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Weather to Ride.

March 4, 2014

You should want to ride in bad weather. Or at least not mind it.

In Austin we’re pretty blessed with great weather. Mostly clear skies. Long stretches of moderate temperatures. Still, many of us ride the most when the weather is at its worst, not to mention potentially most dangerous—Summer.

Setting Summer aside though, like we saw this past weekend, in the Fall and Winter weather can go from Spring like to Polar Vortex in a matter of hours, if not minutes, around here. We’ve seen plenty of sunny, frigid days as well as cool or even warm, damp ones this Winter. But none of that shouldn’t keep you from your ride.

Surely you're not going to wait until April to ride? All of these days are great days to ride!

Surely you’re not going to wait until April to ride? All of these days are great days to ride!

If you’re like most of us around the shop, cycling is a passion. You’re invested in it to some degree or another. You’re a new rider getting going and taking in as much information as you can find. You’re an enthusiast riding most of the trails Austin has to offer or many of the longer road rides that happen each weekend. Or you’re an old pro that commutes everyday, logs thousands of miles a year, and can name every stretch of trail along the Greenbelt. Whatever your current skill level, you have the bike, you’ve joined the club, you’ve got the race license, you have the perfect commuter bag, and you maintain your gear. Cycling is a passion. You or someone you know introduces you as a cyclist first.

So why let something truly out of your control—weather—keep you from your passion? I’m not talking about riding during tornado warnings or thunderstorms. That’s dangerous. Trust me. But simple cold and rain are no reason to pack it in. You just need the right approach and the right equipment.

In my experience the right approach is knowing that you want to ride and setting realistic expectations given the conditions. Many of us are already thinking about the rides we’re going to do next weekend. Maybe you want to ride more because you didn’t ride this Sunday knowing the weather was going to deteriorate. But then you watched highlights from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and saw the conditions they rode in. Yes they are pros getting paid to do a job. Luckily we don’t have that problem and can ride for fun—even in the cold rain.

If it’s going to be wet, why not take a spin on Town Lake since riding MTB trails in such conditions can cause trail erosion? Why not pack the bike into the car and head to the Veloway to practice some wet road riding? Or pick an area close to you to do an hour practicing cornering in the rain? If the wind is howling out of the North, how about heading out into it and getting pushed all the way home? Or, my personal favorite, grab a cyclocross bike and mix it up a little on the road and some light trails like Town Lake or Circle C. Adjusting your ride for the conditions is a surefire way to keep that date with your bike.

The value in riding in such conditions is threefold. First, there’s the basic sense of accomplishment. You did something you didn’t think you could do! Of course, you can do it. And after a few rides you’ll realize it’s not as tough as you thought. Second, and probably the most important, is that poor weather riding builds skills and confidence that translates to nice, dry weather riding. You learn your personal comfort zones and how far you and your equipment really can go in the wet. That builds skills you can grow further when the clouds break and the sun shines. Finally, if you’ve planned on a specific event and looked forward to it for months and the weather is less than ideal on the big day, you’re still ready to have a great ride.

Wet conditions don't slow down our eBay Czar, Joey "the Cuban Missile" Machado. Just off the podium this past Sunday at La Primavera.

Wet conditions don’t slow down our eBay Czar, Joey “the Cuban Missile” Machado. Just off the podium this past Sunday at La Primavera.

There is no such thing as bad weather. Just bad gear. That’s the expression and I’m pretty much a believer in it. Heading out in bibs and a jersey when it’s 35 degrees and drizzling isn’t going to cut it. But with some planning and a few key pieces I’ve yet to miss a day of riding this Winter due to weather.

We talked some time back about dressing for success in the Fall. And for the colder conditions we’ve seen as recently as Sunday layering in the Winter holds just as true. But there are some secrets if you’re going to get out there when it’s in the 30s.

Despite my known preference for Castelli gear, the secret with whatever you choose is to think of each layer aside from the outer one as insulation. It should cover everything and it should fit snug, trapping warm air and body heat against the skin. The outermost layer not only provides you warmth, but also blocks wind and rain.

For a ride where the ambient air temperature isn’t going to get above 35 degrees, here’s a breakdown of what I generally wear:

  • Castelli Risvolto Winter Cap, which is an insulated cycling cap with ear flaps built in. It’s been in my wardrobe for years.
  • Castelli Sorpasso bib knicker or Nanoflex bib knicker if it’s wet also. The nanoflex line is pretty amazing in the wet.
  • Castelli iride seamless base layer, potentially one of the best products I’ve ever ridden, these come in short sleeve or long sleeve options. If I don’t have a clean long sleeve base layer to wear, I’ll throw some arm warmers on for temps at 35 or lower. Again, the Nanoflex line from Castelli is great, but be careful with sizing. The grippers aren’t as stretchy as some other offerings, so a snugger fit is better for keeping these warmers in place.
  • A short sleeve jersey.
  • A thermal long sleeve jersey. I look for ones that have sleeves that run a little long, like a moto jacket, so I can cover the cuff of my gloves.
  • Two pairs of socks, one short cuff, thin pair like one of the excellent Swiftwick offerings, and then a longer pair over them, often wool if I have some clean.
  • My secret weapon: Castelli Leggenda gloves WITH a glove liner. I find that if my hands are warm, the rest of me is ok almost no matter what. And talking with other all-weather riding friends, they generally mention the same thing.
  • And the best piece of cycling clothing I currently own, the Castelli Fawesome (formerly Gabba) vest. The black one looks sharp, but the hi-viz offering makes more practical sense on gray days. Save the black for sunny cold days and/or group rides where visibility is up.

Some of this I’m willing to adjust based on the ride I’m going to do. After all, 35 degrees in the rain isn’t the same as 35 degrees in the sun, nor is two hours in Westlake Hills the same as an easy hour spin on Town Lake. Harder efforts produce more body heat, so I might skip arm warmers under a thermal jersey depending on how I’m adjusting my ride for example.

The great thing about cold and wet weather riding in Austin is that it’s a treat. It’s not really a season-long slog like it is on the East coast where I used to live. Given the relatively few days of truly “epic” weather, it’s something you can actually look forward to. And, best of all, quality cold and wet weather gear last a good long time here. After all, you don’t really get to use it that often!


You can pick out some new favorite items now for the few remaining days of cool weather ahead of the heat and be well stocked when Fall and Winter roll back in. All of the cold weather clothing and some accessories at the shop are currently on sale. Stop by and let us help find the right gear for you.

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