I would like to be riding more this winter, but I have problems when the temperature approaches 40 degrees. If people have recommendations for cold weather gear that they really like for sub-40 rides, would they mind sharing? I'm especially interested in finger/toe warmth, but recs on tights and jackets would be great too. Specific models or strategies would be most helpful--don't just tell me to wear gloves. Thanks, Tom
I put long stretch pants on over my bike shorts to keep my legs warm, I have the inside liner of a ski jacket that I wear over a few base layers, and I use hand and toe warmers with mittens and booties over my bike shoes...and I wear a balaclava under my helmet :) I probably look funny but I stay warm :)
Hands: Lobster gloves (I got non-bike specific gloves at REI) with hand warmers when it drops in the 20s. They key is to have the fingers next to each other to generate "shared heat".
Feet: A good set of booties plus toe covers with wood socks. When it is real cold, I use plastic bags over my socks.
Torso: A wicking layer (Under Armour) + bike jersey + good biking outer layer (Castelli). I also put newspaper under my jersey that I can drop if it warms up.
Legs: Running tights over my bike shorts or leg warmers if it isn't super cold. You can get full length biking pants.
Head: Skull cap. Plus I put a swim cap over an old helmet to block the wind that I use when it is in the 20s.
It is really only cold for the first 30 minutes or so, and then you generate heat and the ride is bearable. I road last weekend when temps were in the low 20s and it is surprising how "warm" it feels when temps rise to the upper 20s! ;)
Pearl Izumi thermal bib shorts are the bomb and one of the most used shorts I have from Sept-Mar riding. add leg warms and I can stay warm from 30-35 degrees wind/rain/snow permitting.
For truely cold rides, pearl izumi elite or pro thermal bib tights do the trick. They have a solid wind proof front and breathable back for ventalation.
Castelli also makes some wicked cool foul weather riding gear. I use the Gabba (convertable jacket/jersey) down to 30-35 degrees with a long sleeve baselayer underneath.
Defeet base layers are great as well. Defeet merino wool gloves are also great, but below 40 you'll need a shell over them as well. I also rotate two REI longsleeve baselayers which work for me.
I've found as long as I can keep the wind and rain/snow off of me, after 10-15mins of hard peddling I warm right up...until I stop.
I put cotton gloves over my normal full finger cycling gloves. The two layers approach traps in the heat and keeps out the wind pretty well. If I over-estimate how cold it is, the two layers approach allows me to take the cotton gloves off if my fingers/hand gets too warm. If it gets really really cold, I'll wear my ski gloves.
I wear a pair of arm warmers rolled down to just the wrist area to keep the area where the gloves/longsleve don't cover. An old pair of socks with the toe area cutoff is my ghetto wrist warmers on occasions. That also works well to protect the exposed wrist area.
For the feet, I think Kevin meant wool socks not wood socks :) It works well, but if you have shoes that are tight fitting, your toes may feel a bit cramped by the thickness of the wool socks.
For the upper body, I just layer up. I wear a thick running longsleeve tech shirt underneath my DCTri longsleeve cycling shirt. If it gets really cold or windy, I'll either throw on a windbreaker or an extra shortsleeve (or two) tech running shirt underneath everything.
For the lower body, my cycling shorts and leg warmers are my base layers. I have long unpadded cycling pants of various thickness. Depending on the temperature, I'll throw on the one that I think is most appropriate.
For the head, I wear a hoodie that covers everything except my eyes. I'm comtemplaiting purchasing ski goggles this winter to replace my normal eye glasses. I co-worker of mine rides year round, regardless of temperature. He says that the ski googles work pretty well since it covers a lot of exposed skin ... not just your eyes.
And for the record, Pam wears all of that when it gets below 60F. :)
For running or riding in very cold temps, I use the Under Armour ColdGear top. That thing keeps me warm no matter how far below freezing it gets. Also, a REALLY good jacket (but not inexpensive) is the Gore Phantom Jacket. That thing is not cheap, but it is incredible. For the legs, I have the Pearl Izumi Thermal tights. They're fleece lined and keep me super warm.
For gloves, I have Nike running gloves. They do the trick even though they're not cycling specific. They keep my hands warm, that's what counts! For my feet, I just use Under Armour socks that are thicker than the typical cycling sock and are mid-calf length as opposed to ankle height. And then I throw toe warmers on my shoes but those do more to just block air than actually keep my feet warm.
