We’re officially into winter now, and I realized it’s been a while since I’ve written anything about winter cycling. Despite how it may seem, you really can ride in Reno year-round. Heck, they do it in Minneapolis, so it can be done is Reno.
My clothing strategy is pretty much the same as I wrote about before, but there are a couple small differences.
I still don’t ride much in snow or ice, but if there isn’t a bunch of plowed snow in the bike lanes, I’ll go ahead and ride.
Since I don’t have to worry about traction, I only concern myself with staying warm. Even though riding creates a wind chill, you’ll feel much warmer as you ride because of the energy you’re expending. That’s why when you first leave for your ride, you should feel a little chilly. Not freezing, but chilly. If you feel warm when you leave, you’re overdressed.
Here’s what I use for clothing:
Upper Body – I normally get by with my work shirt with a heavy sweatshirt on top. On really cold days, I’ll add a long sleeve base layer. I’ve never needed more than this, although if it’s dark, I also like to wear a reflective yellow jacket.
Lower Body – I normally commute in jeans, but on cold days, I’ll add some cut-off sweats over the top of my jeans. On really cold days I’ll add some long underwear as a base layer.
Head – I use a fleece ear band if it feels cold. If the ear band isn’t enough, I use an inexpensive balaclava (hood) that I got at a motorcycle shop. If it’s really cold, I’ll wear both.
Hands – I use a pair of thin, windproof gloves made by Canari. If it’s really cold, I’ll switch to a bulkier ski glove. A little side note: this is why I like grip shifters or bar-end shifters on a commuting bike. They’re the easiest to operate with thick gloves on!
Socks – Thick wool socks are all I’ve ever needed.
Shoes – I get by fine with cycling shoes (mountain/commuter style) tied just a bit loose to let the socks have a little room (and thus a larger warm air pocket). I’ve never needed wind stopping shoe covers unless I was doing a long ride.
Eyes – A dilemma that a lot of people forget about; you wear your sunglasses in the morning, but when you get out of work and realize that it’s dark, you don’t want to wear shades that will make it even darker, but you need something to keep the wind out of your eyes because it’s so cold. I use sunglasses with removable lenses and carry a clear set with me for use at night. You can also bring some motorcycle-style or ski goggles, though they tend to fog up on me.
All the basic cold-weather outdoor rules apply. The three layer strategy (base, warmth, wind) is the best. All base layers should be synthetic fabrics, or wool if that’s your thing; just no cotton long johns. The warmth layer is usually fleece or sweatshirt-type material. The wind layer is usually a non or thinly insulated windproof covering. I’ve never needed this layer, even down to 15 degrees (although I have bulked up my base layers for ultra cold days).