The Mountain Bike Experience - The Zone - Mountain Biking Literature
The Mountain Bike Experience
Cycling in cold weather (45 degrees or less) has always been a challenge. The problem is that you start out cold, then warm up and break a sweat, which makes you wet. Then, while going downhill, the combination of wet skin and windchill makes for a truly bonechilling experience. Clothing manufacturers have responded by inventing various kinds (mostly knit polyesters) of space-age fabrics designed to wick the moisture away from your body and into the outer layers of clothing, where it's released into the air through evaporation, thereby keeping you warm and dry.
Sounds pretty good, huh? The problem is that while these fabrics really do make this kind of winter activity possible, they're not perfect. If you climb a big hill and work up a major sweat, you'll still be wet when you get to the top, no matter what you do. Be ready to shed a layer or two, if you get too warm. It's OK to be a little chilly at first; you'll warm up once you get going.
There are three basic layers to wear while riding in cold conditions. First, wear a layer of polypropylene next to your skin, then an insulating layer of polyester fleece or other material that has a nap to capture an insulating layer of air. On top of all this wear a breathable wind-resistant shell. Unless it's very cold (20 degrees or less) you probably can skip the middle layer on your legs. Experiment with different weight fabrics for different temperatures. Make sure your torso is well insulated, as this is where your core body temperature is regulated. If your core is warm, then it's more likely your extremities will also be warm.
Here's a list of cold weather riding accessories:
- Booties. Your feet are probably the most vulnerable part of your body in cold temperatures. The pressure of pedaling tends to cut off circulation to your toes, which can put you at risk for frostbite. Neoprene booties are a must in subfreezing conditions. You can find neoprene overboots in most bike mail-order catalogs. They zip on over your cycling shoes and have a pattern in the sole where you can cut out a piece to accommodate cleats.
- Gloves. Several manufacturers make 'lobster gloves,' a mitten-glove hybrid that separates the index finger and thumb from the rest of your hand. They're warmer than regular gloves, and the distinct index finger allows you to operate your shifter and brake levers. Carry a pair of lightweight polypropylene glove liners as a backup if your hands get cold. If you have to stop to take care of a minor repair, liners can protect you from the cold while allowing you the dexterity needed.
- Glasses. Wraparound glasses that provide maximum wind protection are best to protect the eyes and prevent tearing, more of a problem in cold temperatures than in warm. As we mentioned in chapter 5, glasses with interchangeable lenses of varying darkness will prepare you for dusk and darkness. Again, stick with shatterproof plastic.
- Socks. Wear heavy socks, but be careful not to have too much bulk. An overly heavy sock will make your shoes tight, cut off circulation, and make your feet cold. Try socks made for cross-bined with wind-resistant covers can keep country skiing; they're warm, lightweight, and ride high on the calf, offering a little extra protection. If you feel you need to have an extra layer, silk ski socks are very warm, also extremely lightweight, and won't add much bulk.
- Underwear. Polypropylene is the best and is available in various weights. Lightweight is best for temperatures above freezing (32 to 50 degrees), while heavier weights are necessary for colder temperatures.
- Insulating layer. Polypropylene fleece is the best. Like underwear, it's available in various weights. You can probably skip this layer in temperatures over 50 degrees, but may need two insulating layers in very cold conditions (20 degrees or less).
- Wind protection. Moving air is the main cause of body heat loss. Good wind protection will allow you to vent perspiration while protecting you from windchill. Most windprotection gear is made of nylon laminated with a wind-resistant material. Choose a jacket and pants based on durability, breathability, and price ' as this sort of clothing can be quite expensive. If you ride in traffic, at dusk, or at night, find an outfit that incorporates reflective material to make you more visible to motorists.
- Helmet, liner, and cover. Your mother always told you that 50 percent of your body heat is lost through your head; she was right. Helmets are designed to be cool in the summer, not warm in the winter. Fleece helmet liners keep your head and ears warm in cold temperatures.