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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 11-09-08, 05:03 PM   #1
wb416
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Soreness from winter clothing?

I've been experimenting a bit with different layering on the road and mountain bike rides as the temperature has gone down. Today was the first day I'd worn booties on the clipless shoes, new insulated windproof pants and some 200g polypro jumpsuit. Although everything seemed to have good mobility to it, I felt a bit like I was pedaling in molasses. Now my knees and hips are a bit sore. I'd only worn thin tights to this point, but their arent enough anymore.

Is this common? Can booties over clipless shoes take away some of the "float" that the knee likes? I'm guessing heavier leg wear will sap some speed from your normal average?

Last edited by wb416; 11-10-08 at 06:43 AM. Reason: meant clipless shoes, not pedals
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Old 11-09-08, 05:50 PM   #2
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Yes ... too many layers, and particularly too many tight layers, can cause problems. I developed Patello Femoral Pain Syndrome in my left knee because of a tight tights situation. You've got to have a lot of "give" over the knees.

And yes, just like when you went out to play in the snow as a kid, and your mother dressed you in a bulky snowsuit, and a bunch of extra layers, and you could hardly move ... in the same way cycling in a whole bunch of clothing will feel like cycling through molasses.

I'm not sure what you mean by "booties over clipless pedals". I wear my booties over my shoes, not over the pedals.
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Old 11-09-08, 07:38 PM   #3
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I'm not sure what you mean by "booties over clipless pedals". I wear my booties over my shoes, not over the pedals.
Yep... that's what I meant.... guess I was typing in a daze.

Thanks for your input.
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Old 11-10-08, 08:01 PM   #4
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I've been experimenting a bit with different layering on the road and mountain bike rides as the temperature has gone down. Today was the first day I'd worn booties on the clipless shoes, new insulated windproof pants and some 200g polypro jumpsuit. Although everything seemed to have good mobility to it, I felt a bit like I was pedaling in molasses. Now my knees and hips are a bit sore. I'd only worn thin tights to this point, but their arent enough anymore.

Is this common? Can booties over clipless shoes take away some of the "float" that the knee likes? I'm guessing heavier leg wear will sap some speed from your normal average?
Standard tights and long johns can often cause a problem when cycling because they don't stretch enough around the knee, hips and thighs. For best results layer bike specific tights over bike shorts or bibs. But if you use standard type garments you must as Machka implies, keep them loose fitting. Especially around the hips , thighs and knees. You may need to take in material in the lower leg if they have too much and get caught in the chain.
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Old 11-10-08, 08:58 PM   #5
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My 200 gram polypro's certainly weren't bike specific, so I'm rethinking using those in the future... at least in the combination I did. I do have a larger size, but am wary about using it now. Perhaps a shorter ride.
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Old 11-10-08, 10:33 PM   #6
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My 200 gram polypro's certainly weren't bike specific, so I'm rethinking using those in the future... at least in the combination I did. I do have a larger size, but am wary about using it now. Perhaps a shorter ride.
I basically found that any kind of long john under my cycling pants or tights made it difficult to ride for very long. It's worth it to get two pair of cycling tights. One is mid weight and not very expensive. It is a fuzzy fleece on the inside and woven nylon/spandex on the outside. It's very stretchy material and has no chamois. They usually run about 25-40 USD at REI or bike discounters. These over a pair of standard cycling shorts are good to about 35-40F or lower for some people. Then, if you want to ride in 5-25F temperatures, get a pair of the more weather resistant winter bike pants or tights to wear over the first set of tights and shorts. These are made of thicker more wind resistant material. They are usually about 80-120 USD depending on brand and where you buy.

This or some variation of it works very well for winter riding. You can save money by using old stuff or thrift store layers under your cycling jacket. You don't need bike specific layers there.

Here's a relatively inexpensive solution that is really warm but not breathable enough for long rides( over 1 hour). It works pretty well for moderately paced rides of 1 hour or less. Or even hard rides for 30-45 minutes.

Find a used or cheap pair of nylon insulated ski pants. The cheap breathable kind work the best. They should be kind of loose fitting in the hips, thigh and knee. Then take a little material in at the lower leg to keep them from getting caught in your bike chain and gears and so they are not so baggy. Wear your bike shorts and nothing else under them. It is really warm but will get damp since it can't breath quite well enough for long or intense rides. For moderate rides it works well for an hour or so.

Last edited by Hezz; 11-10-08 at 10:37 PM.
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Old 11-10-08, 11:00 PM   #7
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Some variations I use of what Hezz said above ...

If it's cold, but not too cold, I'll wear cycling shorts, long (knee length) Kodiak wool socks, my cycling tights, and then a pair of knickers over the cycling tights. The knickers are knee-length sports "pants" I picked up from Walmart ... something you'd wear to the gym or yoga class.

This combination means that I've got my calves covered by heavy wool socks and my tights, and I've got my thighs covered by my shorts, tights, and knickers. And my knees only have the tights over them allowing them to move. This is one of my favorite winter combinations.

If it gets really cold, I'll go with that combo, plus a pair of sweatpants overtop.

I don't like the nylon ski pants unless it is really, really cold. I sweat too much in them, and I find them a bit constricting. Plus I slide all over the saddle with them. I'd rather wear another pair of sweatpants or knickers or something.
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Old 11-11-08, 10:05 AM   #8
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Two years ago I wore street clothes most of the winter and my knees killed me.

Last year I wore cheap Nashbar tights. They were fine until I had to layer beneath them. Then I got the molasses feeling, and my cadence dropped from the mid-90s to the mid-80s.

This year I bought two sets of tights--one lightweight and one mid-weight. Among other things (bibs, windfront) both have articulated knees. Thus far I can keep my cadence up and my knees are happy. I'm waiting for a pair of articulated-knee kneewarmers. I'm hoping that will alleviate the problems with layers in the deep winter.
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Old 11-11-08, 06:46 PM   #9
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My legs take forever to warm up, so I tried something different tonight. It was 36F outside, so I did 15 minutes of just spinning on the elliptical machine to get blood pumping in my legs, then climbed into my bike clothing. On my legs, I only wore bike shorts and also what I think people are calling the medium weight Cannondale pants. I only took an hour ride from the hotel, but my legs stayed a bit cool for the entire ride (my glutes were ice by the time I finished). However, I did not experience any knee discomfort and kept my cadence between 90 and 100.

I like the idea of separating "calf protection" from "upper leg" protection. I have a pair of light leg warmers that I first wore with my bike shorts when the air started getting cool. I shall try wearing them under the mid-weight pants tomorrow to see how that works out.
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Old 11-16-08, 02:37 PM   #10
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The temperature and rain has been all over the place in the past few days, so today was the first where I could try a few bike layers.

I had bike shorts, light-weight pants, leg warmers, and medium-weight pants on today in 34F on a 20 mile ride. I made a point of pulling slack occasionally at the knee caps to keep the material loose and it worked great. My legs stayed very comfortable and pain-free. My glutes only got slightly chilled so I was good!

Thanks for all the insight and things to try!
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