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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 11-25-08, 11:30 PM   #1
alfie43
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Thoughts on cold weather clothing

I am always surprised and even astonished by the wide range of suggestions people here will offer to others on cold weather clothing. The recommendations will range from cotton sweats, (huh?) ski gear, snowmobile gear, army surplus, hunting gear, to the high tech space age synthetic fabrics for runners and cyclists.

As a Michigan outdoor winter enthusiast for 40 years, I have ran, skied and biked in the worst of conditions, but I am wary of offering specific clothing suggestions to anyone. What works for me may not, and probably will not, work for you. The reason we see such a wide variety of solutions offered from our well-meaning forum members is because we have different capabilities to tolerate cold weather, different metabolisms, and most importantly, we ride at different levels of physical exertion.

With that said, my primary cold weather strategy is all about wind proofing. When I consider a winter outer clothing item, I test it for wind proof. Itís the first thing I do, even before I look at the price. I pick it up, put it to my mouth and try to blow through the outer fabric. I do this for jackets, tights, and gloves.

After all these years, my wife is still shocked when she sees what little I wear in January and February; a thin single or second layer under a thin windproof outer shell; all synthetics. Our bodies generate plenty of heat and if my outer layer is wind proof, it contains the heat, and then it becomes a tactic of heat management, i.e., overheating prevention.
Alfie
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Old 11-25-08, 11:46 PM   #2
GTALuigi
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same here, and i found out sorta the hard way
i was over wearing for the weather.

the last few days i wore just my waterproof/windproof jacket, with just my usual short sleeve T, and i was still warm, to even hot and sweaty.

i did pick up the suggestion to wear a synthetic fabric next to the skin, then anything that absorbs moisture on top, and that really helps a lot.

before that, i had several layers of soft shell jackets, and sweater jackets, etc...
i wont be needed those extra layers now, not until it hits like -20c

pictures here My Winter Head Gear
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Old 11-26-08, 07:41 AM   #3
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I tend to agree. Wind-proofing, or at least a good deal of wind-resistance, is important. And I too find that my body throws of a lot of heat when I'm doing something active. Sweat-management becomes important.

I'll just add that I don't have a the resources to always shop for best-of-breed winter riding gear. I cobble together a solution from clothing that I already have, or that is easily available to me at local stores. And no one where I live sells purpose-built, winter riding gear. Most of what I use is hiking and skiing gear that I repurpose for bicycling.
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Old 11-26-08, 10:21 AM   #4
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Windproofing and technical clothing that wickes away moisture. The latter is just as important as the former. If you wear windproof materials and get a sauna going inside that is not very desireable.
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Old 11-26-08, 11:34 PM   #5
alfie43
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Windproofing

"If you wear windproof materials and get a sauna going inside"

I do wear windproof materials, but don't get the sauna going...like I said, everyone is different.
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Old 11-27-08, 01:17 PM   #6
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I have used that same test for windproofing for years, I call it the Huff Test. Hold the material to your mouth and give a huff. If your breath goes through with no resistance, so will a cold wind so it is a summer windproof at best. If you cant huff any breath through it will get too clammy. Ideally your breath will force through the material at higher pressure taking a couple of seconds to exhale.
If the material is suitable I look to the design. Is there good sealing around the openings or can I make it so (with a neck buff)
My first priority is a windproof outer, then a wicking inner, then midlayer materials. Ive ridden comfortably in cotton T shirts so i dont get too religious about it but by choice I use merino wool or synthetics.
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Old 11-27-08, 02:39 PM   #7
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There are two factors that make giving advice on winter wear very hard:

a) Climate - depending where you live the humidity/temperature/trend may be alot different. Eastern Canada is generally warmer than the prairies, but when it does get down to the same cold level there is the humididy to factor in, as well as it gets cold more gradually = ice.
b) Individual physiology - I have a lot of friends that bike in the winter and they all wear substantially more than I do.

Take advice as just that, but try a bunch of different options, and wear whatever you are most comfortable in - and never stop experimenting!
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