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Cycle through the Cold with the Right Stuff

December 31, 2010


Just this week, we’ve experienced temperatures ranging from 30s to 70s.  And although there’s no telling what temps we’ll see tomorrow, there will certainly be some cold days ahead. So how do you prevent a few cold snaps from keeping you off your bike this winter season?

We’ve all heard the right way to dress for comfort on the bike is layers, but what does that mean in Central Texas?  A very general rule of thumb that works fairly well in the winter here is to dress as if it is 10 degrees cooler than it really is.  While your body will produce heat during exercise, ambient temperature as well as wind chill (coming from the breeze in the air as well as your riding) will work against your body’s heat production giving the sense that it is colder than the thermostat indicates, at least until you truly get warmed up and into your ride.  And that sensation can be amplified when you ride earlier in the morning or later in the evening.


Regardless of time of day, to regulate the discrepancy between your body temperature and the air temperature, particularly as you start to work on the bike more and increase your body temperature, clothing that controls moisture (both sweat and precipitation) and that is easy to take off and put on is key.  Base layers perform the first function, and arm, knee, and leg warmers perform the second function.


The Sugoi Carbon Base Layer, in long sleeve

Base layers such as an undershirt perform the task of pulling sweat off your body and trapping warm air against the skin. A sports-specific undershirt also serves to keep your core warm, which helps regulate overall body temperature. Sugoi makes a Carbon base layer that not only regulates moisture and temperature, but because of the fabric material utilized it repels odors and odor causing bacteria. Paired with such a high-tech fabric are good common-sense features like anatomic cuts, and short sleeve, long sleeve, and long sleeve with zipper versions at great prices considering the performance of these pieces ($39.99 to $59.99).

Specialized's anatomic knee warmers.

Arm, knee, and leg warmers are similar in function to base layers, regulating body temperature and managing moisture transfer, but they have the added feature of being easily removable if the temperature rises too far for your riding comfort. Arm warmers are simply the sleeves off your long sleeves shirts, while leg warmers are what would separate a pair of pants from a pair of shorts, with knee warmers being like knickers in length. Typically warmers stay in place through the use of elastic bands. Specialized’s warmers ($34.99 to $49.99) are a great choice since they are anatomically cut not only making it easier for them to stay in place, but also easier to move in. And since they slide off as easy as they slide on, you can simply stuff them in a jersey pocket.

Peal Izumi's Women's Barrier Elite convertible jacket

Sometimes, even in sunny Austin, the skies turn grey and the rain starts to fall, and that means a common sense outerwear piece is needed. Many choose vests to keep their chest dry and warm, while some prefer jackets for their greater coverage. Why choose? A convertible jacket, one whose sleeves zip, snap, or Velcro off to become a vest are a great choice. Like a base layer, a convertible jacket easily adjusts to changing conditions and relative comfort. Two top choices would be the Pearl Izumi Barrier Elite ($99.99) or the Specialized Defelect ($119.99). Each of these pieces offers the rider two great articles of clothing in one that re also light weight and easily packable.

There are a host of clothing options available to cyclists today, each with a purpose. The best bet is to pair items for complimentary use through layering and then remove and re-apply as the ride conditions require.

RELATED POSTS: The Art of Layering

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