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Want to know what to wear in the cold? Experiment. Take Notes

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Want to know what to wear in the cold? Experiment. Take Notes

Old 11-05-21, 10:49 AM
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MinnMan
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Want to know what to wear in the cold? Experiment. Take Notes

This subforum has lots of threads asking for advice about what to wear on hands, feet, heads, legs, torso in the cold weather.

Those of us with some experience riding in the cold usually try to be helpful, but advice is cheap, right? And everybody is different.

So to all those who are wondering what will work, I suggest that you (a) experiment and (b) take notes.

I have all kinds of winter cycling kit that's accumulated over the years. Some has worked, some hasn't. What works at 25*F may not work at 15*F. Where's the threshold where I need to change from one arrangement to the next? I'll know because at one point I went for a ride with certain gear and came back with frozen fingers or an overly sweaty core or.... And when I did, I took notes.

Every autumn, as it gets colder, I consult those notes. As soon as I'm shifting from full-on summer kit, I'm thinking about the thresholds (for me) of when I need light full fingered gloves (below 60°F), and then padded gloves (below the low 50s) and then padded gloves with glove liners (about 40 *F) and then lobster claws with liners (somewhere in the high 20s), and bar mitts (below 20). and bar mitts with Hot Hands (below 10*F).

I don't have this memorized for every part of the kit. Over the summer, I will forget which arrangement worked under which conditions. Therefore.....notes.
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Old 11-05-21, 03:07 PM
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In the nicer 3 seasons, I like to travel as light as possible. But in winter, I resign myself to keeping a pannier on my bike with a few options for clothing (lighter or heavier gloves, balaklava, extra shirt), or if for no other reason, a place to put excess clothing if the day turns warmer than expected.

Because even after more than a decade at it... you never know for sure.
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There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
Originally Posted by noglider
People in this forum are not typical.
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Old 11-05-21, 03:24 PM
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Yes to all of this.
At one point I had it down to 5 degree(Celsius) zones.
Although I find as I get older it takes longer for me to acclimatise to the changing conditions.
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Old 11-05-21, 03:28 PM
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I agree with OP that experimenting with different types of clothing is the best way to find out what works and what doesn't...Personally I am very specific about how I dress and what I like to wear. I would never ask other people and let other people decide what type of clothing I should be wearing while cycling...I really don't care what other cyclists wear or what works for somebody else, I choose to to wear what i want even if the whole cycling community disapproves of it.
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Old 11-05-21, 03:39 PM
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I have a way of forgetting how to dress for the cold during the summer. I should consolidate the notes I've made. They are strewn throughout my Excel ride log over multiple years.

For clothing selection I've learned you have to consider the following interrelated factors:
  • Exertion level
    • Working hard generates a lot of heat
    • Amount of insulation needed is drastically different if you choose a high level exertion vs prioritize not sweating
  • Ground conditions
    • Clear ground lets you go faster easier > less exertion, more self generated wind
    • Snow on the ground makes you work harder > more exertion, less self generated wind
    • Black ice forces you to ride slower > less effort, less wind
    • Fat biking in soft snow, very high exertion and very slow speed
  • Temperature
  • Wind (speed and direction)
    • At same temperature you might freeze in one direction and bake in the other
I tend to ride hard and not stop, so I dress much lighter than someone else might in similar conditions. Ground conditions is usually what messes up my clothing selection early in the season. Below freezing with no snow on the ground I can still go pretty fast so I misjudge my base layer end up being cold. Then when it snows my exertion goes through the roof.
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Old 11-06-21, 09:39 PM
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If you Strava, add notes to the ride; at least then it's all in one place

Originally Posted by mercator View Post
Although I find as I get older it takes longer for me to acclimatise to the changing conditions.
Although I find as I get older my low temperature threshold goes up. Somehow, even with all the gear, it's easier to Zwift than get out in 40*F. Shrug.
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Old 11-07-21, 12:22 AM
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Plain and simple, layers. I do like ThermionicScott and make sure I have the ability to change with the conditions. I live a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean. There can be huge differences in temperature and wind levels within short distances. Getting all sweaty and then being in a cold wind coming off the ocean can be miserable. For me, when cold out, If I am not at least a bit chilly when starting out, I have too much on. I do not wait until I feel too warm and start sweating. A thin, wind breaking outer layer with the minimum interior insulation needed to be comfortable. I actually like feeling a bit of coolness. One thing that has become critical is keeping my knees warm. I have knee warmers and tights in addition to bibs for different temp levels, are easily removed or put on, and easy to stash.
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Old 11-07-21, 01:56 AM
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Interesting topic.

