Keeping warm on the bike

I've not written much in the past about winter cycle clothing, but as I progress through my third winter on the bike I thought I’d share what I've learned.

It’s easy keeping your body and legs warm but stopping your extremities like hands, feet and nose from getting cold is a different matter.

Most bike shoes have mesh ventilation panels to keep your feet cool in summer but in winter, they also let cold air in. One tip would be to wear thermal socks - two pairs of them. If you suffer from poor circulation like I do then two pairs of socks may not be enough. The answer isn't to put three pairs on. The simple answer is over shoes. Overshoes are like gloves for your shoes. Nearly all are waterproof to some degree so not only do they block the wind they also keep your feet dry when it’s raining which also helps keep your feet warm. They may seem a little extravagant at around £25 a pair but they’re well worth the money.

It’s obvious that you’ll need to wear gloves to keep your hands warm in winter but choosing a good pair is important. You don’t have to spend a fortune on them but if you buy some that are waterproof they generally have a wind-stopper material which will keep your hands warmer. Again if you suffer from poor circulation like me your hands will get cold no matter what gloves you wear. However, your hands will start to warm up within 15-20mins of vigorous pedalling. If you feel you still need more warmth for your hands, you can always buy some glove liners.

The best thing I've found for keeping my face warm is a Buff. A buff is a piece of headwear that is very thin and tube shaped and can be worm in many styles to cover your head, face, ears etc. If you require full head and face coverage you can use two. One for your top half and one for the bottom half of your head. Again you will start off a little cold but you’ll warm up as you ride.

I like to ride with as little as possible. The more layers you have the more restricted you’ll feel. I've found all I need is a base layer and jacket. This is good enough is almost all temperatures. When it gets to -1c or lower (temperature or wind chill) I put two base layers on. A modern base layer is thin and lightweight. It allows heat to be retained but moisture to escape. I use a thin lightweight waterproof jacket on top. This stops the wind from penetrating, therefore keeping the temperature higher. Because body heat can’t escape through the jacket you stay warm. This set-up isn't as good when the temperature is mild as condensation builds up between the base layer and the jacket.

I wear bib tights during the winter. Cheap ones are fine. They stop cold air getting in at the waistline. Most will have some sort of wind-stopper material at the front. Your legs will naturally warm up with pedalling but your outer thighs may get cold. To save yourself having different thickness tights you could always wear a pair of shorts over the top. For rainy days, you could buy some waterproof bib tights but they can be very costly. Instead, I use a pair of waterproof over-trousers. Not as streamlined but great value.

Remember, it's always best to start off cold as you'll warm up when pedalling.

I'm always interested to hear what works for others if you want to share your experiences.

1 comment:

  1. Good post Toby...I am exactly the same as you in all of these areas. My feet seem to suffer more that any other area..Two pairs of socks plus the overshoes do the trick for rides of up to about 3hrs...after that, the cold starts to overtake them..!



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