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  1. #1
    Fax Transport Specialist black_box's Avatar
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    starting a cold weather wardrobe

    I need some serious wardrobe help for fall/winter riding but the number of options is crazy. I don't commute, just fun riding of 1-3 hours (weekends only for now). Fast on pavement, slow on gravel or light singletrack, all in the same ride. maybe some cyclocross racing next year. I tend to be on the warm side, so here's my list of thoughts:

    1) windbreaker pant with minimal insulation. is there a loose-fitting tight or snug-fit pants with zipper vents? I thought I saw some that had zippered mesh pockets that you could open for ventilation. Does this need to be cycling specific? or just something with a snug fit around the ankle? maybe this can handle light rain too?

    2) tights or bib for warmth under the windbreaker pants (or in place of them?). do I put tights over my summer bibs, or get a winter bib w/ chamois? performance bike triflex seems popular and comes in bibs, tights w/ chamois, and tights w/out chamois. would regular tights w/ chamois be better in winter for layering?

    3) shell jacket. Are zip-off sleeves or pit zips a big air leak when its cold? Can one shell do spring/fall/winter?

    4) layering insulation. poly shirts and fleece/wool. all the fleece I own lets the wind right through it, is that bad? or is it only the special soft-shell fleece that blocks the wind? Is it bad to put a hard shell over a soft-shell fleece jacket?

    5) head/face coverage. Hat + facemask or gaiter? or one of those combo balaclavas? Which is easier to adjust for exertion levels?

    I'm comfortable in my summer gear down to 55F. I was thinking I'd add the windbreaker pants at 50F, then either add or switch to the tights. Or should the baggy fit be avoided unless really necessary, like in the rain? any suggestions on pants and jacket? I also need socks and gloves, but found some good suggestions here already.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    There have been quite a few threads on this discussion the the last 30 days so be sure to read through some of the older posts in the forum.

    You don't need a lot of clothing to get by in Winter. Here are some of my critical layers:

    Coat Part 1: I bought a shoft shell coat from www.foxwear.net for around $80. The modern fleece available today is very Wind resistant yet lets moisture pass out easily. The materials also do a remarkably good job of shedding show and light rain. This can by a top layer from 15 all the way up to 50F with nothing more than a wicking T shirt underneath. I use the main zipper as my temp control

    Coat Part 2: The only time the soft shell is in dire need of help is during hard rain. DWR will not protect you from "real" rain for that you'd need a shell to give you better protection. A rain shell can also be very helpful as an additional layer for when you are riding in truely cold weather (single digits). Most rain shells are light and pack up pretty nicely so I carry one with me all the time.

    Legs: I have a pair of Illuminite tights. I like these as they are medium thickness and a somewhat loose fit. I can wear these into a store or walk into the school and not feel overly self contious. These tights are good from around 32F to 65F. I go for unpadded tights as I wear these most often during commuting. I'll use approriate bottom layer depending on the length of my ride. For commuting regular underwear and swimming trunks may a perfectly fine 1st layer. For longer rides I'll pull out my cycling shorts and wear them under the tights. For weather well below freezing I used to have to add my rain pants. I have a set of Winter riding pants on order from Lou at foxwear and will report on them as soon as they come in. They will be made of much more wind resistant material and also should be thicker for better insulation on riding in cold weather. I may still need to add an extra layer for Single digit riding weather, but those temperatures are the exception to my commute. Most Winter days the temps tend to be in the 20's in the morning.

    Base layer: I am quite comfortable with just a wicking T shirt. For extra cold days I may add my long sleeve cycling jersey as an additional layer.

    Happy riding,
    André

  3. #3
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    Call Lou and have him fix you up with some duds. I wear a lot of his stuff and have been very happy with it. The prices are extremely reasonable and you get exactly what you want.

    http://www.foxwear.net

  4. #4
    Senior Member kk4df's Avatar
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    If you start with a good wool base layer and a windproof pair of tights, you can get by without even a jacket on many mornings. I ride with a wool base layer with a synthetic layer, jersey, then a windproof vest on top of that on mornings in the mid 20s (deg F) and up. I also have arm and leg warmers on, gloves with wool liners, and face mask, and heavy beanie cap. On mornings that I've worn my cycling jacket, I get sweaty and have to slow down. It takes me about 1 to 2 miles to warm up, but you should be chilly when you start riding. It took me a while to figure out just what I needed to wear, but it's much less than I had imagined if you start with a wool base layers. Until I got wool next to my skin, I would sweat a little bit, get that layer a bit wet, and then it would get cold. That's not the case with wool; trust me.
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  5. #5
    Neither rain, snow... dsm iv tr's Avatar
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    I don't know about all of the stuff on your list, so I'll comment on what works for me.