Here are recommendations for cycling at temperatures below toe covers, knee/arm warmers, so I won't speak to those. Hopefully at this point you've mastered the art of spring and falls temperatures (who am I kidding, those are the worst times to know what to wear, I always get it wrong). My recommendations are for rides that won't vary in temperature more than about 5-8*
The key is layering, and dressing to the conditions. You don't want to sweat. If you're comfortable when you start your ride - you're going to overheat - always start "comfortably chilly" as you will warm up.
When I'm riding in the 30-40* range I wear a pair of Pearl Izumi Elite Soft-Shell bike gloves. What I like about them is they are longer and cover more of the wrist where your radial artery is closest to the skin (where the blood stands to cool before going into your hand). Keep the wrists covered and your hands stay warmer. Below 30* or so, a set of lobster claws may help keep you more comfortable, as suggested above. When the temps drop into the teens/20s I use a set of Black Diamond ski gloves that cost more than you probably want to ever spend on gloves. Look for something with a good windproof shell and good insulation. Be sure not to overdo it and sweat on your hands too much.
Combine two things - wool socks (such as Smartwool hiking) and a good set of insulated booties. I have a couple pairs by Sugoi (Firewall-dry and Resistor-wet) - the former I didn't have great luck with due to poor craftsmanship, though they may be better these days. I'll be shopping for a new pair, most certainly. If you have vents on the bottom of your shoes, tape them closed to keep cold air from coming in, however, be sure you can vent out moist air to keep your feet from getting wet (yes, possible even at those temps).
I use a pair of Pearl Izumi Elite AmFIB tights (without a chamois) over my normal bike shorts. You're looking for something that is windproof on the top/front of your legs and a fleece liner. I have an older pair that doesn't have the gaiter at the bottom like they do now (not sure if I like that). Try on a lot of pants to see what fits best, doesn't bunch, or isn't too tight. Like Tuan said, you may opt for a lighter set of tights if it's not a windy day, or it's going to get warmer (say, into the 40s). I prefer tights without chamois so that I can pick which shorts/chamois I want to wear for the ride (be it long or short). Also, it's less likely that your tights will be stuck in the dirty hamper if you have to wash them after each use - easier to change out the shorts since you probably have multiple pairs of those.
Easy equation - Base+Insulating+Shell=good time. I'll go with a base layer (typically I go with short sleeve tech shirt), long sleeve jersey or fleece, and a windproof shell (sometimes one with insulation if it's cold enough). I use the Gore Phantom jacket - softshell, keeps the wind out, protects the neck, and the sleeves come off if it gets warm. As conditions vary, so will your tops.
Balaclava. Get one. Get one that you can also pull your head through and use as a neck gaiter. I have an insulated one from Patagonia that works nicely. Sometimes I just use a headband to knock the cold off my ears. A skullcap helps, too. You can always take you cap off if you get hot and need to ventilate. I've never had to put a cover over my helmet, I've been fine with skullcaps. You can even get a windproof cap to wear under your helmet. Keep in mind how much room you have, so any cap you get needs to be able to fit inside your brain bucket!
Much of your decision will be based on trail and error. For your first couple of rides, you may want to carry extra gear (lighter/heavier gloves, thicker/thinner cap, etc) until you get a feel for what you're comfortable with. Everyone is a little different and has different reactions in the cold. Maybe you don't need to wear as much, maybe you need to wear more. You'll just have to find out.
Anyone seen any good sales lately, either at big box outdoor stores or at local cycling shops? I'm hoping to add some of these items to my arsenal as well.
thank you all. there is a lot of really good advice and gear recs in here. I'm going to be a cold-weather biking machine.
All great advice here -- just remember the big picture ideas:
1) be visible to others - lights, fluorescent colors
3) protect against the wind (esp. hands/neck/chest)
4) protect against cold
5) but don't worry about cold _too_ much - be chilly when you first start your ride
I would say that 1) -3) are more important than 4). You can always carry a beanie or helmet cover, or thicker gloves/arm warmers, if you get too cold.
And it's the winter - don't worry about fashion, since your stuff is going to get grimy from road spray anyway. $20 track warm-ups from WalMart will work just as well as $200 Assos bib shorts.
Go with Gore Bike Wear for external layers- they are the best for wind blocking, thin, functional protection.
For baselayers I prefer Craft- those Norwegians know how to prep for cycling, cross country skiing, and runing.
As for where to buy, I got most of my gear perusing the REI discount racks.