This is my first full winter commuting regularly, and it happens to coincide with my first winter in Michigan. So let’s talk about what we’re wearing when we’re out on the bike and Jack Frost is smacking us in the back of the head.
- Under my helmet I wear a fleece cap that covers my ears. It’s excellent, and I highly recommend it.
- I wear a balaclava around my neck and pull it up over my mouth and nose. This works decently, but I’m debating whether to switch to a neoprene mask, as the balaclava has a tendency to slip down and thus leave my nose exposed.
- Around my core, I’ve been wearing (in addition to whatever clothes I have on for work) two layers. The first, for warmth, is made of cotton and typically something akin to a sweatshirt in terms of weight. I’m using what I have available, but I’d prefer wool or fleece. Cotton is by far the worst material there is when it comes to insulation. Over that, I have a winter parka shell, which provides ample protection against wind and moisture.
- On my legs, I usually have a pair of wind/rain pants over whatever I’m wearing for work that day. Blocking the wind makes the biggest difference when it comes to staying warm. These have ten-inch zippers at the cuff, making them easy to get on and off. They also fold up very small, so they’re easy to keep with me at all times.
- On my feet, I wear fleece socks and ordinary shoes.
- On my hands, I’ve been wearing a pair of 180’s Storm XTG Gloves. When I first bought these, I thought they were absolutely terrific. Now that I’ve had more opportunity to use them in colder temperatures, I’ve found them tremendously lacking in warmth. They’re good against moisture, but the cuffs aren’t long enough and the insulation is insufficient. They have small pockets for chemical hand warmers, but that seems a waste for such a short commute. I’ve gone back to using my rag wool, Thinsulate-lined gloves from L. L. Bean while I search for another option.
On the whole, I stay plenty warm, save for my hands. All I really want now (besides better gloves) is something for my eyes that won’t fog up.
The main point here is that winter riding is simply not that bad. Road conditions can be challenging, and extra care is needed. But the cold should not be what keeps you from riding. Technical gear is not required. Only two or three of the aforementioned items are “cycling-specific,” and none of them were anymore expensive than ordinary clothes. The only thing that makes them cycling-specific is that they’re designed to work with a helmet, to allow ease of movement and maintain coverage while pedaling, and provide adequate dexterity when operating brakes and shifters.
For more on winter riding, I’m digging into the archives and recycling a few posts from last winter. The first is “slip slidin’ away“