I've started getting a lot of e-mails from readers regarding cold weather and suggestions for riding in it.
To those who've e-mailed me, I've pretty much covered this in my replies to you.
what works best for me isn't guaranteed to work that well for you. It depends on how hard you ride, how much heat you build up on your own, and how far you have to ride. Your best bet is to experiment. Here's what I use, though:
- Below 50: A long-sleeve t-shirt under a short-sleeve. Long pants (cargo pants or jeans) over bike shorts. A headband to keep my ears warm and some light gloves
- Below 40: A windbreaker over a t-shirt, long pants over thermal long johns and a balaclava (kind of like a ski mask) with some light gloves
- Below 25: A thin coat over a t-shirt, long pants over long johns, a balaclava and heavier gloves
- Below 10: A thin coat over a sweat shirt over a t-shirt, long pants over flannel pants over long johns, balaclava with ski goggles (keeps the eyes from freezing) and heavy gloves
- Below 0: A thick coat, sweat shirt, t-shirt, long pants, flannel pants, long johns, two ski masks, ski goggles, and mittens. No, really. Mittens. Keeping the fingers together keeps them warmer.
Then you've got people like Doug who overheat wearing a balaclava (ski mask) even with a -25°F wind chill.
Experimenting is simple. Just keep a log of the temperature and precipitation, then write down what you wore and how well it worked or how badly it sucked. Use that as a guide for the next time. I didn't log every single condition I've ridden in, but I keep track of especially great clothing combinations and I've found that any setup I use is good for about a 10 degree range.
Dressing in layers is great, especially if you have some spare room in your bags to store the layers if you need to peel them off. Additionally, I usually keep one light layer with me in case the temperature drops or I under-guessed the weather.
Your ideal clothing setup for cold-weather riding will probably feel a little chilly when you first get going. It doesn't take long to warm up, though. Dressing too warm can actually be worse than not dressing warm enough. If you're sweating excessively, you run the very real risk of hypothermia. You might be okay while you keep moving, but if you're soaked through your clothes and need to stop to fix a minor issue with your bike, you won't stay as warm and the moisture will quickly sap heat away from your body faster than you're generating it.
Adding or removing layers isn't the only way to regulate your temperature, though. You can also try putting some more effort into the bike if you start to feel chilly, or slow down a bit if you're getting too hot.