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My first foray into Winter Cycling

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My first foray into Winter Cycling

Old 11-16-14, 08:35 AM
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My first foray into Winter Cycling

There are a LOT of threads on this. Honestly it's a bit overwhelming to go through them all, so apologies in advance if I'm asking the same questions everyone else has.

Usually, this time of year, I quit running or biking outside, and tell myself to go to the gym. And then come April, despite my best intentions, I feel like I'm starting from nothing when I get back outside. I wanted to change that this year.

I bought and combined together a number of items, and attempted a short 14 mile ride on my road bike yesterday to test everything out. It was 30 degrees (northwest Ohio weather). I wore:

Under Armour Coldgear mock (base layer)
Cannondale waterproof wind breaker
Sugoi gloves (base layer)
Gordini Mittens with Gore-Tex
Headband over the ears
Sugoi shorts, and Sugoi leg warmers
Athletic socks
Botranger mountain biking shoes (I only have one pair, I like that I can walk in these shoes, but they are vented)
Cannondale shoe covers
Sunglasses

What I found:
Riding with the wind, my hands were chilly, but tolerable. I don't know how far I could have gone, but when I reached my halfway point, I was compelled to get inside a building to warm up.
Riding against the wind, my hands were warm and toasty, but my leg warmers started to ride up, revealing the socks at my ankles, and my feet got very cold.

Overall it was a bit more chilly than I would have liked, and the (literal) cold feet thing is an issue.
I feel like I could have warn a hoodie and been okay. Maybe a little more warmth around my core would have helped my limbs? I have a non-athletic balaclava, which I avoided for fear of it getting soaked with sweat.
I also bought one of these, but it smells disgusting so I haven't made use of it.

So, given all of that... Does anyone have any recommendations? I'm sort of confused about why my hands were at first cold, and then toasty. I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong, missing a layer somewhere, need to buy something additional, or what. The weather is looking to be sticking around 20 degrees in these parts, only 30 at the warmest part of the day, so if I can be prepared for something even colder, that would be terrific.

FYI: For my bike itself, I'm still using regular road bike tires. I think if it gets to be wet or snowy, then I'll finally be forced inside.
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Old 11-17-14, 09:42 AM
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I went out the other morning for my first cold weather ride and it was 10f. Two pairs of woolen socks, long thermal underwear, danish army surplus thermal top, zip up poly fleece and a ski mask under my helmet. Sweat pants over my bottom layer. Layers are key. I don't own any proper cycling clobber but what I have does fine. Leather gloves with thinsulate liners and I did 20 miles with no problems other than cold toes. Just wiggle them to keep the circulation going.
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Old 11-18-14, 07:22 PM
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I think something over your head would have been a good idea. You can lose a lot of heat through your head. I wear a skull cap and a balaclava when it's really cold. Even so, I still have trouble with cold hands but I just wear gloves, not mittens. I'm still looking for warmer gloves.
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Old 11-19-14, 04:21 PM
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I would ditch the shorts and leg warmers and get a pair of winter cycling tights or pants. There are a ton of choices for winter cycling shoes. It just depends on how much you want to spend. Myself, I wear insulated hiking boots(I don't clip in). I would suggest some kind of mid layer under your windbreaker. Whether it be a sweatshirt or another thin warm jacket. For gloves. I wear those brown cotton jersey gloves that you see in convenience stores for about $2.50. I get the insulated ones. Believe it or not they keep my hands warm and comfortable down into the upper 20's. Then I switch to mittens. It's all about trial and error, at least for me. Finding out what works and what doesn't. That's why I keep a clothing log. I also did a ton of reading here on BF and on other websites. Getting as much info on winter cycling as I could. Listen to the Canadians and Alaskans, they know how to do it. Eight years later, I'm still learning something new. Good luck and stay warm.

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Old 11-19-14, 09:14 PM
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I do alot of camping and canoeing. Even took a course on winter camping. So when I was preparing my winter biking attire, I already had my base layer, wool socks and wool gloves all ready.
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Old 11-28-14, 12:31 AM
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Instead of athletic socks, get some good wool socks. That will make a world of difference. You can windproof your toe covers quite a bit more by putting a layer of masking tape or duct tape over the toe area of your shoes. This makes a colossal difference for almost no money.
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Old 11-28-14, 06:55 AM
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Originally Posted by gamby
Instead of athletic socks, get some good wool socks. That will make a world of difference. You can windproof your toe covers quite a bit more by putting a layer of masking tape or duct tape over the toe area of your shoes. This makes a colossal difference for almost no money.
You could also put a grocery bag over your shoes and then the shoe covers over top, the grocery bag will block the wind and is thin enough that you can still clip in (sometimes, it takes a little bit of extra effort). The bags are cheap (free?) so the fact that they may only last a few days is not a problem (then just put them in the recycling bin).

And yes, wool socks, thick ones if you can fit them comfortably in the shoes (you might need to loosen the straps a bit).
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Old 11-28-14, 09:29 AM
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Your hands warmed up because your core was warm which is a good indicator that you were dressed pretty optimally. You should typically be a little cool/cold for the first 10-15 minutes of your ride if you don't warm up after that you're under-dressed and if you're warm off the bat you're over-dressed.

As as far as your feet go, taping over the vents and using plastic bags as necessary are great advice. I'd warn against wearing too much in the way of socks though. If your socks are too thick and you have to stuff your foot into your shoe you start cutting off the circulation which in turn makes for much colder feet.

I have a pair of winter MTB shoes now which are a size too large to accommodate thicker socks. Between those and proper winter shoe covers plus some good wool socks I'm fine down to -15 or -20 C.

When I was a messenger here in Canada my go to for anything below -15 C was a skateboard shoe. They are seriously the warmest foot wear I've ever tried. No vents, leather outer with a thick sole and tons of padding for insulation so I got away with nothing but a pair of cotton tube socks on all but the coldest of days. Of course you'll have to buy a half decent pair of platform pedals to go with them.
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