fleece lining on the thin side. Maybe some Cordura on the inside to resist crank abrasion and a thicker polyester fill covering most of the foot on the outside. A thin closed cell foam on the bottom since the sole of the foot is a major pathway for cold to enter on a cycling shoe. And maybe some thin neoprene for the sole material.

I've tried to see if anyone makes anything like this but all the companies just make copy cat neoprene booties saying theirs are the best. Well some might be better designed but they are all about the same in terms of warmth.

Last edited by Hezz; 10-21-06 at 12:09 PM.
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Old 10-14-06, 06:53 AM   #8
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I spent 7 years working outside doing land surveying and archaeology, so I have quite a bit of cold weather clothing. Haven't had the need yet though (I've only been cycling since Aug.

I was sorting through my winter stuff, and I think most of it is fine, but my shoes are all clunky and heavy. So I'll be looking through these posts and others for shoe suggestions.
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Old 10-14-06, 07:44 AM   #9
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The only LBS clothing I wear in winter are shorts as underwear, everything else is std hiking or travel kit.
Merino T shirt
Rohan or Ron Hill pants
Paramo wind/rain jacket
wool sock

Footwear is the hardest choice. I like a high top to fit under my rainpants but high boots are big and heavy. My perfect winter boot would be waterproof with a high rubber/leather rand then light, unpadded cordura upper with no insulation and a light, slim, stiff sole. The closest I have seen is a fell running boot no longer in production/
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Old 10-14-06, 08:21 AM   #10
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I have a couple of light sports-type wind breaker jackets with some water repelant qualities which are multi purpose. I do wear long cycling pants on occasion. But when the winter temps turn truly bitter cold, frequently reaching into the 40 degree range, I retreat to the garage and ride the trainer. Bitter, southern Arizona winters can be a challenge
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Old 10-14-06, 08:29 PM   #11
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Winter biking every day can be expensive. I try to buy things that can be worn elsewhere, in case the purchase doesn't work out for biking. But the winter-specific stuff accumulated over 5 yrs, the costs look like this:

210 Winter tights 3 pairs (cycling specific) My co. awarded 1 pair for not driving @$60
$ 6 Wool socks 3 pairs
$90 Gaerne winter boots (cycling specific)
100 waterproof rain pants 2 pairs (1 homemade, one SP) SP pants are worn through in the seat
160 SP rain jacket (cycling specific)
100 Marmot ATV soft shell jacket
$34 Sweaters 3 used wool
$ 0 Hats 2 homemade, and rain liner for helmet
$ 0 Leg Gaiters 2 homemade with leftover fabric from rain pants
$ 0 Neck Gaiter already had it
$10 Wrap Gaitor
$32 Goatskin, and ski gloves 2 pairs
742 That's no set of chump change!!! About $148/year

Stuff I bought and wear elsewhere that failed because it was too hot, freezing, sweaty, or whatever, is not incuded. Let's not go there

Last edited by vrkelley; 10-14-06 at 08:42 PM.
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Old 10-15-06, 03:35 PM   #12
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I usually go with some insulated leggings, a good windbreaker, and a balaclava to keep my face from getting wind-chapped.
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Old 10-15-06, 04:45 PM   #13
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I find winter to be much cheaper than my summer cycling spending.
No need to purchase $80 jerseys or cycling shorts.
I use the same items for summer in winter and add a few layers.
It is fairly warm still with 35F in the morning. This results in me adding a poly longjohn top, skull cap, light cycling gloves, tights, and a cycling jacket.
This year I plan on adding a few thrift wool sweaters, a neck gaiter, possibly a new pair of tights, a more form fitted cycling jacket (maybe), and possibly a better set of gloves.

To answer the question:
I have a target and kohls near me.
Consequently, I own several sets of champion poly longjohn tops and a longjohn bottom.
Wool socks from skiing and a few poly shirts from Kohls and Target. Also, a nike dri fit shirt from Espn.

This year is already showing a few new challenges caused by a longer commute and a quicker bike. I am sure this list will change as the weather cools down.
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Old 10-15-06, 05:57 PM   #14
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sorry, I've gone to the other side completely, I almost don't own any clothes that aren't cycling specific. I keep a suit in a garment bag in my office if I need to do a meeting.
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Old 10-16-06, 01:00 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by fruitless
sorry, I've gone to the other side completely, I almost don't own any clothes that aren't cycling specific. I keep a suit in a garment bag in my office if I need to do a meeting.

Do you find your winter cycling attire warm enough for sub-freezing conditions?

I've yet to find tights that are still warm when the temps drop to about -10C let alone -30C!!
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Old 10-16-06, 01:19 AM   #16
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My two main winter sports are biking and XC skiing (I'm hoping to get tour skating in the mix too). The XC skiing boots are useful for that one purpose only, but pretty much everything else can be used in either sports. So far I've only used the silk balaclava when biking, but if the weather was cold enough, I could imagine wearing that when skiing as well.

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Old 10-16-06, 01:26 PM   #17
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Actually, I've been wearing cross country ski boots to ride to work for a couple of weeks, now. They're the old three-pin binding style, so the main difference between them and boots is the longer, square toe. I have longer clips on the pedals than I need for my foot size, so they fit quite well. I have two pairs of these boots, but I've decided the newer, synthetic ones are too waterproof and fit too tight. I've switched to some oversized ancient leather ones that are quite comfortable. (Except on the ride home, cause it still gets up into the sixties in the afternoon. That's why I don't wear the plastic ones. They stink.) And since I can wear more than one pair of socks, I'm hoping they'll be good down to zero or so. If it's raining, I wear my gaiters to keep water out of the boots.

