Cold Weather Wear, Part 3

Even here in the mid-South, some serious cold is already moving in.  There have been several mornings, and even some afternoons, where it’s just too cold to get away with only arm and knee warmers and/or long-sleeve base layers under summer jerseys.  Still, adding heavier outer layers to your cycling wardrobe doesn’t mean you have to look or feel like the Michelin Man (who, I just learned, is actually named Bibendum).

As alluded to in Part 1 of these discussions, I prefer to keep my windblock material limited to my outerwear.  However, that’s not to say that all of my outerwear has windblock.  Though I can get away with a light base layer, arm warmers, and a light jersey for mornings that start around 40 to 45 degrees, if it’s not predicted to warm much before the ride is over, I prefer a light base layer and a long sleeve jersey with a light layer of thermal fleece inside.  This combination can work for me down to about 35 degrees depending on the wind.

If it’s windy and cold, I’m going for the windblock/Windstopper.  I have three jackets of varying warmth, each with some windblock material.  The one for the low and mid-thirties, but which was also just worn comfortably on a cloudy, windy ride in the upper-forties, has Windstopper only on the torso.  The sleeves are still fairly thin.  It also is full-zip with a small, off-center chest zip for extra ventilation.  These features, along with the lack of Windstopper on the arms, make this jersey functional for a wide range of temperatures.  For me, this jersey would be perfect for a ride that was starting in the low thirties, but is forecasted to warm to near 50 before the end.

My jacket for temperatures ranging from the low-twenties to the low-thirties is still fairly thin but has windblock material on the chest and what is the forward portion of the arms when in the cycling position.  This jersey is the Craft PB Wind Block jersey.  Though called a jersey by Craft, it seems more like a jacket to me.  I’m specifically listing the brand here to discuss two aspects of the jacket.  One, the windblock material used by Craft doesn’t seem to breathe as well as the Windstopper.  This, combined with the lack of chest or pit-zips and the fuller coverage of the windblock material means this jacket is limited to rides that start and stay cold.  Secondly, this jacket is extremely form-fitting in the chest.  Be aware that you may want to size up if you are on the upper limits of the size chart listings.  Even though there are no pit-zips, Craft has placed a thinner, more breathable section of material in this area and down the side of the torso so you can somewhat vent just by slightly lifting your elbows and letting more air flow over these areas.

My coldest-of-cold rides jacket is the Castelli Stelvio Windstopper jacket (pictured above).  I’ve recently read a review that says this jacket isn’t overly hot until temperatures reach near 50.  I highly disagree.  For me, much over 30 is too warm for this jacket.  Not only is it Windstopper on top of a thermal layer, it has no ventilation options other than the front zipper.  I use this jacket in temperatures from 25 to 10 degrees, and it is sufficiently warm for these temperatures with just a light base layer and the extra coverage from my winter bib tights.  Layering up underneath would extend this range into the “it’s way too friggin’ cold to do anything but sit on the couch under a blanket” temperatures.  The Castelli jacket fits like all my other Castelli products: Euro.  So size up.

For winter tights, I prefer to get bib-tights without pads and wear them over my summer shorts.  Not only do the summer bibs under the tights offer me pads which I’m used to and know I like, they provide a little extra warmth.  Last year, I only had one pair of bib tights, which only offered only a light thermal fleece lining and no wind resistance.  I made these work for rides as low as 10 degrees, but this was exceeding their usable range.  My inner thighs and buttocks were both painfully cold by the end of the ride.  I think these tights are much better suited for 25 to 40 degree weather.  This year, I’ve purchased a set of tights with not only thermal lining but a windproof softshell as well.  These will be getting extensive use once the thermometer starts holding below 25.  If you only get one pair of bib tights, I recommend looking for something with a windblock softshell.  It’s not likely that this extra protection will cause you to get too hot in 40 to 50 degree temperatures, but you will be quite thankful for it in lower temps.

So for outerwear, I recommend some light thermal long-sleeve jerseys and at least two good jackets.  One with some windblock and ventilation for brisk but not extremely cold conditions that will also work with the proper layering for cold mornings that will not stay cold.  A second that’s devoted to use on those colder days that will stay that way.  For the legs, I recommend a good pair of tights with windblock.  I suggest getting a pair of tights that can be worn over the shorts or bibs you already have.  It both saves some bucks and is more functional in my opinion.  But, most importantly, I recommend that you not let the winter stop you from riding this year.  Get out there.  Remember, come July and August we’ll be wishing for cold again.

– Alex