By Steve Nagle
As winter approaches, it’s time to think about clothing to keep us warm and dry while cycling.
On the coast we have to deal with a lot – rain, fog, dampness, cold and heat. Weather conditions can change dramatically during the day.
Layering your clothing is the basic method to maximize your comfort on a bike.
Generally there are three layers and each layer has a function. The base layer (against your skin) manages moisture, the insulating layer (middle layer) protects you from the cold and the shell layer (outer layer) shields you from wind and rain. You can simply add or subtract layers as needed.
Base Layer: This is your next-to-skin layer. It helps regulate your body temperature by moving perspiration away from your skin. For comfort, your base layer should be made of merino wool or synthetic polyesters. Unlike cotton, these fabrics wick perspiration away from your skin, moving it to the outer surface where it can evaporate.
The Insulating layer: Retains heat by trapping air close to your body. Again, natural fibers such as wool or synthetic polyesters are excellent insulators for biking. Merino wool sweaters and shirts offer soft, reliable warmth and keep on insulating even when wet. Fleece is a great insulator but it’s main drawback is it’s bulk. Keep in mind that when riding, your body generates a lot of heat and most of these materials are available in various thicknesses.
The shell: This is very important in our climate and protects you from wind, rain and snow. Most modern shells allow at least some perspiration to escape; virtually all are treated with a durable water repellent finish to make water bead up and roll off the fabric. Without proper ventilation, perspiration can’t evaporate but instead condenses on the inside of your shell. Laminated membranes such as as Gore-Tex and eVent offer top performance but are expensive, fabric coatings are a more economical alternative. Some outer shells have a layer of insulation built in—such as fleece—making them convenient for cold, wet conditions, but not as versatile for layering in fluctuating temperatures.
Other very important clothing accessories for the winter include a toque or skull cap, worn under your helmet, for extreme cold it should cover your ears.
Gloves come in various styles and materials, five finger gloves give you more dexterity but are the coldest, mitts are warmest but you lose finger functionality. Three finger “Lobster Claws” are a good compromise. Have a few pairs of gloves available as conditions and temperatures dictate.
Shoe covers: Keep your feet dry and warm. Again, these come in different materials and thicknesses. Thin, nylon covers are convenient, are windproof but not always waterproof. Neoprene shoe covers are the driest, and warmest but they are bulky and a bit of a pain to put on and remove. Next time we’ll discuss winter accessories for the bike.
Steve can be found at Outdoor addictions: www.outdooraddictions.ca