It’s coming folks: colder and wetter weather creates some of the best mountain biking opportunities all year long. But before you go venturing out into the bitter cold, prepare yourself! Here’s a few things you’ll want to stock up on for your winter rides.
I’ve always said never wear cotton anything but absolutely never wear cotton anything in the winter! Wool is a good sweat whicking alternative, but nothing beats neoprene for holding in heat even when you accidentally step into a water crossing.
Booties / Shoe Covers
Most cycling shoes are designed to allow heat and moisture out. Obviously, this doesn’t help you in the winter. So in addition to a great pair of socks, booties can cut the chill and keep those little piggies warm and snug while you’re wearing your summer shoes in freezing cold weather.
For the truly hardcore winter rider, nothing beats winter specific shoes. Almost like a winter boot, these are designed to let you ride through snow, freezing cold rain, and water crossings while maintaining your cool look and providing extra traction for those hike a bike sections in the snow.
Thermal Skull Cap
You lose about 10% of your body heat through your skull. Retain some of that heat, and have a more snug fit within your helmet with a skull cap. Since they’re so small and light, you can just keep one in your bag for the climbs, and put it on when you need it the most: the fast downhills!
The key to staying warm and dry in cold weather is layers. You’ll always want a sweat whicking material as your first layer. You can weat wool or other synthetic fabrics above that, underneath your waterproof shell. And it’s a good idea to carry a spare dry baselayer with you for the decent!
Once you get over the fact that you look you’re wearing panythose, you’ll appreciate them as a base layer. Just please – wear them under your shorts OK? We don’t need to see your man parts bulging through the fabric! Tights come in different thicknesses, so it’s a good idea to have one of each.
Arm and Leg Warmers
Especially in the transition periods between warm and cold seasons, arm and leg warmers can take the bite off a cold morning and be shed once the sun comes out without removing all your clothes. They’re small and light and can also provide a little extra warmth if you’re caught unexpectedly after sundown. If your friends thought wearing tights was a little girly girly, they’ll really get a laugh watching you pull these on. But you’ll be the last one laughing though when they freeze their bare skin off while your arms and legs are toasty warm. PRO TIP: Even elbow and knee warmers are better than nothing.
When you’re expecting rain, it’s best to just cover your helmet entirely to keep water off your head. Even a skull cap won’t do you much good if it’s drenched in freezing water!
If you lose 10% of your body heat through your head, imagine how much you’ll lose through your legs as you’re passing through streams! If you know it’s going to be a wet, muddy day, wear some rain pants.
A waterproof rain jacket will keep your torso warm and dry. And a high visibility color will help search and rescue find you when you slip off the edge of a wet cliff!
Thermal Waterproof Gloves
Ever tried changing a flat with frozen fingers? Trust me, it’s painful. So forget about open finger gloves in the winter time. If you can find a glove that has an inner liner separate from the outer shell, that’s the best kind of winter glove to buy. But failing that, the “Lobster” style of glove will be far easier to put on and take off when your hands eventually start sweating inside your glove. PRO TIP: In cold weather, you should always carry a spare pair of dry gloves.
OK so let’s say you didn’t pack any of the aforementioned clothes. No worries, being the survivalist you are, you always pack emergency items right? A set of toe warmer heat packs work equally well for hands and feet. Keep a couple of these at all times in your emergency kit. And keep a few more if you like your friends. These handy little bundles of heat may prevent frost bite one day! PRO TIP: Don’t wait until your hands and feet are frozen to put these on and don’t apply them directly to your skin.
Got any other cold weather gear tips? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. And happy winter weather riding!