When the cold weather first began to show itself, I purchased a Trek Criterium Hooded Jersey off the discount rack at my local bike shop. This track-jacket-like hoodie does a fantastic job of fending off the chill. The integrated hood is a total bonus. It has two rear pockets, and two zippered pockets for items you don’t want to lose. One is located on the chest and the other is with the rear pockets. My only (very minor) regrets with this item are that (a) it snags easily, and (b) it fits like a jersey. On the latter, I might have liked better something that was cut slightly more loosely. On the other hand, its fit does make it fairly versatile in terms of layering options, and allows for a comfortable ride.
Realizing that the Criterium jersey didn’t offer any protection against rain, and only blocked wind to a point, I began looking for a wind and rain shell. I found the Nike Storm-FIT Jacket (also on the clearance rack of my local bike shop). This jacket is awesome, whether worn by itself or together with the Criterium jersey. It totally blocks both wind and rain (I’ve had occasion to fully test both). It has one rear mesh pocket, which doubles as a vent, another vent on the right side, and two zippered pockets/vents on the chest. The high collar has a soft fleece lining and can be cinched up by a drawstring. There are a number of reflective strips, and the bright red is highly visible in both daylight and grey conditions (without being fluorescent).
I wear a red fleece Chaos Windbloc Cap, which is warm, moisture-wicking, and fits comfortably under my helmet. I love it. Unfortunately, on the coldest of days, my face was still left exposed and very, very cold.
So I decided to save the cap for days when temperatures are at least in the 40s, and I bought a Terramar Fleece Balaclava for the really cold days. It works wonderfully. The only drawback is that when you have your nose covered and you aren’t moving very fast, your warm breath rises straight up onto your glasses and fogs them up. So long as you’re moving along at a decent clip, this isn’t a problem. Otherwise, you have to either pull the balaclava down beneath your nose, or else pull your glasses down to the end of your nose, until you pick up speed again.
Finally, gloves. I was making do in cooler temps with a pair of EMS gloves that are about the weight of gardening gloves but that partially block wind and moisture and also have a sticky grip on the palm and fingers. They’re great gloves, but they just couldn’t cut it on their own in the cold, at speed, or in the (heavy) rain. For a couple of rides, I used a pair of L. L. Bean rag wool gloves with leather palms and Thinsulate linings. They were pretty good for warmth, but they’re not designed specifically for bicycling, so they felt tight and limited movement when I had my hands on the handlebar. So I bought a pair of 180’s Storm XTG Gloves. These gloves are phenomenal. They hold up extremely well against both wind and rain. The lining is incredibly soft, while the outer shell and reinforced surface on the palm and fingers seems very durable. Added features include zippered pockets on the back of each hand for small items or chemical warmers, drawstring bungees on the back of each hand for just about anything, and a cool little dot on each forefinger designed to allow you to operate various devices (e.g., ipods, cell phones, etc.) without having to remove your glove. The fit is really great, given that these are especially designed for use on a bicycle. However, they are sized like most cycling gear, and therefore run a little smaller than what you’d expect from non-cycling-specific gloves. If you’re between sizes, order the larger option.
One area I still need to address is my feet. I’m in the process of exploring a couple of different options. I’ll let you know what I settle on.