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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone, I've read a bunch of posts about clothing for winter riding, but most are for a northern winter ... I.e. sub zero temps (Celcius).

Our winter is milder and was hoping someone could give me some tips on what I should be looking for to keep warm and motivated during the colder months for these temperatures.

0° to 5° (30-40 °f)
5° to 10° (40-50 °f)

What I currently have for winter:

Uniqlo heattech LS (the thin ones)
LS running shirts
2XU long compression tights
Fox Ranger shorts
Icebreaker socks
Fox dirtpaw gloves
Puma light wind/train jacket LS

What would I need to add to ride in the temperatures I listed? I'm thinking a vest and full jacket?
 

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I have similar temps in winter. Basically 0-15 deg. Layers is the key. For 95% of the ride i use the following combo.

Dry shirt only.
Dry shirt, light water proof wind breaker
Dry shirt, merino full length top 160-200 weight
Dry shirt, merino full length top 160-200 weight, light water proof wind breaker.


Generally just shorts
Shorts, merino full length leggings 200 weight
Shorts, light waterproof pants
Shorts, merino full length leggings 200 weight,light waterproof pants
 

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L1MEY
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1,487 Posts
A helmet liner and neck gaiter make you feel loads warmer if it's a bit chilly out. I keep both stashed in the pockets of my soft shell jacket, just in case. They are also quick to take off if you start to get too warm. Knee or leg warmers will also help to keep you warm if it's cold, and like the helmet liner and neck gaiter, they are easy to take off and stash in your pack or pockets if it warms up.
 

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Elitest thrill junkie
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39,150 Posts
Hi everyone, I've read a bunch of posts about clothing for winter riding, but most are for a northern winter ... I.e. sub zero temps (Celcius).

Our winter is milder and was hoping someone could give me some tips on what I should be looking for to keep warm and motivated during the colder months for these temperatures.

0° to 5° (30-40 °f)
5° to 10° (40-50 °f)

What I currently have for winter:

Uniqlo heattech LS (the thin ones)
LS running shirts
2XU long compression tights
Fox Ranger shorts
Icebreaker socks
Fox dirtpaw gloves
Puma light wind/train jacket LS

What would I need to add to ride in the temperatures I listed? I'm thinking a vest and full jacket?
0-5:

You need some proper winter cycling shoes, for those temps, the Wolfhammers work pretty good. I have the previous generation Lake 302s too and they kinda suck, if you get them large enough they'll probably be ok. I find the Lakes are very versatile though, even when it's warmer like 50 degrees and wet, the are great because they keep your feet dry.

0-5 degrees is iffy as far as hands. It depends a lot on your hands. What I don't like is thick gloves, because even still, my fingers will freeze, my palms will sweat, and bike control is piss poor. So I often still have pogies, but if I'm working hard, I'm not using them in those temps, they are either rolled-up to expose the bar or off the bike completely. One thing I always have are foot-heater chemical heaters, they are adhesive and if my hands get cold, I pop a set in my pocket to warm up for 15 min, then put them on my bar and hold them, providing nice warmth. This is to avoid having to wear stupid thick gloves. Another trick is to have two similar wind-blocker type gloves and take the extra set with you on a ride, when your primary pair gets wet from sweat, pop on the secondary pair. Bonus points if you opened a chem heater and let the heater heat up the gloves in a pocket . I've found that very helpful.

Craft XC ski pants have an impressively wide temperature range. For 0-5 degrees I'm still in the XC ski pants. They do well even when it gets a bit warmer. For the 5-10 degree or higher, I'll often just go with a pair of base-layer leggings under the fox ranger shorts, but for 0-5, I want the XC ski pants with their wind-blocker fronts and ventilated rear. They do amazing.

You need some good windblocker gloves IMO. Dirt Paws are not those.

At those temps, usually a light windbreaker type shell works good, but it depends, at 0 degrees with a good wind, you might need some more significant insulation OR wind-blocking, depending on your speed and the wind(tree coverage). I have a variety of soft-shells and packable jackets I take on rides, often with a backup in my pack/frame bag. If colder than freezing, I usually recommend a nice soft-shell, because they breath so much better than heavy insulated/waterproof stuff, but when it gets above freezing, light shells seem to work pretty good. IME, avoid waterproof at all costs unless you are actually going to be riding in light to moderate rain. Otherwise, you overheat like crazy. Only when you get the actual rain hitting the jacket does it cool you enough to make that work.

