of the biggest
mistakes that people make is overdressing. Exercise generates
heat (and sweat). There is nothing more bone-chilling than wind
blowing through damp clothing! So avoiding overheating and sweating
important as keeping the cold at bay. It's a Goldilocks
dilemma, but it is not impossible to get it right. If I am slightly
cool when I step outside for my ride, I'll likely be comfortable
when riding. I'll add the caveat that it also depends on how hard
I will be riding. I can dress lighter for a hard or spirited ride
than I would for a slower casual one. And all day rides are different
from a one hour sprint.
For an all day ride, I use layers and use zippers to regulate
temperature throughout the ride. As it warms up, I can remove
layers. When it starts to cool down as the sun goes down, I put
them back on. Zippers provide one of the best means of temperature
regulation. Tops with long front zippers and jackets with pit
zips allow a rider to be comfortable through a varied range of
temperatures, simply by opening or closing the zippers.
Base layers that wick moisture away from the body will keep one
dryer and therefore warmer. Many years ago wool was a staple of
any cyclist's wardrobe. Wool wicks well and stays resilient when
it gets wet. It's warm in cool weather, and is surprisingly comfortable
in warmer conditions. It's also one of the best fabrics to wear
in rainy conditions, since it will keep one warm even when wet.
Unfortunately, in the old days, most wool cycling apparel was
quite itchy and many cyclists, myself included, moved to synthetics
like polypropylene and fleece.
In the past, I used various synthetics with good luck, with one
important exception: The down side of most synthetics is their
tendency to retain odor, even after washing. Fortunately merino
wool has come to my rescue. Merino wool fibers are much finer
and therefore less itchy than the wool I had as a youngster. I
wear merino wool right next to my skin with no problems. And I
can practically wear the same top for a week on a bike tour without
washing it and without it smelling like a toxic waste dump. Wool
simply does not
retain odor like synthetics. Wool is now
the staple of my wardrobe.
Base layers need not be cycling specific. It's amazing how much
rear pockets (or trendy logos) add to the price of a garment!
One of my favorite sources for merino wool clothing (both sport
and casual) is Ibex
order a lot directly from them and make an annual pilgrimage to
the Tent Sale held near Woodstock, Vermont over Columbus Day weekend.
make some nice
zipped wool t-necks, which work quite well as a base layer. They
also make nice wool socks. New Zealand, home of 44 million sheep
and 4 million people, is also home to several makers of high quality
merino wool clothing, including Icebreaker
This list could go on.
And thanks to the comfort and versatility of merino wool, it has
become very popular choice for cycling tops, i.e. tops with pockets
in the back! There are so many folks making wool jerseys
and other wool cycling apparel that these days that it is pretty
easy to find with a simple google search.
As I mentioned, wool, unlike synthetics, doesn't retain odor,
and can be used many times between washings without getting stinky.
But it does take a little extra care versus synthetics when washing.
For years I used Woolite, but then was surprised to see recommendations
using it for wool
clothes. Woolite is a
detergent, a gentle detergent, but nonetheless, a detergent. Detergents
strip wool fibers and cause wool garments to full - puff up and
get fuzzy. We now use Ivory Snow Liquid (a soap versus a detergent)
for all our woolies. We also have a front loading washing machine
with a delicate cycle that makes machine washing all that wool
clothing a bit easier than hand-washing . We then hang our woolies
on racks to dry. Dryers are the enemy of wool. (I also wash and
dry my good bike shorts the exact same way).
Speaking of shorts, and not spending a fortune on clothing. When
my shorts get a bit thin at the back, but the chamois is still
good, I mark the tag with a big red X - which indicates these
shorts should only be worn under
talked about my love/hate relationship with bib tights here
It's tricky, balancing the added warmth and comfort of the bib
tights with the hassle of taking stuff off when stopping for a
Bibs do an excellent job of keeping cold away from the lower back.
There is no chance of a gap letting cold air blow up on to the
back. For this reason, bibs tend to be my choice when it's colder.
But they present an obvious challenge for cycling jerseys and
accessing pockets. My solution is to go with a base-layer top
under the bibs, and a top with a full zip and pockets on top,
avoiding anything without a full zip that would mean pulling it
over my head. Fortunately my favorite jacket has pockets. I'll
discuss it more in the post on outerwear. I still have to take
off the outer layer when nature calls, but it's easier and faster,
which is important when it's cold! For more moderate temperatures,
I use legwarmers, eliminating the need to undress so much when
making those nature breaks. But as I say it's a real Goldilocks
dilemma, convenience versus extra warmth!
Despite the amazing amount of merino wool clothing in NZ (heaps
of long and short and no sleeve tops, tights, undies, caps), finding
cycle-specific items like arm or knee warmers when we lived there
was an exercise in futility. I actually ordered a pair of NZ made
knee warmers from Salsa, a US company, to be shipped back to NZ!
I did find that I could easily get things made if I provided samples.
I literally walked down to our local Saturday market and went
to one of the booths that had wool tops. I took an old pair of
leg warmers and they made me two new pair based on the old ones!
One of the great things about NZ was how easy it is to get things
made to order. Fortunately I can get my current favorite wool
warmers (arm, leg and knee) from Ibex
Those love/hate tights are the ladies model from Rapha
They are very form-fitting (they are called tights for a reason).
The ladies model has full coverage in the front, with a long zipper
to make it easier to get them on and off, and surprisingly a very
high-viz white stripe on the back of the left leg, which given
that Rapha are a UK company, is quite visible to cars coming up
behind me in America, driving on the right side of the road. They
do not have a chamois, so they are worn over that thinning in
the back pair of shorts that must never be worn without a second
layer, to avoid ridicule. This means I can wear the tights several
times between washing, as opposed to tights with a chamois.
Locally, Ride Studio Cafe
carries Rapha, which helps us tremendously with shipping and makes
being able to look at, touch and try things on easier.
So I'm now dressed in my base layer (long sleeve wool t-shirt,
shorts and bib tights), but I'm more than a little chilly when
I step outside. I'll need to add a jacket, socks, shoes, gloves