It's astonishing to me how some people appear to tolerate the cold as I see them riding.

Having a place to put shed clothes is important to me. I have a basket on the front of my commuter where I can easily stash things quickly, and see them.

Over the years I've lost a few items from not putting them into my rear pockets properly. I've also had things fly out of open top grocery panniers.

Gloves choices are crucial. I use gore Tex overmitts of different weights over various gloves for the worst my area throws at me.

Where I live, Pogeys aren't necessary. But I've always wanted to make fairings out of the top half of Clorox bottles for the winter. Thing is, I can't bring myself to try because they'd look so geeky.
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Old 11-07-21, 07:24 PM
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I often drive to where I ride. this time of year, some items tend to Iive in my car. I can plan ahead all I want but when I arrive at the destination/trail head. often getting the bike ready & loading up reveals what the final layers should be. it's interesting when I ride a popular paved trail & I ask ppl getting back to their car what they think about what they work & make my final selection based partly on that
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Old 11-14-21, 07:36 PM
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Adding to the list of things I forget every year.

First snow = Fun!
Second snow = OMG I can't tell where the ice is anymore!

Today was icy while I was out on the mountain bike. As I was picking a line through the least sketchy looking spots I was reminded that just half a cm of snow would be enough that everything would look the same. Its days with fresh snow I really appreciate being on the fat bike.
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Old 11-23-21, 04:21 PM
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my first winter in Minnesota riding. Will try to find a happy medium to what i wear
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Old 11-23-21, 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Mreitter View Post
my first winter in Minnesota riding. Will try to find a happy medium to what i wear
Welcome. If you are in the MSP metro, the grand rounds trails are plowed promptly and well-taken care of. But when conditions get icy, the roads are salted whereas for the most part the bike trails are not.
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Old 11-26-21, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by gecho View Post
I was reminded that just half a cm of snow would be enough that everything would look the same. Its days with fresh snow I really appreciate being on the fat bike.
just enough to be fun
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Old 11-26-21, 08:41 AM
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Originally Posted by gecho View Post
Adding to the list of things I forget every year.

First snow = Fun!
Second snow = OMG I can't tell where the ice is anymore!

Today was icy while I was out on the mountain bike. As I was picking a line through the least sketchy looking spots I was reminded that just half a cm of snow would be enough that everything would look the same. Its days with fresh snow I really appreciate being on the fat bike.
With some frequency, (not always) we get conditions where there is snow at cold conditions, without anything close to a thaw for a long time afterwards, and so no ice underneath - just hardpack. It gets so that I am annoyed when the temperature gets up to 0°C, as that means we'll have ice.
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Old 11-26-21, 10:40 AM
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Bike forums "winter" sub and my notes on Strava really help when the season changes quick. One day it's 70° the next it's 30°. Really helpful to pull out my notes and immediately get going.

My rule of thumb is to be a little too cool when I first step out in my gear. I have to be mindful of windchill of course knowing I will be soon out of town.

I ride for fun in the winter, so I try to plan my route such that I'll have the most exertion in the first half, with the least amount of stopping or forced stops. This almost 100% means riding into the wind.

Wind breakers can do more harm then good at moderate temps around freezing. It's critical to remove excess moisture from perspiration.

Being prepared not to stop for more then a few minutes, or if I do to carry extra gear to swap out. Especially gloves.

I've finally become financially secure enough to buy high quality winter cycling gear - and it is worth every penny. I still have quite a bit of running gear and under armour gear I've bought on sale in the spring. Big expense have been shoes(boots). I have a decent running jacket that wasn't cheap but I can use for even casual walks.
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Old 11-26-21, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
In the nicer 3 seasons, I like to travel as light as possible. But in winter, I resign myself to keeping a pannier on my bike with a few options for clothing (lighter or heavier gloves, balaklava, extra shirt), or if for no other reason, a place to put excess clothing if the day turns warmer than expected.