In most cases, a long sleeve base-layer and light shell jacket should work well for those temps. One thing I always do though is take the "next coldest" layer with me. So if it's a 0-5 ride, I take -10 to 0 layer with me. In some cases, this is just a waterproof packable jacket (because it's windproof). In other cases like -20 or colder) it's a down-fill jacket. This is a good way to remain comfortable while riding (in addition to taking the extra gloves). When I go out there, I want to be comfortable, and I'd rather take a layer on and off a dozen times than get soaked by rain or sweat or get chilled to the bone. I found one way to deal with an extra jacket layer if it isn't packable is to "dress" your camelback with it, as if the camelback was your torso. You can "zip up" your jacket around the camelback, so it's off your body.

As far as jackets, I have a really light OR that is packable, not very windproof, but it's great for the 40-50 range when descending. Then I have a Northface packable that is kind of a puffy/shoftshell combination with large stretchy sections (arms) that breath well. Then I have a Patagonia lightweight packable waterproof rainshell. From there, it gets into my "colder" winter stuff, below zero, with a few lightweight softshells, then a couple heavier softshells, and eventually the down jackets. Hoods are important, they don't need to go over your helmet, you can put them under your helmet, but they can preserve a sigificant amount of heat, so they are mandatory for any of the above jackets for me.

A buff is plenty for those temperatures for your head. Without going colder than freezing, I wouldn't go to actual balaclavas and ski helmets. The buff is more versatile too. Works great on the neck.

IME, more than two layers in those temps=miserable wet/sweating. Changing your layers out and taking off the layer or putting it on is the key. Even in the deepest winter freeze, more than 3 layers is pretty crazy, because you just can't deal with the moisture and you'll get colder due to sweat. Options and being able to ventilate properly is the real key. Work hard up the hill, then at the top put on the light shell and descend with it to keep from super-cooling your core, then take it off as you start another climb, etc.

Wool/merino is heavier for the same insulation as synthetic and doesn't dry out as fast/easily. It doesn't smell as much, but if you are washing your clothes, this isn't a big issue. IME, there's way too much hype over wool/merino. It doesn't do all that is claimed and good synthetics close to your body are better in most situations. I find that loose clothing with base layers is cold no matter the material, the base layer needs to be fairly form-fitting to be effective. That way it transports moisture. There are some recent studies showing that the "insulating when wet" properties of wool are way overblown, and synthetics can do this too. Not great for the merino wool industry, but again, I find it to be overblown and for base layers, synthetics are higher performing. Down layers on the other hand, I find to be extremely effective. Not super relevant here, but in the real cold I'll have a down layer stuffed in my frame back. Because it's down, it stuffs into a real small space, and if I get cold and put it on, it's like putting on instant heat. Crazy how well the down can insulate you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the comprehensive advice!!!

Starting at windbreaker gloves ... Any in particular you'd recommend? Fox is easy to get here, Endura and pearl Izumi too.

Re shoes ... In my motorbike days we used to stick our get into plastic bags before putting our boots on. This a good idea for MTB?

Jacket/vest is where I'm confused. Softshell, insulating, windproof, waterproof ... So many options. I was thinking a wind resistance vest might work best with 2 LS layers under (base and outer)? Again pearl Izumi are easy to get here. I had considered an ultra light down vest but that might be too warm. Not sold on Merino either personally. I like the socks but that's about it.

I already have a light shell jacket with no real insulation to wear over other layers ... I think the vest is the only thing I'm really missing.

Anyone wear compression tops for winter in place of normal thermals?
 

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Elitest thrill junkie
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39,150 Posts
Thanks for the comprehensive advice!!!

Starting at windbreaker gloves ... Any in particular you'd recommend? Fox is easy to get here, Endura and pearl Izumi too.

Re shoes ... In my motorbike days we used to stick our get into plastic bags before putting our boots on. This a good idea for MTB?

Jacket/vest is where I'm confused. Softshell, insulating, windproof, waterproof ... So many options. I was thinking a wind resistance vest might work best with 2 LS layers under (base and outer)? Again pearl Izumi are easy to get here. I had considered an ultra light down vest but that might be too warm. Not sold on Merino either personally. I like the socks but that's about it.

