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Portis 09-30-03 02:14 PM

Need MTB Mommy.. How to Dress?
I know that nobody here is my mommy, but I desperately need help figuring out how to dress for colder weather. I have read countless hours about layering, booties, baclavas,lobster gloves, wicking layers etc.

I think I am drowning is a sea of knowledge. :o I still don't know what to do and would love some of your expert opinions.

*First of all, I live in Kansas.

*It gets pretty cold here but seldom below 0.

* I only plan to ride when it is 20 degrees F and above and won't ride in the rain/snow if I can help it.

* Plan to ride approx. 45 minutes per day at a very brisk pedalling pace. (Rarely stop rapid pedalling)

I know that conditions and my own preferences will largely dictate how I dress but I would love to hear some experiences of other riders. I know I will find a lot of this out after the first few rides but would like to avoid to many mistakes.

I also don't want to send the family to the poor house in the process. I have already bought a Gore Tex cycling jacket, arm warmers, leg warmers, tights and a wicking type LS jersey. (bought all on ebay so fairly cheap)

I haven't addressed my hands, feet or head yet. I saved these for last because I know they will likely be the most critical. Considering all of the above what would you recommend that I have on hand for the winter? What should I spend money on and what should I not? Thanks...

(moved this to Winter Cycling... prob fits better there.)

a2psyklnut 09-30-03 02:17 PM

Sorry Dude, I live in Florida, so I'm absolutely no help!


travis200 09-30-03 02:29 PM

Well my idea of cold riding is 50 degrees or so. Hey I live in CA. So we have a difference there. I usually wear my arm and leg warmers they are thick so that help and a skull cap to keep in the warmth. A pair of full finger Pearl Izumi gloves. With my regular jersey and shorts sometimes my jacket if there is rain or wind.

AquariaGuy 09-30-03 03:34 PM

I live in Toronto. I just wear, those sport pants that i can curl up, and a wind breaker. Biking gloves...that's it. Haven't tried biking in total snow yet. Yet to do that.

MandansFinest 09-30-03 03:35 PM

When I go out in the cold, usually no riding after it dips below 30ish, I wear a long pair of socks (up to knee) over one or two smaller pairs (ankle, calf, both) with two pair of shorts because I dont have tight enough pants to wear for biking. I wear a long sleeve under a regular tee with a hoodie over (a coat would probably work if really cold.) I would probably wear a stocking cap if it was needed but never have. I know that you probably wont wear that stuff but that is what I wear.

H. Star 09-30-03 05:01 PM

I lived in Kansas for nearly 30 years and didn't need as much stuff as you already have. All you need are some full fingered gloves and you are good to go. Once you get out on the ride you will work up body heat. It's like playing ice hockey, you get really hot even though you are on ice. Unless things have changed, Kansas was no fashion show on the trails:D The thing about KS is it doesn't stay frozen for long periods of time, so there is a ton of mud to deal with in the winter.

montlake_mtbkr 09-30-03 05:23 PM

sounds like you're well covered, layering is the key. as for hands neoprene gloves are nice for staying dry. feet, well booties will do the job of keeping them dry. I think wool socks tend to wick moisture away so that may be a good idea. Or if you find booties to be a pain in the arse check out seal skinz socks (expensive). for your head a roadie style beanie (skull cap?) under the helmet will do the job.

Prosody 09-30-03 08:49 PM

You have to play around with what you wear. If you overdress, you're likely to get very cold toward the end of a ride because you'll be drenched with sweat. If you underdress, you'll be miserably cold the entire ride. A good measure for starting is that, at the beginning of a ride, you should be somewhat cold so that the heat you create warms you up. If you are warm when you start, you have overdressed. If you don't warm up after ten or fifteen minutes, you have underdressed. Last winter here in Missouri I'd wear a base layer, a long sleeve jersey, a wind jacket, my cycling shorts, knee warmers, thin tights, head covering under the helmet, warm cycling gloves. At 35 degrees F. that would keep me warm enough. At 40 degrees, I'd be overdressed. I imagine individual differences will play a role in just how anyone dresses.

I've read several places that you should avoid intense effort during winter cycling and concentrate instead on building mileage. I guess that's because any intense effort is going to leave you sweaty and cold.

claire 09-30-03 09:16 PM

OK, my commute is quite short (15 mn 4 times a day), so I don't put anything special in terms of pants or jacket (just my usual clothes). My hands and my ears, however, require special attention. I use regular ski mitts on my hands (it doesn't bother me at all for braking, only my gestual communication for bad drivers is affected, if you see what I mean). I put on a tuque under my helmet. If it's really cold (less than -15C) I use the balaclava (hope I got it right).

naisme 10-01-03 12:28 AM

Generally I am able to get by with a cap, tights, wicking layers and a wind shirt. For the hands I have a shell glove, Gore-tex windstoppers with a fleece liner glove. Haven't had any problems with my fingers getting cold. My feet are a different story, and I go to over kill with them in the cold. I use power straps on platform pedals, and a pair of sorel boots. In really cold I'll trade out the tights for a pair of fleece lined tights with a wind shell on the front, and lycra knee section.

