We all fantasize and dream of migrating down south in the winter to get warm miles, illness but unfortunately it is not a likely possibility for most of us in the northwest. Just because we have less tan ideal weather, epilepsy does not mean that it has to be a terrible experience for training. It may sound simple, healthful but the first step to having quality training in the winter is having the right gear. With the right equipment, you may actually find yourself enjoying these winter rides!
Layers, breath-ability, and protection from the elements are the key factors when getting ready for a cold and wet ride. On your skin, you will want something that wicks moisture well. If it doesn’t you will quickly become soggy from your own perspiration. Even if it is cold out, you are still likely to perspire and your skin needs something against it that will allow it to breath.
Upper body – A base layer is key, most cycling apparel companies have a variety of base layers out there to choose from, which one is up to you, but definitely a necessary item.
Over this people will wear their jersey. Some people will choose a normal jersey and arm warmers when it is cool. This is a great combo in the fall or spring, where you are likely to shed the arm warmers when it gets warmer out or on the next climb. In the winter, when temperatures are not likely to raise, I prefer to go with a thermal long sleeve jersey. It is a bit warmer in the cold and really makes the difference compared to a summer weight jersey. Having a winter jersey is a great addition to your cycling wardrobe. Living in Portland, my long sleeve thermal jerseys get as much use as my short sleeve ones.
On top of this, you will want something to break the wind. There are several types to choose from. You have wind breaker vests and jackets, thermal vests and jackets (typically similar to the wind breakers, but with an extra lining of material for more warmth.) From my own experiences and those of friends and clients, I have found that in the winter months here, a thermal vest seems to be the best option. The thinner wind breaker layers are great in early fall and later in the spring, but don’t have the warmth needed to keep you comfortable when it is colder and wet out. Thermal jackets are good, but the sleeves often make it a bit too warm for many people I have worked with for our climate, but if you find yourself someone who tends to get colder on the bike, a thermal jacket is a good option.
Last but not least, is a rain jacket. You will definitely want a good rain jacket, to be worn over any other layers(even the thermal jacket/vest) to act as a shell to keep the rain off you. This is one thing you probably do not want to skimp out on, get a good one with good ventilation and materials that will offer good breathing on the jackets part. Something that packs down easily is also a key component, so you can remove it and store it in a back pocket when it is not raining. This can also work as a good shell for added wind protection when its not raining as well.
Head – a thermal cycling cap is key. Keep your head warm and you will keep much warmer yourself! Ear warmers are good, but something keeping your whole head warm this time of year is essential.
Hands – good thermal gloves are also very important. This is not the time of year for light gloves, winter gloves are a must have in the cold and rain. Many people will also use glove warmers in their gloves, or keep them in their pocket until their hands get cold mid ride, then put them in to help keep feeling in the digits until the ride is over.
Lower body –
Cycling tights are a must when it is chilly. There are knee or leg warmers, which are both good options when it is cool out, but it is good to go with full length thermal cycling tights when it starts getting below 50 degrees, especially when it is raining. Cycling tights are a must have for the winter months in Oregon and the pacific NW. There are options that have tights built into cycling shorts, with a built in chamois, or you can get a pair of tights and wear them over(some people wear them under) your normal summer cycling tights.
Feet – there are a number of good shoe covers to choose from, as well as winter shoes on the market. Likely, your feet will get wet at some point in the ride, but at least with good shoe covers you will at least keep warm even if water does sneak into your shoes. There are a number that are made from neoprene, this is a warm option that offers the most protection from the elements, and probably the most common one you see out on the road this time of year.
Bike – Yes, your bike should be a consideration in preparing for the winter riding! First off, you want to be sure you have good fenders on your bike. Fenders are one of the most essential items in keeping warm and dry, as you will receive a lot of spray from your wheels without fenders on! Front and rear, full fenders are the best and will keep you the most dry. There are a number of companies that make full fenders that will fit on nearly any bike. Also, adding a “buddy flap”, and extender on your fenders to make them longer, is a key thing in cycling etiquette on group rides. It is key for helping to keep those around you dry. Check in with your local shop for options on fenders!
Good tires – you may be wondering “How will good tires keep me warmer in winter training?”. Well, good tires = less flats = less standing around on the side of the road fixing flats in the rain. There is more road debris in the winter and also the water on the roads create increased likely hood of getting flat tires from glass or other objects as the water acts as a lubricant assisting sharp objects more easily cutting through the rubber of your tire. If you have a good set of tires on it may save you a from a few flats, giving you an overall better experience in the winter, and you will not have to take off your gloves to fix the flat in the cold!
Safety – it can be good to wear bright colors and also to bring and use lights (even in fog or rain during the day) on your bike to help make sure you are seen and safe. I always make sure to have a light on my bike in the winter, just in case I get caught in fog or out after dark.
Hope these tips help you to make the best of your winter training!