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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 11-10-17, 11:46 AM   #1
jrickards
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Winter cycling clothes

We see a lot of ads for winter cycling clothes and we may have seen videos and photos of pros/amateurs out riding in the winter but I wonder if that gear (some expensive stuff from Castelli and other high end brands) is really good enough for the deep winters we see here in Canada and the northern US states.

Any opinions from anyone who has or knows of someone who has some of these types of winter cycling clothes?
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Old 11-10-17, 12:33 PM   #2
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My record for commuting was 8F. Thin short sleeve poly shirt, thin long sleeve poly shirt, 200-weight fleece, 200-weight softshell jacket, nothing cycling specific. Long base layer + 200-weight softshell pants. I got somewhat sweaty and hot while moving but this was for ~30min commutes. Hands and feet are the hardest to keep warm, I had to wear thick primaloft-filled skiing gloves (warmest I have) and 2 pairs of socks so I could do better on that front.

It's easy to layer to stay warm when you're moving, the bigger question is how comfortable is the clothing to cycle in?
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Old 11-10-17, 12:41 PM   #3
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I haven't lived in the north, but I do ride motorcycles in freezing weather at high speed and the best thing I have is a heated vest. Keeping your core body temp warm, so the blood pumping out of your heart and going to your limbs is warm, is the key. If I lived up north and rode in the single digits I would wear a battery powered vest with an adjustable thermo. If you get too hot just turn it off.
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Old 11-10-17, 12:54 PM   #4
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It's easy to layer to stay warm when you're moving, the bigger question is how comfortable is the clothing to cycle in?
As you said, too many layers may make it more difficult to move which could be reduced if you could get away with fewer, better quality insulating layers (not to suggest that you have low quality clothes) and that may be what some of these high end brands are trying to offer. However, my city generally experiences winter temps in the -10 to -20C (16 to -4F) range and I am wondering if these high end brands are capable of keeping a cyclist warm in these temps.

On the other hand, it is rare to see an amateur/pro road cyclist (live, photo or video) riding on snow- and ice-packed roads so it might be that high end cycling-specific winter gear (again, Castelli and the like) are designed for winters where the overnight temp might drop to -5C/23F and sunny, daytime temps go up to 5C/41F and any overnight snowfall has melted from the roads in the sun by noon.

I'm interested in hearing whether anyone here owns some of these higher end winter cycling-specific gear and at what temperatures are they comfortable riding in them.
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Old 11-10-17, 01:02 PM   #5
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I'm interested in hearing whether anyone here owns some of these higher end winter cycling-specific gear and at what temperatures are they comfortable riding in them.
Well, I don't qualify because I don't own these, but I looked at them in the store. They looked just like your regular fleece. My 0.02 is that even if you're paying more for higher-end gear, I highly doubt you're getting better or different fabrics/materials than what's already available on the general market, e.g. PrimaLoft, Polartec. There isn't a magic cycling-specific material out there that keeps you warmer than for winter hiking. You're paying for features and durability - and for marketing. Now, if you want to break through the marketing and get into the technical details of R-values and air permeability of different fabrics...

To stay warm you only need 3 layers: base, insulation, wind-proofing (no cotton anywhere!)
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Old 11-10-17, 01:41 PM   #6
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There's no magic formula, but there is a basic one--base layer for wicking sweat away from the skin, a mid layer for insulation--the thickness of this layer is determined by the temperature, and an outer wind-breaking layer. More expensive pieces might have better cut, maybe better sweat-wicking quality, maybe softer on the skin, etc., but ultimately it comes down to those three layers.

As for hands and feet, I've been using chemical heat packs for anything colder than -5*C or so. Fingers, especially the thumb, are the most difficult to keep warm. The poor thumb is always separated from its siblings, and don't get the benefit of group heat, and unfortunately I need it separated to operate the brakes.
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Old 11-10-17, 01:53 PM   #7
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@autonomy and @mcours2006, this is great info, thanks.

It appears therefore, that there are no magic or high-tech (not available to other kit makers for the next 50 yrs) materials that the high end cycling clothing manufacturers have that others don't and I kind of suspected this but just wanted to hear from others. Yes, there may be some differences in quality of the kit such as manufacturing or fitting or a special combination of materials that cheaper brands might not go to the trouble of creating but in terms of basic materials, they aren't really any different. I suspect therefore that the photos of pro road riders in these high end kits may not be in deep winter temperatures that some of us have to (want to) ride in.
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Old 11-10-17, 10:23 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrickards View Post
However, my city generally experiences winter temps in the -10 to -20C (16 to -4F) range and I am wondering if these high end brands are capable of keeping a cyclist warm in these temps.

On the other hand, it is rare to see an amateur/pro road cyclist (live, photo or video) riding on snow- and ice-packed roads so it might be that high end cycling-specific winter gear (again, Castelli and the like) are designed for winters where the overnight temp might drop to -5C/23F and sunny, daytime temps go up to 5C/41F and any overnight snowfall has melted from the roads in the sun by noon.
It's a good question - and my impression is similar to yours. I think of the high-end brands' "winter" cycling attire as being for spring and fall where I live.
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Old 11-10-17, 10:43 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Lazyass View Post
I haven't lived in the north, but I do ride motorcycles in freezing weather at high speed and the best thing I have is a heated vest. Keeping your core body temp warm, so the blood pumping out of your heart and going to your limbs is warm, is the key. If I lived up north and rode in the single digits I would wear a battery powered vest with an adjustable thermo. If you get too hot just turn it off.
A battery operated vest will be my next purchase. After that, battery headed pant will be next. I've seen a number of people use them for just walking around and it really has to be cold use one.
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Old 11-11-17, 07:39 PM   #10
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I own the following garments.