The idea is to dress in layers, you can take off and put on as you ride. Once you figure it out then you know what your needs are for the type of riding you do. One thing I do when winter gets here is ride a bike where I can have panniers. That way I can shed or carry extra clothing. I did a century that I was grateful I'd hauled the extra stuff 80 miles, cause as the sun dropped down and the temp went down, I had the extra clothing to put on and keep me warm and I could finish my century in the dark.

Buzzbomb 10-01-03 04:28 AM

I live in Michigan, and ride all year round. My winter riding is all MTB, so that might affect things, 'cause it's easier to stay warm once you are inside the tree line. Layering is key, and it sounds like you are pretty well set there. Wicking base, wicking insulating, and breatheable shell layer should do it. Venting that shell is important, if you sweat, your gonna freeze. I top all that off with a silk watchcap I got from a running store, and when it's really cold I use a silk balaclava. A pair of tights suffices, and when it's really cold I put a thin pair of silk ones on under the bike tights. My hands stay pretty warm, and all I use is a pair of army surplus leather gloves that I put a liberal application of sno-seal on, coupled with a wool liner glove. In my experience the feet have been the hardest to keep warm. I use SPD pedals, so I'm restricted to cycling shoes. I have a pair of neoprene booties I wear, and when it gets really cold I use a chemical heatpack between my shoes and the booties. I'm not cozy, but it keeps me riding even when temps fall below zero..

mrfix 10-01-03 04:45 AM

I wear a gore tex skull cap under the helmet on days under 30 degrees, thick, wind front ski mitts an the hands under 30, between 30 and 50 pearl lobsters and just a long finger glove between 50 and 60. on the feet I just bought a new pair of Lake MX-300 winter shoes, untill now, nothing has worked below 25 degrees on my feet. I'll keep you updated on the Lakes. Oh, I run Nokian mount and ground studded tires from November to March, they work well.

Juha 10-01-03 06:08 AM

For me it seems you have plenty of clothing for appr. -7C (20F). Experiment with different combinations, in first runs it might be a good idea to carry some extra clothing with you in a bag. That way you can add if you're cold, or change to dry if you sweat too much. Just do not do adjustments early in the ride, let your body warm up first.

I would not want to ride without studded tyres in winter, but we get anywhere between 3-5 months of snow and ice. If you only need studs on a couple of days each year, you might want to have a studded wheelset and a normal one, making it easier to change. That is going to be expensive.


MichaelW 10-01-03 06:11 AM

Most expensive helmets are full of venting and stay-cool features. Wear a cheaper helmet in winter, they keep you warm.
Arm and leg-warmer tubes are ok in changeable conditions, but if you keep them on for the whole ride, you are better off with leggings/tights and a long sleeved jersey/windproof.
Its easy to spend lots of money on stuff, but not always neccessary. Those goretex jackets are OK in the rain, but when its cold and dry, there are materials which are better and cheaper. You dont need to get everything cycle-specific. A lot of general outdoor gear works fine on the bike.
No-name label camping/hiking gear is usually good value, and the difference in performance compared to premium brands is rarely worth the price difference. Sometimes its even made of the same material.

dougc 10-01-03 07:12 AM

If you are using clipless pedals, you might want to invest in a pair of winter shoes. They are much more satisfactory and convenient than booties. Lake, Northwave, Sidi, and Gaerne all make winter shoes. What is available will depend on the type of pedals (SPD, Look). Your feet will thank you.

Portis 10-01-03 04:30 PM

Thanks for all of the input. I think I have developed a game plan sort of. From what I have seen so far, the wind chill will likely be my enemy.

I am most interested in knowing how Baclava wearers get along in the cold. I wear glasses and breath hard when riding. I can't imagine that I won't be blind in the first couple minutes. I was considering just getting a skull cap and/or an earband of some sort. Good idea?

claire 10-01-03 06:41 PM

I can see your problem, though I don't have glasses. The balaclava is really only for extreme cold. It makes your head warm up really fast. Even if it's -20 degrees, I end up sweating after 10 mn! Especially with the helmet on the top of it. So I'd say, don't wear it unless you really think your cheeks are going to freeze. If it's not so cold I usually put a scarf around most of my face, if it's well tucked into your jacket it's easier to adjust. And, of course, a tuque. Otherwise your ears will fall off.

temp1 10-07-03 12:31 AM

I biked year round in Chicago and never really needed more than 1 medium weight wicking base layer, a gore tex wind breaker with pit zips, wool dress pants (I commuted to work) ski mittens, wool socks (or some synthetic equivelent), boots that passed as dress shoes in the winter, and ear muffs that go around the back of my head. If it got really cold I threw on a light wool sweater. The sweater was nice padding for when I crashed on the ice, good luck, Its easier than you think

Juha 10-07-03 01:01 AM

Agreed, at -7C or warmer balaclava is probably an overkill. Depending on your helmet even the skull cap may be too much. A tuque, however, is useful already at those temperatures.