Because even after more than a decade at it... you never know for sure.
yep here in Portland it can change so much so I have to carry full rain gear every day now. it can start raining in the middle of my ride unless I put on rain gear before. different temps need different gloves.
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Old 11-26-21, 11:13 AM
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Experimentation and mental notes works well for me. Like the OP, I have collected and experimented over the years. I have three glove options, at present (summer >50F, full finger "winter" >40F, and non-cycling mitts below 40F). I just ordered (long wait period) BikeIowa Pogies. Excellent reviews and seemingly very versatile. Hope to eliminate the "winter" gloves (above) as they are really only worthwhile in a narrow range of temps (got them new at a yard sale and wouldn't buy again). Atlanta is not a desperately cold climate and I am expecting (after this winter, and acquiring the Pogies) that I might get away with lighter glove options next winter.

I have been using layering fastidiously for years. The temps change here from 20-30 degrees F on a regular day. On milder mornings my go-to is an orange runners safety vest with reflectors over my summer wear. When colder, I shift to Gore leg warmers and long sleeve jerseys. Even colder I will go with a poly undershirt and upgrade to thicker, long sleeve jerseys. Coldest I have a newly acquired Gore Windstopper with zippered pits. It is cozy warm, especially with underlayers. As another worthy expressed, a bag/pannier for the afternoon is necessary.

Especially being older, there are two accessories that I cannot do without: A light fleece gaiter and a pair of collapsible fleece ear muffs. My neck and upper chest are more vulnerable now that I've escaped mid age. I used to use a thin, fleece skull cap. My current helmet fits snugly and doesn't allow that anymore. But, being a cannonball design, cold air across the pate isn't a problem.
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Old 11-26-21, 12:42 PM
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I too struggle with dressing and remembering what combos worked well in what weather. Sometimes it would take me 20 minutes or more to decwhat to wear. I mostly fixed that by developing a table.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...t?usp=drivesdk
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Old 11-27-21, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Sorcerer View Post
Where I live, Pogeys aren't necessary. But I've always wanted to make fairings out of the top half of Clorox bottles for the winter. Thing is, I can't bring myself to try because they'd look so geeky.
I think if that were me, I'd give it a try. Just to see how they looked. Maybe paint em' and they wouldn't look so bad. But I like your thinking.
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Old 11-28-21, 08:51 PM
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I'll just focus on freezing (32 F) down to about -5 F. Above that, you don't need a lot of special clothing, and below -5 F I have never tried to ride because it doesn't happen very often here and there is usually wind chills in the -20 to -30 range and that's just not worth the risk of frostbite.

From freezing down to 20 F, my clothing is:
Unknown brand wind blocking headband that covers my ears. If it's windy, I have a neck gater that I use to keep my neck warm. Upper body baselayer is an UnderArmor Cold Gear insulated long sleeve shirt. On top of that is a windblocking jacket (current jacket is a Canondale rain jacket I bought like 13 years ago). Gloves are Specialized thin cycling gloves (not sure what their model name is) inside some lobster claw winter cycling gloves. This combination of gloves keeps hands warm all the way down to -5 F. Sometimes in the lower 30s and 20s my hands get sweaty, but I am okay with that. Lower body I use Pearl Izumi wind stopping insulated tights. Feet is single layer of socks with my Whitewoods cross country ski boots.

Below 20 F, a lot depends on how sunshine there is and how windy it is. I end up doing a lot of my winter riding in the dark, since it's usually dark before work and dark when I get done working. In that case, I ditch the headband and use a Windstopper full head balaclava. Under my wind blocking I add a light insulated cycling jacket on top of the baselayer. With the balaclava there is no need for the neck gater. Gloves stay the same. Over the windstopper tights, I wear some Gore cycling pants that I bought over a decade ago. I can't find anything quite like them on their website, so maybe they don't make them anymore. They kind of look like cargo pants. I don't think they're insulated, or maybe very lightly, but they block even more wind. I will also add a second pair of socks as the temperature dips below 10 F.

