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Share your cold weather riding tips (revisited)

Editor’s note: I am republishing this post, which was originally published on Nov. 29, 2010 because the next few days look to be pretty cold. Hopefully we’ll all have a few more tips to add to the comment section.

Here is what I’ve added to my closet to help with the cold weather.

I love my Buff Headwear, which is a seamless tube of merino wool that can be worn many different ways to keep my head warm. On really cold days, I wear it as a balaclava. Check out the video to see all the ways it can be worn. I picked my first one up at Summit Hut, but got the second one from REI. The wool is much more effective than the synthetic. You can get the Buff online.

I also picked up an Under Armour Heat Gear base layer on clearance from REI.

Most importantly, I found some glove/mittens that actually keep my hands warm. They are Manzella Cascade fleece convertible glove/mittens. I got them on Amazon. They keep my hands really warm, but allow me to use my fingers when I need to.

I rode with all three of these items plus a cheap fleece jacket and I was perfectly warm. Tomorrow should be colder, so it will be a better test.

Local weather reports suggest tomorrow morning’s temperature may dip in to the low twenties or high teens.

How do you stay warm during the cold days?

Share your tips in the comment section.

Update: Here is Pima County’s bicycle and pedestrian program manager, Matt Zoll’s, cold weather commuting setup:

Here’s what I have for winter gear. I think the windchill
today at 18 mph was about 21 when I rode in this morning about 5 miles.
I was pretty toasty so maybe your readers would be interested in this.

Headband – $10
Neoprene mask – $20
Windpants from Summit Hut – $50
Used windshell from Swap – $15
Used windvest from Swap – $10
Free hand me down old jacket
Used neoprene booties – $10
Heated gloves – priceless (you can also use the one-time handwarmers
that cost about 50 cents apiece, last 8 hours or so)

32 comments
Red Star
Red Star

Collared zippered layers for the torso...adjustable, and keeping the neck just warm enough makes silly things like balaclavas, helmet liners, and the rest of the astronaut gear unnecessary in the Old Pueblo.

Orvis
Orvis

Your tip last year about the merino wool buff solved what was pretty much a lifetime problem for me. I have a big head and normal head coverings never make it to my ears let alome stay there if they'll stretch. The wool Buffs are long enough and stretchy enough that you can double them up and pull them over your ears plus they're thin so I can still fit my head into a helmet. Thank you so much for that suggestion. It really changed my life in the cold.

Susannah
Susannah

What about riding in the HEAT?

Nx571
Nx571

Rip the sleeve off an old t-shirt, or long sleeve shirt, and pull it over your head to cover your ears. FWIW, works just as well as expensive head coverings.

DD Hacor
DD Hacor

If you don't have booties, slide your toes into a sandwhich baggie before slipping on the shoes. Works great for the price!

Kathy Chavez
Kathy Chavez

base layer: tight tank or armour followed by cotton turtleneck, light wool sweater, rainproof cycling jacket. wool cap and sox. loose full fingered gloves. got great Terry winter cycling pants from Santa last year:)

Tfgosnell
Tfgosnell

It seems that cold fingers are the most common complaint in this discussion. At the risk of stating the obvious, fingers get cold due to lack of blood flow into the fingers. Two relevant causes of lack of blood to the fingers are: 1. A cold core. If your core is not kept warm your body will shut down blood flow to the extremities. 2. Gloves that are too tight and restrict circulation in the fingers. Loose fitting gloves are better than tight fitting gloves. Loose fitting gloves also do a better job of insulating than tight fitting gloves. That's my two cents for what it is worth.

Tfgosnell
Tfgosnell

I second the wool gloves. Depending on how cold it is, I will either wear them over my normal cycling gloves or over a pair of full finger cycling gloves.

Wuz
Wuz

simple answer: Layers 3 layers & you can adjust these depending upon temperature. A) Base layer - a thin layer to wick the sweat away. key for head & hands. good for torso also. Down side: will be soaking wet w/ sweat at the end of your ride Up side: Your warmth layer will be dry at the end of your ride. base layer gear is cheap, buy two. second set for the ride home. B) Warmth layer - wear it where you do not want pieces of your body to freeze & drop off. C) Wind layer - on those bitter cold or windy days, you will want a wind stopper. This can be as simple as a windbreaker or rainjacket on top of your gear. Paper works too, that's why racers drop the newspapers inside their jerseys at the top of mountains. a few slices of newsprint will keep toes warm. If you can go w/ clipless pedals... do. If only for the option of using booties over your shoes. Cycling shoes are made to vent, not warmth. Those little toe booties are great. The full shoe bootie is overkill imho. Sweat is your enemy, stay dry. Carry a spare pair of dry socks for the commute home. I stop for groceries on the way home from work, I choose the store w/ the air hand dryer to dry my balaclava for the last mile home. Just be smart & stay dry. =)

zz
zz

From winter motorcycling days....wool, nylon and silk are your friends, the wind is your enemy....get or make some handlebar grip fairings (out of gallon milk jug) to keep wind off your hands...knee warmers make a big difference and don't wear things tight - it restricts the flow of blood.

