This isn’t the best time for this, being the warmth of summer is upon us, but I recently collaborated with Outside Magazine in order to provide some guidelines for what to wear in varying temperatures. You can read the full article here.
Being a professional cyclist, I consider myself similar to a migratory bird. I like to go where it is warmer so I don’t have to train in the brutal, cold conditions. I live in Northern California, so my conditions are not nearly as harsh as they can be around the country, but the training is phenomenal here. It can be cold and wet in the winter, and dressing appropriately is paramount for proper training and to ensure you stay healthy and happy while riding and training.
33* to 45*: Phew! It isn’t technically freezing out, and there isn’t any ice on the ground! No better time than the present to ride. This air temperature is still quite chilly and it is important to bundle up appropriately to stay warm. Although I hate having too many layers and heavy clothing on because I feel more like the Michelin man than a savvy bike racer. Layering is pivotal, but you want to make sure you don’t have too many layers that cause heavy sweating with little ventilation. Damp cold and dry cold can be two very different issues. If the air is dry, and the temperatures are in the 30’s to 40’s, you may be able to get away with just wearing a thermal vest, a long sleeve jersey, and a baselayer, accompanied by bibs, leg warmers, wool socks, and shoe covers. If it is foggy or raining, you will need to take extra precaution to make sure your core stays warm. Bringing a rain jacket or a waterproof jacket for the descents will help keep the bone chilling cold at bay. Also waterproof or heavier shoe covers will help as well. Although there are myriads of warm gloves that companies offer, I always seem to stick with the Defeet Duraglove (in retro pink that is no longer available). If it is raining, these are not the best option, but if it is, I find that my hands stay warm, and I am able to have the necessary dexterity to feel my shifters and brakes that I want, as well as grab that bar in my jacket pocket. They are lightweight, easy to take on and off, and also very affordable. You can slip an extra pair in your pocket in case the pair you are wearing gets wet. There is nothing as wonderful feeling as putting on a fresh, dry pair of gloves on in middle of a cold, miserable ride. I prefer wearing headbands if it isn’t too cold outside because it doesn’t fill up my helmet too much. Keeping your ears and head warm are a crucial part to the overall core temperature warmth.
35* to 45*.
- Long Sleeve Baselayer (Transfer Long Sleeve Base Layer by Pearl Izumi). Thermal jackets are quite warm, and possibly too warm for these conditions. Yet, just wear a simple baselayer under them, and let the jacket do what it does best. Keep you warm!
- Thermal Jacket. Point taken.
- Rain Jacket (Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Jacket). This is my favorite rain jacket because it is fitted, and doesn’t become a parachute. You can use it in all wet conditions, even warmer ones. I like to put it over my thermal jacket to keep the jacket from getting saturated and super heavy. Once your jacket gets soaked, consider your ride resistance training.
- Leg Warmers *see below
- Wool Socks *see below
- Waterproof Shoe Covers. I haven’t found one pair of shoe covers that keep your feet completely dry, and I have never understood the point of toe covers. Waterproof shoe covers seem to have a saturation level (as does most waterproof material), but at least if your ride is about 3 hours, you should stay warm. Wearing plastic bags on your feet may help keep them dry and warm, although the sweat factor increases dramatically.
- Long fingered gloves. Try to find gloves that are waterproof and have thermal capabilities. I have struggled with this since I don’t like the bulky feeling, but it is necessary to keep your hands warm. Pack an extra pair of dry gloves to switch out mid ride.
- Embrocation *see below
- Chamois Cream *see below
- Long Sleeve Jersey
- Thermal Vest. Hands down, my favorite article of warm clothing is the thermal vest. I love to be able to use it in a variety of conditions and it is very versatile. It keeps your core warmer than just a wind vest, but it prevents the overheating caused by a larger thermal jacket.
- Light Skull Cap/Headband (I always love me some lululemon). I think hats are bulky, and if it isn’t too cold, I prefer just to wear a headband to keep my ears warm. Hats/Headbands can make all the difference in the world.
- Base Layer (my favorite is the DeFeet UnD Lite Sleeveless). This is my favorite baselayer because it is light, and short. I don’t need to be tucking it into my bibs, and I also can wear it in so many conditions. It doesn’t retain a smell, and although it may not be the prettiest baselayer out there, it is the most useful. Baselayers should always be worn under your bibs.
- Leg Warmers. My stipulation on leg warmers is they must be long enough for my long legs. I don’t want any gaps anywhere, and a pair of fleece lined leg warmers is heavenly. I don’t like added seams on my leg warmers which leave funny gathers or cause chafing. Look for comfort in leg warmers.
- Wool Socks. Socks should be long enough to not leave any gaps between the leg warmer and the leg. These aren’t rocket science, but a cycling specific wool sock is ideal so it doesn’t retain water or get too heavy while riding. I have had good luck with the Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Wool sock.
- Shoe Covers. Not super high tech, but I love to wear the DeFeet Slipstream Shoe Cover. You don’t have to pay a quid for shoe covers and panic when they get dirty and destroyed. You can buy 5 pairs of these shoe covers, and they are durable enough to last, they keep your feet warm and your shoes clean. They even come in some neon colors now, and I love to wear the Neon Yellow (increasing visibility) or the Neon Pink (because I can). Neon is the new black, right?
