Cold rides and what to wear

8 slow, easy miles last night.  22F.  I even had a little frost on my balaclava, but it melted the instant I walked in the front door.  The Collegiate and I rode to the Giant supermarket in Camp Hill and back, sticking mostly to residential streets.  While it was cold, I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the bike.  Getting motivated to suit up and go for a ride when the temps are below freezing is sometimes hard, but I always feel better once I start rolling.

What to wear is an issue this time of year.  I tend to either over-dress or under-dress.  Getting it just right is elusive, at best.  So last night’s garb consisted of leather shoes without laces or seams on the upper, really thick wool socks, running tights under a pair of jeans, a cotton tee shirt, sweater, pull-over wind shell, balaclava, helmet (to hold the balaclava right where I like it) and my new Spenco Cold Snap gloves.  (The Spenco site is stupid Flash, so you’ll have to find the gloves on your own.)  This set-up is pretty good for shorter rides.  I don’t think I’d want to ride much more than 15 or 20 miles, though, when it’s as cold as it is right now.

The shoes are some old Dunham 9720 slip-ons with a little insulation and thick, slip-resistant soles.  The upper is one piece and doesn’t let much wind through.  The socks are wool Craftsman from Sears.  They’re too warm for anything above freezing.  This combo worked well and my toes were comfy throughout the ride.

My running tights are loose-fitting New Balance wind pants.  They’re slick inside and out and move easily under jeans or slacks or whatever.  They work well as a wind shell and I sometimes wear them over long-johns, but I prefer a non-athletic look to my clothing.  Longer rides in sub-freezing weather would have required a 3rd layer.  My crotch got a little cold, so maybe I’ll wear some cycling shorts under the whole thing next time.

The tee-shirt and sweater should be replaced with a long sleeve wool tee under another short sleeve layer.   The wind shell is an old running jacket with a weird zipper that runs from the neck to the left shoulder.  With the balaclava in place it doesn’t vent well.  Opening the zipper just makes my shoulder cold, so I was a little sweatier than I wanted to be when I got home.  It does have a long tail, though, and I didn’t have any problems with cold air on my back.

Dad gave me the Spenco Cold Snap gloves for Christmas.  The Spenco site says the gloves are good into the 30s.  I’ll agree with that.  They breathe very well, but also let in a bit too much air over the thumb.  I think a snug fitting silk glove liner, even fingerless, would make these very comfortable down to 15 or 20F.  As it were, my hands got a little cold last night, but not uncomfortably so.

The Collegiate reminded me that she needs an overhaul.  And a new saddle.  Happy riding out there.  Stay warm.

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