    I have a shell jacket with zip off sleeves, and there is a little leakage of air. I like it, though, because it vents my torso a tiny bit while not really removing too much warmth.

    As to head/face/neck, a balaclava is the only way to go. Incredibly warm, and you can easily adjust it if you get the lycra+fleece type. If you think you're going to be adjusting it often, get one in a slightly larger size than you really need. In that way you'll have no tension issues pulling it down off your face.
    "You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need."
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  6. #6
    Super Biker Mtn Mike's Avatar
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    For a base or mid layer: I"m partial to merino wool. Wool stays much warmer when wet than any synthetic I've used. It also doesn't start stinking after one ride.

    For a shell: I'll usually use a windstopper unless it's wet out, then maybe a waterproof shell.

    For legs: windstopper with varrying thickness baselayer depending on temperature

    Hands: I used snowboarding/ski gloves in the past, but Amfib Lobsterclaws are on my wishlist this year.

    Head: windstopper cap to balaclava depeending on temperature

    Feet: Lake 300's, best purchase ever.

  7. #7
    Sensible shoes. CastIron's Avatar
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    It's impossibly expensive, but anything Patagonia R1--especially the hoodie--is golden. It's got all the wind resistance of a screen door, but is damn near magic with moisture and temperature control. I wore it head to toe this morning.
    Mike
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  8. #8
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by black_box View Post
    I need some serious wardrobe help for fall/winter riding but the number of options is crazy. I don't commute, just fun riding of 1-3 hours (weekends only for now). Fast on pavement, slow on gravel or light singletrack, all in the same ride. maybe some cyclocross racing next year. I tend to be on the warm side, so here's my list of thoughts:
    Since you tend to be on the warm side, rethink some of your choices. Even in very cold weather, it's easy to overheat. Remember you aren't sitting on a ski lift somewhere you are actively generating lots of heat.

    Quote Originally Posted by black_box View Post
    1) windbreaker pant with minimal insulation. is there a loose-fitting tight or snug-fit pants with zipper vents? I thought I saw some that had zippered mesh pockets that you could open for ventilation. Does this need to be cycling specific? or just something with a snug fit around the ankle? maybe this can handle light rain too?
    I have some wind pants and some rain pants. I hardly ever use them. Your legs are working harder than any other part of your body and generating lots of heat because of it. One layer of tights work well for around 60 F down to the mid 20s for me. For lower temperatures, I add another layer either of tights or long underwear.

    Quote Originally Posted by black_box View Post
    2) tights or bib for warmth under the windbreaker pants (or in place of them?). do I put tights over my summer bibs, or get a winter bib w/ chamois? performance bike triflex seems popular and comes in bibs, tights w/ chamois, and tights w/out chamois. would regular tights w/ chamois be better in winter for layering?
    Bib tights are warmer in my opinion because they cover part of your chest. Get them without chamois so that you can layer them better. You don't want to start out on a cool morning wearing only tights (no shorts) and have the temperature go up on you to the point where you need to take the tights off. It could get you arrested

    Pearl Izumi Slice Thermafleece tights are the best tights I've ever owned. I have 4 pairs of them I have on pair of PI Amfib tights but those are only good if you know that the temperature isn't going above about 40 F. They are way warm. I use them for temps below 25 F and seldom need anything more under them.

    Quote Originally Posted by black_box View Post
    3) shell jacket. Are zip-off sleeves or pit zips a big air leak when its cold? Can one shell do spring/fall/winter?
    I have a jacket with zip-off sleeves and I seldom take the sleeves off. Something simple like a PI Zephyr (I sound like a walking ad. for Pearl Izumi) works very well for me. They block the wind well and I wear them over layered jerseys or just my short sleeve jersey from 10 F to 60 F. They get a bit clammy around 55 F, however.