Frank Tellez
Frank Tellez

Can we bump this up to the front page occasionally as winter comes in and people discover more tips? This will be my first winter on a bike. So far I have a balaclava and it works great. Ordered a basic layer online, long sleeve undershirt and pants, from Performance Bikes yesterday. Should arrive soon.

James
James

I wore long johns today. The bright red kind. Just took off the jacket in the sun and maintained a pretty good body temp. Never got too hot or too cold. I've found that in Tucson, unless raining, the only issues tend to be lack of sun (hence the cold in the morning), and wind. So wind breakers are great too with something warm underneath (I also concur with the wool idea) I also have a pair of glittens... Mittens that flip back to partial gloves with open finger tips. They are alpaca yarn ones from Sonoita. I have long arms and circulation problems so these are great for typing in cold buildings when my hands are super cold too.

Bob
Bob

Ski Gloves. These are designed to keep fingers warm in 40 mph winds at very cold temps but be flexible enough to allow activity. A good pair starts at $40, so this might be too much

Kurt
Kurt

Wool. In order of decreasing temps: Socks, armwarmers, gloves, jersey, skullcap, overshirt, balacava. Non wool: toe covers, then insulated boots. Sub-zero (F): ski goggles lobster mits and studded tires are nice; this is also about the point where the retrogrouch admits the carbon brake levers don't freeze the fingers as much.

Brody
Brody

I hate being cold, too. Here's what I did to ride through winter last year: - silk balaclava - fleece neck and face warmer (motorcycle style) - long-sleeve t-shirt - trash bag shirt (cut out neck and arm holes, used to seal in body heat around torso) - thermal long-sleeve jersey - windbreaker or wind vest, depending on the chill factor - thermal tights - silk glove liners - winter cycling gloves I came home dripping with sweat but it kept me perfectly comfortable while on the bike.

Tony
Tony

I'm a pretty big wimp when it comes to riding in cold weather. I always seem to talk myself into doing an indoor ride. Of course, it isn't the same as riding outdoors, but it's better than nothing. :)

Red Star
Red Star

Food is fuel and your body is more challenged on cold days: consume an additional handful or two of dry-roasted, no-salt mixed nuts, perhaps a couple additional tablespoons of oatmeal. Do this an hour or so earlier. Avoid hot coffee and tea as they can induce heat-loss sweating and constrict blood vessels. Full-finger gloves? Puleeeze! Suck it up!

3wheeler
3wheeler

The hands are the hardest to keep warm. The dream solution would be a small fairing that would block the wind from getting to the hands. I wish someone made one that was cheap and easy to put on and take off. Next to a fairing, I've found leather gloves to be the best. For the torso, I have a sweater that has a leather front to block the wind. Because it's just knit in the back, it doesn't usually get overly hot.

Martha Retallick
Martha Retallick

Warm sox! Especially if you have those cycling shoes with mesh or holes for ventilation.

Mike McC.
Mike McC.

Hopefully I can learn something before tomorrow... since I nearly perished this morning!

Dan Cobbledick
Dan Cobbledick

Balaclava and ski gloves below 40 degrees (fingers stay warm but have to tuck thumbs under - maybe because thumb tips are normally pointed forward). Below 30 degrees, I'm with Bob - how many days can it stay that cold? -Dan Cobbledick

Rzar
Rzar

Beast layer ever and cheapest piece of gear you will ever buy, a wifebeater!

Bob Rogers
Bob Rogers

I'll freeze to bike across Tibet, but I didn't come to Tucson to be this cold. I will do a weight workout instead. This too shall pass.

Colby
Colby

Concur - I can usually wear enough layers and generate enough heat to be confortable, but the fingers always suffer. Earmuffs or balaclava are critical too.

3wheeler
3wheeler

zz, I like the milk jug idea!

3wheeler
3wheeler

I agree about eating some high calorie food a bit before going out in the cold. Good suggestion.

Donna
Donna

Ugh. Isn't it time to retire that offensive term already. Just go get a tank-top..

3wheeler
3wheeler

Rzar, I'll bite, what's a wifebeater - in regards to winter wear?

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