And that's it. That's the whole setup from freezing down to about -5 F.

Last edited by KatieC; 11-28-21 at 10:40 PM.
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Old 11-28-21, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Steamer View Post
I too struggle with dressing and remembering what combos worked well in what weather. Sometimes it would take me 20 minutes or more to decwhat to wear. I mostly fixed that by developing a table.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...t?usp=drivesdk
Thanks for posting that. I have a similar table but have the “corrections” you give at the bottom only in my head currently (but have been meaning to write down). I have been going out in the evening recently and my usual table is a bit too cool so am wearing one category colder. I use 5F increments as well, I started with 10F but it was too coarse.

I have been slowly filling in the holes to cover all types of weather. Just today I ordered a light long sleeve base layer, all I had was a short sleeve and a thick long sleeve wool one but my arms (only) got frozen today so there was a hole to patch!
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Old 11-28-21, 10:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Steamer View Post
I too struggle with dressing and remembering what combos worked well in what weather. Sometimes it would take me 20 minutes or more to decwhat to wear. I mostly fixed that by developing a table.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...t?usp=drivesdk
Yeah, wow. It's interesting to see that others also make written records to remind themselves of what to wear. But my notes are nowhere near as complete or as organized as yours. I'm impressed.
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Old 11-29-21, 08:45 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
Yeah, wow. It's interesting to see that others also make written records to remind themselves of what to wear. But my notes are nowhere near as complete or as organized as yours. I'm impressed.
Thanks. It took several years to reach that form. It grew a little bit at a time. I still occasionally miss the mark on dressing properly, but it's now rare, and I don't miss by much. So the effort was worth it, if a bit nerdy.
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Old 11-29-21, 10:10 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
I'm thinking about the thresholds (for me) of when I need light full fingered gloves (below 60°F), and then padded gloves (below the low 50s) and then padded gloves with glove liners (about 40 *F) and then lobster claws with liners (somewhere in the high 20s), and bar mitts (below 20). and bar mitts with Hot Hands (below 10*F).
If only it were as easy as just dressing for "a" forecasted temperature.

What makes winter/cold riding more difficult is determining what type of sun is out during the ride. In full sun, I dress for a day that's 10 degrees warmer than the forecasted temperature (for example, if the forecast is 40F, but is full sun, then I dress for 50F), BUT if it's going to be fully cloudy for the entire ride, then I dress for 10 degrees colder than the forecasted temperature, so I dress for 30F. On top of that you may have a mix of full sun and cloudy during the ride.

And then you have rides that start at 35 F at 7am, but you'll be riding until noon when it's 70 F. Now you have to plan how to incrementally "undress" while you're riding throughout the day, maybe bringing 2 sets of gloves, a balaclava and a hat, etc... And you may have to possibly dress so that you're cold at the beginning, so that you're comfortable at noon.

And then you need to factor in the amount of heat stripping wind you'll be experiencing in the cold, and wear windstopper type clothing that becomes uncomfortably hot when the temperatures rise throughout the day.

Even after many years of experimentation, and now having every possible combo of kit in my arsenal, I still find it hard to get it right every time, especially in changing conditions.

Last edited by Riveting; 11-29-21 at 10:16 AM.
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Old 11-29-21, 04:12 PM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
This subforum has lots of threads asking for advice about what to wear on hands, feet, heads, legs, torso in the cold weather.

Those of us with some experience riding in the cold usually try to be helpful, but advice is cheap, right? And everybody is different.
Especially this. I don't usually contribute so such threads, because (1) posters rarely give specific temperatures, and (2) we vary so much that there's little hope what works for me at, say, 35F will work for someone else at that temperature. Re: (1), how many posters ask what works for COLD weather gloves? It may be 20 posts down that you find out whether they live in southern California and COLD is 49F (below 50!), or northern Minnesota and COLD is below 10F?

So to all those who are wondering what will work, I suggest that you (a) experiment and (b) take notes.
Feels like cheating. But approaching my second winter of WFH, and having forgotten what worked when, taking notes would have been a great idea -- two years ago!
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