I find that what I wear when XC skiing isn't wind resistant enough for biking. I'd just wear nylon pants over thermals and a t-shirt and sweater for skiing. But on a bike, the wind chill makes anything cotton too cold. (I always sweat when I ride, even if most of my skin is freezing already.) It hasn't gotten much below freezing, yet.

I've been wearing biking tights with non-biking synthetic long underwear as a base layer.
On top I wear a jersery and arm warmers under fleece or synthetic sweatshirt, and a homemade fleece neck gaiter on colder days.

I've never biked through winter before, so I have basically gone through my wardrobe (and my wife's) trying different kinds of clothing to find what works. As it gets colder, I'll probably have to buy a windbreaker. The Pearl iZumi waterproof/breathable jacket I have is not breathable. It's made from eVent fabric, but I get soaked with sweat whenever I wear it.

XC ski boots look really lame with tights, but after a few years of wearing spandex I don't much care if I look lame. (I just have to stay close to the bike.)
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Old 10-19-06, 06:46 PM   #18
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You really have to try the modified cheap snowboarding pants for -10 to -30 C conditions. They work very well. You have to find the ones that are lightly insulated with thinsulate or something similar. Then just sew the inside seams up a little at the bottom so they aren't so baggy in the lower leg.

You wouldn't think that they would work because they don't wick like tights next to your skin. This is true but I have found that by not wearing tights under them (just shorts) my legs don't sweat much but create this warm, acceptably humid environment for the legs. My legs don't get over heated or cold they feel just right.
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Old 10-19-06, 07:14 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Machka
Do you find your winter cycling attire warm enough for sub-freezing conditions?

I've yet to find tights that are still warm when the temps drop to about -10C let alone -30C!!

You really ought to call Lou at Foxwear. He is a cyclist and understands how to make tights that work for cycling. He made me a pair of powershield tights a couple winters ago, and I can't say enough about them. On top of that, he sends you several fabric samples and lets you pick, with his input of course.

Plus the price is very reasonable. These are the only tights i have found that i would recommend.
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Old 10-20-06, 08:30 AM   #20
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wool undershirts.

softshell clothing. pants by the likes of the Marmot ATV, the Patagonia superguides, or any pant made with Schoeller and layered with some long johns underneath. non laminate softshell jackets for better breathability than a gore tex hard shell.

gore windstopper N2S helmet liner. made by Mountain Hardwear, easily my most favorite non cycling specific clothing item....i bought three of them just so i'd have extras when they start to wear out or i lose one....

leather work gloves with wool liners underneath.

warm boots. USAF Mukluks (green canvas, knee high, wool felted liner, rubber sole) are hella warm and LIGHT. great, extreme cold footwear. you DON'T want to wear them when its close to freezing, but far far below that.
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Old 11-28-06, 01:05 PM   #21
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Yesterday while walking back to my car from class my levis got soaked by a cold wet snow. So I immeadiately went to the outdoor retailer discount store and got a good pair of snowboarding pants for 70 bucks. They were way too long but fit good everywhere else. I hemmed the bottom, cut out the snow cuff and tapered the lower leg from the knee down.

They are a non insulated kind of pants with a very water resistant and breathable shell material and lightweight polyester lining.

I wore them today with only denim shorts underneath as a test to see if they would be cool enough indoors. They worked really well. Both warm outside and cool enough inside to wear witout taking them off.

I then hit on the idea that this would be a good commuting combination for short and medium length rides if the shorts were synthetic. Then I hit upon the idea of using some Wrangler wrancher 100% polyester jeans and making either knee length shorts or messenger over the knee shorts out of them.

I can't find any of the polyester jeans locally so I'm going to order them on the internet. They can be had for 26 USD a pair so making shorts out of them doesn't seem to stressful.

The nice thing about this setup is that you can take off the shell pants if you get too hot and have some nice casual shorts to wear indoors. Plus because the shorts are real pants with pockets and things you can carry your keys and wallet, etc. Without having to transfer this stuff to other pockets.

For longer rides bike shorts underneath should work better.
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Old 11-28-06, 02:51 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Machka
Do you find your winter cycling attire warm enough for sub-freezing conditions?

I've yet to find tights that are still warm when the temps drop to about -10C let alone -30C!!

I was off-the-grid for about a month and didn't respond. I'm ok in -10C to -30C and thereabouts in either PI Amphibs or Performance triflex tights with a good polypropylene layer underneath. PI Amphibs really don't fit me right and now Performance quit making the Triflex tights in a bib style so I am on the hunt again. I just bought a pair of Adidas "arctic" bib tights that were on sale at Nashbar and I will report if they are adequate. I don't spend the time in-the-saddle you do even in the summer so my clothing choices probably don't apply and I still can't figure out how you manage fogging/icing while wearing eyelasses
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Old 12-01-06, 01:09 AM   #23
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If you can knit?

You can use your old jogging err mabye x pants. Just one leg or two
You use the feet opening for you face. roll the other portion double fold note you sewing skills for draw strings .

Wal mart working gloves 3 dollars
3 dollar PVC gloves

85 cent liners

Me I use two pairs of liner and working gloves.
I can even find them laying on the side of the road.

Salvation army for t-shirts , sweators, and such.
2 dollars on up.

My current sub 40 F cause that is pretty much all I see.
60 bucks, beanie hat, the pant leg things, liner n work gloves, wool socks, N.A.T.O. jacket, layered clothing, Tatical boots, long under wears.

things I might buy if needed.

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Old 12-01-06, 10:41 AM   #24
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Kid skin gloves work really well. Thanks Bek
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