Those who ride their bikes through the Utah winters rely heavily on good clothing to keep them warm, safe and even comfortable through the chillier months.
Here are a few small (and mostly inexpensive) pieces of clothing that have made a big difference in my winter riding (and would make for great gifts this christmas!)
1. base layers
Layering is the key to regulating temperature on a bicycle, and in the cold months having a warm base layer makes a huge difference. I use a synthetic techwick base layer (both top and bottom) from EMS, and a fantastic (although expensive) wool base layer top from smartwool. REI, Patagonia and a host of other companies make base layers, many of which are affordable (in the 35-45$ range) that will keep you both warm and dry while riding. (consider especially getting a pair of base layer bottoms. While most people can put on an extra sweater under their jacket, putting on multiple pairs of pants makes riding a bicycle difficult, and it’s never fun to ride with cold knees!)
One of the most important parts of safe and comfortable cold-weather riding is keeping your fingers and toes warm. I have yet to find the ‘perfect’ winter glove, but right now I wear a pretty warm pair from Pearl Izumi. Lots of people opt for a half-mitten approach as well. I sometimes also layer my hands with a cheap pair of army surplus wool gloves (5$-10$)
As far as keeping my toes warm I am completely converted to Darn Tough socks. (19$-25$) They are comfortable, wool, and amazingly, have a lifetime guarantee. IF YOU GET A HOLE IN YOUR SOCK, EVER, THEY WILL REPLACE THEM. so amazing. Smartwool also makes lots of great cold weather socks (I have a pair of their knee-high ski socks that are great) but I wear through the heels in a year or two.
One of the important things to remember in cold weather riding is to avoid cotton. (or as my friend’s dad used to say “if it’s not an animal of plastic, don’t wear it”) Wool and synthetics do a good job of keeping you warm even when wet, and a water resistant shell on a glove helps a lot. Don’t even bother with those cheap cotton gloves you see in the grocery store.
Something to cover your neck is important in the cold, and while a scarf can work just fine, last year I got ahold of a Buff, essentially a small seamless tube of fabric and I love it. It’s stretchy and can be used to cover your face, ears, neck, or even made into a beanie. Also they’re affordable (20$) and come in tons of patterns and styles.
I also wear smartwool arm warmers almost every time I ride. They keep my arms warm and cover the chilly gap between my jacket and my gloves. They also can be removed without taking off your coat if you get too hot. (and cost only 25$!)
Lastly, make sure you wear a hat that covers your ears. I have a wool beanie that I’ve warn for years, and under that I recently added a small bamboo cycling cap as well (bamboo may be one of the only exceptions to the “animal or plastic” rule, as it’s very good at wicking moisture) The cap is made by SWRVE and is very comfortable and light.(although i’m not seeing my particular hat on their website right now, they have lots of good products) Make sure any hat you wear can fit under your helmet. And you may need to adjust your helmet strap to accommodate the added bulk.
There are many other aspects of winter riding (such as bike adjustments, jackets and panniers) that I’ll post about in the future. In the meantime, remember to ride slowly on icy streets, always ride with traffic and use a front and rear light when riding at dusk or at night!
Merry Christmas and I’ll see you on the streets!