- Long Fingered Gloves. Defeet DuraGlove in retro pink (I had to find them on Amazon). They give me dexterity, warmth, and are just simple. I hate the feeling of mittens or chunky gloves. If it is wet, these are not the best option. However, the wool is warm enough for me for dry conditions, and I don’t find it a chore to put them on.
- Embrocation. I love to wear DZ Nuts “In Heat” embrocation even under my legs warmers. It keeps my legs toasty in all conditions, and doesn’t increase the sweat factor.
- Chamois Cream. This is a must. Don’t forget it. I prefer DZ Nuts PRO (which has a little tingly sensation), but if you are don’t like that, than try DZ Nuts Bliss. Even though putting on cold chamois crème is the worse, it is especially important in the rain and still important in cold conditions.
The 45* to 60* range is a more difficult condition to dress for because you don’t want to overheat, yet nothing will end a ride sooner than being too cold. Make sure to look at the weather forecast in order to verify if it will stay in the 40’s all day or if it will get a bit more balmy. These recommendations, as well as the recommendations above, are for training purposes. When I am racing, I will take the risk of wearing less clothing since the intensity is so high and it is easy to overheat, and you can’t have extra layers on. In this scenario, I also have the luxury of the team car to grab a rain jacket out of, or give them my vest. Unless you have a follow car on your training rides, opt to bring the options and dress warmly. The worst case scenario, you will have to shed a layer, but at least you won’t get cold and risk getting sick. In these conditions though, I won’t wear a jersey and arm warmers. I do commit to the LS jersey, knowing that there is no way I would take off my arm warmers if I wore them. If you don’t see yourself taking off your arm warmers, just wear a LS jersey for comfort, warmth, and simplicity. I am in love with my Thermal Vest, and especially after a long winter (in California, mind you), it will take a lot to make me let it go. Tall socks are always better. Leave the shorter socks for when you are concerned about tanlines. Shoe covers keep your feet warm and your shoes clean. It is all about priorities. Training in Northern California can leave a variety of conditions from a cold, damp coastal fog to a warm inland. It is always important to know where you are riding and how the conditions will vary. Riding up a mountain a couple of thousand feet will require you to dress more warmly for the descent, but with cooler options for the climb. Cycling is all about planning ahead and having the simplest options to do so. Preparation is the key to success and warmth in this case. Embrace the adventure.
45* to 60*.
- Base Layer. I would still go with the Defeet UnD Sleeveless base layer here. This is the most versatile baselayer without adding weight and bulk.
- Long Sleeve Jersey. I won’t wear a jersey and arm warmers, since I will commit to wearing a long sleeve jersey. When selecting a LS jersey, make sure that the sleeves are long enough to cover the gap between the gloves and the jersey. I have long arms and I have struggled in finding a jersey where the sleeves are long enough for me.
- Thermal Vest or Wind Vest. I love my thermal vest. I think this is the most versatile warm weather gear out there. I would still wear it today because I love the more cozy feeling it gives me when descending into cold air. However, some people may overheat and prefer to use just a wind vest and perhaps an extra layer underneath. Give the Thermal Vest a try.
- Leg Warmers. I prefer leg warmers to knee warmers. I think they look faster, and are more comfortable. But, I don’t like capris since I am tall, so maybe that’s my issue.
- Shoe Covers. These may not be a requirement, but I still like to wear them, especially if my shoes might get dirty. The DeFeet Slipstream shoe covers would be fine for this situation. If it is nearing 60*, then you won’t need the shoe covers for warmth, but in case there are puddles out there, you might increase the cleanliness and life of your shoes by wearing them.
- Socks. I don’t think you need wool socks (unless it is raining), but a nice pair of long socks is ideal. Don’t wear the shorties or mid-length. Just go for a simple taller 5” DeFeet sock. If you are worried about them getting dirty, where black socks. They look more fresh even after a ride in the rain.
- Gloves. I would still wear my DeFeet DuraGloves in this situation because I love the versatility of them. Especially if you start when it is more chilly, and it warms up throughout the day. I don’t like my fingers to be cold, but I hate the feeling of being over dressed.
- Embrocation. If it is supposed to be mid-50’s to 60’s, I may not wear leg warmers, and just put on some light DZ Nuts In Heat embrocation if anything at all. The old cycling adage is to always cover your legs if the temperature is below 60. Yet, I do not find leg warmers or knee warmers comfortable. If I can get away without wearing them, I will. Embrocation helps me bridge that gap.
- Chamois Cream. Always. *See Above
65* and above!
Now this is the easier temperatures. All about temperature regulation. Time to just monitor the baselayers, arm warmers, vests, etc… Know your route to see if it will be in the shade, or require a lot of descending or climbing. Windbreaking vests/jackets are great for those long descents, and easy to shed while climbing. I don’t wear a baselayer if it is over 75*, but some people swear by them. I won’t be wearing any knee warmers or leg warmers. I may wear short socks for the tanlines. Tall socks are always good too. Always wear chamois cream, and don’t forget your sunscreen. Stay hydrated, challenge yourself, and enjoy the ride. No one likes to be cold, so just make sure you layer appropriately, but don’t overheat! One trick is to walk outside in what you plan to be wearing. You should feel slightly cool and maybe slightly uncomfortable, but you will warm up quickly.
No matter the temperature. Wear a RoadID!