I already have a light shell jacket with no real insulation to wear over other layers ... I think the vest is the only thing I'm really missing.

Anyone wear compression tops for winter in place of normal thermals?
Compression tops are fine, as long as they are big enough to tuck in, cover your wrists, and still "compress". They can be real good when you are riding hard, because they wick so well. Also, a little bit of a "turtle neck" helps a lot in keeping you warm. A neck gaiter can help here too, but if you want to use your Buff over your head, it might be more piratical to have the right base layers. I have several that have this feature, it doesn't need to be huge, just enough to help cover your neck.

As for shoes, if your feet stay warm, then you are lucky. Mine do not. Some people use plastic bags, but that just traps moisture and my feet still get cold. They get cold because I'm riding SPDs and those are a heat sink, the cleat drawing heat out through your shoe. Compounding that is that you aren't walking/hiking where your foot is flexing and forcing blood to the toes. So I have winter shoes that help to reduce this. On flats, you can get away with any old insulated hiking shoe pretty much. So if you are on flats, it's not a big deal, but on SPDs, I wouldn't try plastic bags or taping over vents, IME it's better to be fully comfortable for hours in the cold, rather than doing it like some sort of spring or race against time before you can't feel your toes anymore.

If wet/liquid precip is a threat, then you need some kind of waterproof at those temps just above freezing.

I don't go to "riding gear" for the packable jackets, although I have a couple "riding" jackets, they aren't the best gear for riding IME, because you need more options. I go to REI or whatever and look for stuff on sale. A basic nylon packable jacket can significantly boost your warmth, wearing a base layer beneath. Vests can be ok, I have a couple, but I use them much more occasionally and not really down near freezing.

Bottom line, I'd suggest 2 packable jackets, one lightweight waterproof, and one lighter nylon (which will be more breathable). These are easily stuffed in a pack or even the external webbing pouches often. I just put my OR in the external pouch on a Evoc hip pack last night. The lighter nylon will probably pack down to half of the bulk of the waterproof. Something like the patagonia rainshadow that has pit-vents is good for the waterproof jacket, and on a very wind-blasted day or for a long descent, that's a good choice to put on to not get crazy chilled.

IME, in those temps, with a base layer and possibly a jersey on top, you'll still be stripping down to just that for some of the climbs, otherwise you'll overheat. While a vest may be wear-able in some of those situations, it won't provide the warmth on the downhills that you'll need or when you are getting more wind. Same thing with soft-shells. They are great for breathability when it's colder, but that's bordering on too warm for any softshell to work, except right in the beginning of a ride before your core warms up to the output level. I find this takes 15-20 minutes.

Just my 2c, there are other ways to do it and this gets very personalized. What made a difference for me is having options and being able to mix and match based on the conditions. An example is doing a group ride with a lot of standing around. In those cases, I often need to dress one "level" higher in terms of insulation/warmth, because not outputting affects your temperature so much. A common newbie mistake is putting on enough clothes to be warm and comfortable at the beginning...which often makes them miserable in 15 minutes, but extremities are very important to keep warm and sometimes difficult for even more experienced riders.

Down is definitely not necessary, I was just using that as an example where the material did live up to the hype.
 

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L1MEY
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1,487 Posts
If you have easy access to Pearl Izumi gear then you should be able to find a pair of their winter weight gloves that work for you... they have several different styles in different thicknesses. I have worn motorcycle gloves on the bike before but I overheated and ended up swapping them out after the first big climb. Carry some chemical handwarmers in your pack just in case and you should be fine.

Feet is where I always struggle as my feet get really cold. I put chemical toe warmers on but I'm thinking about heated socks fur next winter.

For temps near freezing but not below, I am usually in a long sleeved moisture wicking shirt with a lightweight (100 weight) fleece over the top and a soft shell jacket. The soft shell blocks most of the wind but is breathable and not swampy. I don't wear fully waterproof shells on the bike unless it's actually raining.

Honestly the best thing to do is have a variety of options available to you and turn up at the trailhead with all of them. Select your layers based on feeling a bit chilly at the trailhead, and put an extra layer in your pack for peace of mind if it gets colder.
 
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