When riding in temperatures below 55 degrees or so, one must pause for a moment and think about preparing the proper clothes as well as preparing their bike. While each person is different with regards to their tolerance of the cold, there are general principles that apply to virtually everyone and so this post will focus on the sort of “universal” considerations for dressing properly for cold weather riding. While Cycling Fusion promotes indoor riding (and is indeed where we make our money), we are true to our mission of making better outdoor riders, and outdoor riding is only “off the table” when the weather gets below 35 degrees and ice becomes one risk factor beyond what we consider as acceptable.
Your fingers, toes, and ears will be the first things to send you back home earlier than you’d like. This assumes that you’ve at least taken care of your general upper and lower body’s warmth. Remember, whatever the temperature is outside, the wind chill factor on your body when traveling 10+ miles per hour on a bike will make it effectively much lower. You are actually creating a significant wind-chill factor just by virtue of the fact that you riding.
This wind chill effect is so significant, that anything below 50 degree really will begin to put a chill over your body well beyond what you might expect. Knowing this to be true first hand, I wanted to look up just how significant it can be, and I found a cool site that has a wind-chill calculator: http://www.csgnetwork.com/windchillcalc.html. Our “2015 Not-To-Miss” ride last week was actually a few degrees colder than originally projected, and so we rode in temperatures between 38 and 42 degrees Fahrenheit. If you go to the above site and enter in a temperature of 40, and our average speed of about 13 mph (a very leisure pace), it returns a wind chill factor of 32 degrees.
SO… as a possible first time rider in this scenario, you must invest in some clothing that will do as much to block the wind as it will to keep you warm. Don’t just focus on “how warm is this” when looking at an article of clothing, instead ask the salesperson showing you these outdoor garments how their wind shielding is. Do they know what that is, and can they explain it to you. If not, they likely will sell you the wrong clothes. Get someone ideally who rides in cold weather, and who works in a bike shop to show you the way, if at all possible.
A short list of cold weather clothes that any outdoor rider should attest to is as follows:
- A head band that covers your entire ears and fits under your helmet
- A long sleeve base layer beneath your regular riding jersey – for some people (like myself) they will wear a short sleeve and a long sleeve base layer when riding below 40 degrees while maybe only one of those will be necessary at higher temps.
- A riding or running jacket that is not bulky but is definitely very wind resistant
- Full fingered riding gloves (be careful, those are often in 2 to 3 different weights and wind resistance – you may need several pair – for cool weather, and for cold weather )
- Full leg tights under your bibs or regular riding shorts
- Heavier socks
- And last but not least – Shoe Covers! You must block the wind form hitting your toes if you expect to keep riding. No one likes to be outside when their toes are cold.