California Winter Riding.
Does that even exist?
It can vary from sunny balmy days to a crisp frosty morning to a damp foggy afternoon gust. No matter the conditions, it is always important to dress appropriately, and of course with a little style.
Although I am fortunate enough to live in Northern California, and I don’t have to ride in snow, or sub 40 degree temperatures, but occasionally it may rain or be a bit chilly. I cannot offer a whole lot of advice regarding “freezing” hardcore riding, but I can offer some basic tips for “California Winter Riding”.
- Leg Warmers, Knee Warmers, In Heat. You all have heard this “rule” before : If it is under 60 degrees, cover up your knees. Knee warmers or leg warmers, your choice. In my opinion, I always prefer leg warmers. I actually don’t know why, I just think you look faster with leg warmers as opposed to knee warmers. Sometimes I will opt for just some DZ Nutz In Heat Embrocation if the temperature and conditions are right. Not only do your legs stay warm, they also look fabulous with a bit of a shine to them. Regardless, in the cooler conditions, your joints will thank you for taking care of them. You are more injury prone if you don’t keep those important muscle groups warm!
- Shoe covers. I like shoe covers for time trials, rain, and cold days. Of course the thickness of shoe covers can differ due to each specific purpose. Time trial covers are in a league of their own with super power latex capabilities that slice through the air and wind. Simple sock covers may be sufficient for a mildly cool day, or you may have to go full waterproof neoprene booty. Sometimes my only motivation for wearing shoe covers are to keep my shoes white and sparkly. Clean shoes are fast shoes. Warm, dry feet are happy feet. Always wear your shoe covers OVER your leg warmers. Wear longer socks to avoid chafing. Shoe covers will rarely last more than one season, but use them for what they were made for-warmth, style, and speed.
- Skull Cap or Ear Muffs. I actually rarely wear a hat under my helmet since it usually isn’t cold enough here, but you do lose a lot of heat through your head. Imagine all that hot air in there escaping! If it is in the 40’s, I think it is important to cover your head, or at least your ears. You won’t get that “brain freeze” effect like you just inahled a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream too fast, and it is a good excuse to tune out your training partner’s complaints of the cold temperature. Obviously you don’t wear ear muffs, although that would look pretty funny, but a ear covering headband is an awesome addition to your cycling wardrobe.
- Socks. Wool socks are warm and wicking , and I suggest wearing them in rainy conditions. Although shortie socks aid in the lack of a tan line, taller socks cover up more of your leg, hence increase warmth and decrease the chance of your booties or leg warmers rubbing you the wrong way. My rule of thumb is if you have leg warmers or shoe covers on, you wear tall socks, yet if the sun is shining and your legs are free, shorter socks are completely acceptable and encouraged. No one likes sock tanlines. Tall socks do look fast though.
- Cycling Cap. These look slightly urban chic and are worn near the Ferry building by hipsters on singlespeeds, yet they also are a great item to wear in the rain for the serious cyclist. It keeps the water from dripping in your eyes, your head warm, and limits the spray into your face. I do find it difficult to see sometimes, but you can always “flip” the lid up for a different approach. Same hat, worn two different ways. It serves as a fashion statement and a rain accessory.
- Fenders. I hate putting fenders on my bike. I thought it was only to save my training partner from the infamous “rooster tail” of gritty water spraying into her face, but it turns out it also saves you from that “diaper chamois” effect of a water logged pad. You are warmer and get less water when using a fender. If you want to put it on my bike for me, I will use it. Other then that, you will be sprayed, and my bike looks faster without a fender anyways.
- Gloves. Wear them. Full fingered. Wool. Waterproof. Gardening. Just keep your hands warm and protected. I prefer my gloves pink.
- RoadID. Duh. Always wear that.
- Jackets and Thermal Vests. My most treasured cycling apparel is my thermal vest. It is so versatile and blocks the wind that much better on those cold winterized descents, yet I don’t over-heat in it while climbing. People tend to start looking like a garage sale in the winter since your winter clothes don’t always match your cycling kit. I am fortunate enough to have my whole kit in a fashionable summer and winter line. Yet, when choosing a thermal jacket or vest, go for a basic color that is easily integrated into your already existant cycling wardrobe. Your training partners will thank you for not showing up at the coffee shop with a red jacket, orange vest, blue shorts, pink gloves, and yellow shoe covers. Although on a positive side, at least you will be extremely visible. When wearing a thermal jacket, I usually keep it simple by only wearing a base layer underneath to avoid getting to hot or feeling too bulky.
- Base Layer. Wear one. Sometimes they get smelly, but they are necessary. Wash them. Spray body spray. Repeat. I like my base layers to be well fitting and short so they don’t bunch up under all my layers. They are to be worn under the bibs.
- Rain Jacket. Just in case you should have one with you. It should block the rain, be large enough to fit over all your layers, but small enough to go in your back pocket. Riding in the rain isn’t fun, but staying dry and warm while riding in the rain is bearable.
- Arm Warmers. If I know I am not going to take them off, I prefer a long sleeved jersey over arm warmers. More streamlined, and you don’t have the danger of showing the dreaded “arm cleavage” where your arm warmers fail to meet your sleeves of your jersey. This is even worse if you have that issue with your leg warmers. You make the call.
Tough Winter Riding with my Sister in California