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The Art of Layering

October 12, 2009

Well, we had our first little cold snap this past weekend and I enjoyed a great 3 hour ride in wet and cold.  However, I realized about 20 minutes into my ride when I began to sweat that my layering skills were a little rusty.

I think the anticipation of being cold is our main downfall.  In an effort to make sure we are warm we pile on clothes until we are comfortable standing next our bikes.  This creates a problem, because we are not going to be standing next to our bikes we are going to be riding them.

As we ride along we may feel quite comfortable when spinning easy, but once we reach that first hill our core temperature rises from the activity and we begin to sweat – resulting in damp clothing.  This is where the trouble begins.  Once we crest the hill or return to an easy spin that damp clothing will cause us to get chilled.

The trick then is to layer or choose clothing that allows you to regulate your body temperature as your activity changes.

Upper Body

Most of the season in Texas all we need is a jersey, but as temperatures get down closer to the 50’s and 60’s it will be important to begin adding layers.  The first layer you will add is a base layer.  The base layer is worn under your jersey.  The purpose of this layer is to keep you warm, while at the same time not making you too hot.  Additionally it should pull moisture away from your skin.  The Descente Pro V base layer is what I typically use and it is well worth the $50 price tag.  Now I know what your thinking.  I work at the shop and get a great deal.  Well, I just walked the floor and they’re on sale for $24.99.

The middle layer is the trickiest of layers because what you choose to wear here will depend on a number of factors.  Your level of activity, your metabolism, air temp, etc.  Typically speaking if it is between 50 and 70 you should be fine with a short sleeve jersey (maybe arm warmers).  Some of you may choose to go with a long sleeve jersey if temperatures are between 40 and 55.  Believe it or not wool jerseys are not only great for cold weather riding, but will continue to pull moisture away from your core.

As temperatures creep below 50 you can begin by adding a wind vest or lightweight jacket.  Remember to start out on your ride a little chilly. You will warm up as you ride.  You can always stuff a jacket or vest in your jersey pocket if you feel you might to add clothing later.

Lower Body

Not quite as many options here.  I think last year I rode year round in my shorts and added knee warmers when the temp dropped below 55.  Some of you may opt for leg warmers or even tights at 50.  Again, some of this will depend on your activity level and metabolism.  Tights would be too hot for me at 50, but my wife won’t leave the house otherwise.

Accessories – Hands, Feet and Head

Most of the time you will not need to change from the norm until the temperature reaches 55.  At 55 you may begin to add gloves and toe warmers, maybe a cycling cap for your noggin.  Below 50 most of you will want to wear a thicker head cover and maybe some neoprene shoe covers or even thermal booties for especially cold days.  I would also recommend a wool sock as you begin to add layers to your feet.  The wool will aide in wicking moisture from your feet.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Merlin permalink
    October 12, 2009 7:48 pm

    Being up in the Texas panhandle, we get to layer much more of the year than central Texas folks.

    Except for your temperature designations, I pretty much agree with what you’ve said. Maybe it’s the fact that our winds are minimum 15mph and more often than not, 20 mph that makes me think your temperature designations are low.

    I’ve always read to cover your knees once you get below 65 (certainly 60) degrees.

    One other little thing that helps on very cold, windy days is to put some tape over the front vents of your helmet. For me, it keeps me from getting a headache from cold air blowing on my head (even with a cap), yet the rear helmet vents still let moisture evaporate.

  2. roostertx permalink
    October 13, 2009 12:50 pm

    Great comments and good suggestion on the tape. Temperature is a tricky thing cause everyone is a little different. At 60 degrees I ride in shorts, base and jersey. If I put arm and leg warmers on I’ll be too hot.

    It’s always better to start out a little chilly and then add layers. Thanks for reading.

    Our Facebook friends recommended a product posting that talked about the technical aspects of the gear. I’ll try and get that up shortly.

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  1. Cycle through the Cold with the Right Stuff « It's Time To Ride!

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