    Quote Originally Posted by black_box View Post
    4) layering insulation. poly shirts and fleece/wool. all the fleece I own lets the wind right through it, is that bad? or is it only the special soft-shell fleece that blocks the wind? Is it bad to put a hard shell over a soft-shell fleece jacket?
    Thin, non bulky layers are better then something thick. For a typical winter morning commute, I wear a short sleeve jersey, a long sleeve light shirt with a zipper neck (Duofolds are my favorite). Over that I put on a heavier jersey if the temperature is below 20 or a lighter weight one if the temp is over 20. Some of these jerseys are wool and some aren't. Then a wind jacket goes over that.

    Quote Originally Posted by black_box View Post
    5) head/face coverage. Hat + facemask or gaiter? or one of those combo balaclavas? Which is easier to adjust for exertion levels?
    If you ride hot like you say, you may find balaclavas too hot. I only use a very thin one for the coldest temps I can stand (~15 F). Most of the time, I use nothing more than an fleece ear warmer and a helmet that has blocked vents. Much more than that and I have sweat dripping off my nose. Eeeew! I find that I can control temperature more easily with the zipper fronts of my shirt layers than by trying to control it with my head.

    The one item you are forgetting is gloves. My hands are never a problem so I wear thin wind resistant gloves. I've never found bicycle specific winter gloves to be that useful however. REI has lots of winter ski gloves that work. Look for wind resistance and as little bulk as you can get away with. You still have to manipulate your controls and you don't want great big bulky gloves while trying to brake

    Quote Originally Posted by black_box View Post
    I'm comfortable in my summer gear down to 55F. I was thinking I'd add the windbreaker pants at 50F, then either add or switch to the tights. Or should the baggy fit be avoided unless really necessary, like in the rain? any suggestions on pants and jacket? I also need socks and gloves, but found some good suggestions here already.
    My rule of thumb has always been to cover my knees at 60F. The area around the knee has poor circulation. Something that fits closer to the body is usually better for any kind of riding.

    Hope this helps.
    Stuart Black
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  9. #9
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    I dont think one windproof can cope with all conditions. A featherweight one that is is OK for milder days is not much use against an icy wind. You can use them doubled up or get a heavier duty windproof with a high collar and good elasticated seals. I'm not a great fan of membrane-layer windproofs, they dont breathe well and all membranes eventually fail. A simple tight-weave material is cheaper, more breathable and more durable.
    Wind vents, leaks,seals are an issue. In icy cold I prefer to seal up totally to prevent draughts. A less breathable jacket gets clammy this way.
    Midlayers need a windproof shell in winter.
    Sleeveless layers/shells provide a lot of fine tuning. You can put sleeveless insulation over your windproof during warmups/stops
    Dont forget your feet. You can put stuff inside or outside your shoes. I prefer inside so use Sealskin socks and wool inner socks. Neoprene /goretex outers are another route.

  10. #10
    doom rider sedition's Avatar
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    A few suggestions:

    (1) Pick a local, short route. 5 miles or so. Note the outside tempature, and go for a ride. Put on a **** load of gear, and go for a ride. You'll prolly realize after 2-3 miles that your really hot. Now you know what is too much gear to wear.

    (2) later, do the same route again, with less gear. Bring a bag with some extra stuff in case you get too cold. Repeat this process until you find your ideal body tempature and / or amount of gear you need. Usually, it will be far less than you would think you really need.

    (3) As a general rule, feet, hands, and face are the things you really need to worry about. Wool socks are great. Get those little "hot pocket" things if your feet get cold easy. Ski/snowboard mitts (not gloves) are the warmest. I am huge fan of the Under Armour hood/balaclava. It's thin as hell, but very warm.

    (4) Add the above, plus Under Armour cold gear as baselayer, fleece 2nd layer, and a jacket and you'll be warm as hell.

    (5) If it's super cold, windy, and you wear contacts, your going to need some kinda eye covering. Grab some cheap ski/snowboard goggles.

    (6) Last, I really think fixed-gear is the best to ride in the winter. Since you got bulky gloves on, you don't have gears to mess with. You don't have all the street crud getting in your derailer and the such. Last, I think you a much better sense of traction (ice/snow), which can be essential in the winter.
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