MikeR 10-07-03 06:27 AM


I haven't addressed my hands, feet or head yet. I saved these for last because I know they will likely be the most critical. Considering all of the above what would you recommend that I have on hand for the winter? What should I spend money on and what should I not? Thanks...
I live in Central Pa. Last year was my first winter to ride. I went out in rain, snow and sleet in temps down to 0. Based on my first year, here’s what I think.

Covering the ears is very important. No mater how warm I am from hammering the pedals, my ears got cold . Sometimes it is too warm for a full balaclava but my ears still need some protection. The best thing I found for those times is a cheap ($2) little “gator” I got in the local xmart hunting dept. It’s a tube shaped stretch material that can go around your neck or can be pulled up to cover your ears, or your whole head.

Get a thermometer and keep track of the temperature, as well as what you are wearing before you start out . After a while you will know what to wear for each temperature range.

The last thing I found very useful is a small pannier. I invariably made the wrong decision about how much to put on – either too much or not enough. With the pannier, I was able to take off or put on as needed while on the ride. As I got better at predicting what I’ll need the pannier become less necessary.

That’s what I discovered but never heard mentioned anywhere. Hope this helps.

Mockpo 10-08-03 05:48 AM


I am most interested in knowing how Baclava wearers get along in the cold. I wear glasses and breath hard when riding. I can't imagine that I won't be blind in the first couple minutes. I was considering just getting a skull cap and/or an earband of some sort. Good idea?
I have glasses and use a silk baclava under my helmet. I bought a paste that is used to clean glasses as well as keep them from fogging. I also use those 180 earmuffs as I find myself riding in the late afternoon when it gets under 15 degrees. Last winter my biggest problem was keeping my feet warm. I dont have winter shoes and am considering the booties... I got a second pair of shoes a little bigger to handle the additional socks but that didnt help much as the wind was the real problem. Maybe those windstopper socks?
My cheeks suffer from the wind and I would have gone with more of a whole face covering but the cold makes a mess of my sinus' so I have to keep some opening for "drainage".

Im still trying to perfect the layering on my torso. I have a silk base but need a better wicking layer on top of that & before the shell. Dampness is bad..

So far for my legs, basic tights with silk base have been good enough.

DanFromDetroit 10-08-03 08:14 AM

I have a thin balaclava, a bike helmet, and a snowboard helmet. I might use the balaclava with either or none, depending on the situation.

I think that a vented snowboard helmet is a good choice.


MikeR 10-08-03 08:30 AM


Originally Posted by Ranger
I am most interested in knowing how Baclava wearers get along in the cold. I wear glasses and breath hard when riding. I can't imagine that I won't be blind in the first couple minutes. I was considering just getting a skull cap and/or an earband of some sort. Good idea?

I thought that would be a problem for me - but it is not that bad. If my mouth is covered, then my glasses fog up - but only on the climbs. On flats and downhill there's enough wind to keep the glasses clear. I don't need to cover my mouth on climbs so I just pull the mouth covering down on the beginning of a climb and cover up at the top of the hill. It's not really that bad; you will find that you are also zipping your jacket down for a climb and up for the decent - so you can do both at the same time.

TXCiclista 10-08-03 04:16 PM

Sounds like you're in decent shape. I was told that the most important thing was to watch how much you sweat. The LBS gal even said "ride slower, longer" because sweating in cold weather can be quite dangerous. The last thing you want is moisture to add to the wind chill. I have a set of light warmers (arm, leg, knee) for cooler days and some Pearl Izumi fleece leg warmers for the cold days. Other than that, I use what I already have: a sweatshirt with a windbreaker. I got some polypro glove liners to help on the hands and I have some over-sized MTB that I wear with heavy hiking socks. I just keep a steady pace and don't worry too much about high cadence, etc. I take my HRM and try to keep it at a reasonable level. Works for me. :)

new_dharma 10-08-03 07:44 PM

i biked to school everyday the last two winters, and even made it when the profs didn't. the first year i rode everyday i overdressed and ended up getting sweaty, then cold. last year i figured out what works best for me. midweight hiking socks, tennis shoes (until it got wet), tights, surplus fatigue-pants (from a thrift store), tshirt, my gray hooded sweatshirt, a columbia shell, ski goggles, my military watch cap (black wool cap) under my helmet, Mechanix M-Pact II gloves inside northface mitten shells, and a scarf.
the columbia zips and snaps closed in the front, so if i start warming up, i unzip to let some air in (the snaps stay shut). i can remove the scarf (usually i don't) if i get warm, but it's used to keep the wind off my nose and mouth.

this might not seem like a lot, given the temps here dip well below zero, but as long as the skin is covered, i stay comfortable. i thinks it's a matter of what works for you.

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