Note that I live in North Georgia, USA but I did live on Long Island for the first 44 years of my life. I cycle throughout the winter down here and we do get some cold snaps where it stays in the teens for several days.

Castelli Sorpasso Wind bib tights - make sure you size up. Fleece inside and windproof through the legs and abdomen. The one oddity is lack of windproofing in the groin area which some complain about but I don't find too bothersome given the thickness of the fabric. This has been comfortable down to 22f for 1.5 hours. I've not had opportunity to ride this garment at lower temps.

Castelli Nanoflex bib knickers
- size way, way up. These are knickers and used regularly down to about 40f. I would easily wear these at lower temps if they were full tights, they are very fleecy inside. High water resistance has come in handy on one occasion when I got caught out in a shower at about 45f. I was able to find a dry spot during the rain but the road spray riding home after the rain let up was easily handled by the Nanoflex fabric.

Castelli Alpha Wind Jersey - now known as the Alpha ROS jersey. This is an amazing garment with a zippered insulating layer covered by a zippered Gore outer layer. The Jersey version has no insulation on the sleeves and the back is an air permeable fabric to allow heat and moisture to escape and so the effective range is higher than the jacket version. There is a 33 page thread about the Alpha Jersey and Jacket at BikeRadar with more info than you could ever want.

7Mesh Callighan Jersey and Kitsbow Geysers 2.0 Jersey - These are lumped together as they are both excellent, high-end, luxurious insulating mid-layers. The 7Mesh Callighan is long sleeve and roomier while the Kitsbow is short sleeve and the cut is a bit racier. The merino blend of both garments is excellent at insulating while moving moisture. These two garments allow me to extend the range of my other garments down into the high 20's f.

Also consider a windstop base layer such as the Craft Active Extreme WS long sleeve. A review is here. Yes, it is a base layer with Gore Windstop. I am susceptible to bronchitis and have to be particularly careful about cold air hitting my chest. This garment does the trick.

Hope this helps you Yankees and my good friends north of the border. Thankfully it doesn't stay cold for long here in the south. Most southerners Zwift when it gets below 45 so I'm a bit of an oddity here but having grown up on Long Island, weather which makes southerners complain that it is too cold or too windy seem mild to me.


-Tim-
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Old 11-11-17, 07:49 PM   #11
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When it gets cold, I don't use any bicycle specific gear except perhaps for a balaclava or some sort of headgear.
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Old 11-20-17, 10:14 AM   #12
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I see some guys with those thick winter cycling tights. I remember trying some on a few years ago & really wanting them but didn't get them, even tho I tried them on at a spring sale. they were one piece bib style & the XXL fit great, not too tight at all I eventually found other options that I use, but those thick winter bib-style cycling tights look like the real deal man
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Old 12-02-17, 09:39 PM   #13
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It's a good question - and my impression is similar to yours. I think of the high-end brands' "winter" cycling attire as being for spring and fall where I live.
Agreed, though my experience is with mid to low end gear. I usually use it as one of my layers.

Like mentioned above, the three basic layers approach serves me down to 0F. I usually use a wicking base layer (C9, Target), fleece long sleeve jersey (LG, REI Garage), and a softshell jacket (Sugoi, REI Garage).

For my legs, I found the Performance Triflex tights to work great. As the temps drop, I wear leg warmers underneath. It helps that I got them on clearance.
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Old 12-04-17, 02:10 PM   #14
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I strongly recommend
Foxwear | Custom Sized Sports Clothing by Lou Binik | Salmon, ID | (877) 756-3699 .
Talk to Lou.
Best winter custom cycling clothes that is not very expensive.
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Old 12-10-17, 08:12 PM   #15
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Don't forget to look at clothing made for other winter sports. 😉 I now have 2 pairs of ski/snowboard pants, one being Burton that has vents in the crotch and legs. I still haven't given them a hard test, on a bicycle, but so far, they're keeping me warm, but well ventilated. 🙂
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Old 12-11-17, 03:59 PM   #16
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I live in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Our winters are mild compared to other parts of the country. It does get down into the teens and twenties from time to time but the coldest I've ever seen after living here for almost 40 years, was 9 degrees. This year we have been in the 20's a few times. This morning it was 22 when I went out for a 27 mile bile ride. It as sunny and there was no wind. I wore long johns tops and bottoms under bike pants, long sleeve bike shirt, a sweater and and a windbreaker. Merlino socks and sock liners and shoes covered my feet. Claw bike mittens and thin gloves covered my hands. A bike hat and balaclava covered my head and face. I was quite comfortable. I love this weather for biking. By the time i arrived back home I was quite warm as the temperature went up to 36.
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Old 12-20-17, 04:03 PM   #17
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Living in Denver, we sometimes get fairly cold. I've got peal izumi elite top and bottom (nominally rated for about 30df) which I received as gifts. With a couple of layers of thermals underneath (and sometimes a rain/snow layer above) I've ridden down to 15 df or so. Ski gloves rather than anything bike specific.
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Old 12-20-17, 07:45 PM   #18
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I own plenty of higher/mid end winter clothing from assos, castelli, Santini, gore, etc. and mid/lower end but quality stuff from PI, dhb, sugoi, showers pass.

There isnt a huge difference between the quality lower stuff and higher end stuff in my opinion. The only minor difference is in the fit. The high end stuff basically just feels more sized down and as a racer I like the snug yet warm feeling it gives me. The cuffs and finishes also tend to be a little better designed e.g. flat tapered armholes that easily fit under gloves.

Water repellency I find is a gimmick. Just buy water repellent spray from REI meant for tents - Spray away!!!
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