Let us be honest, how many times have you been too cold or too hot on a ride? Being too cold is the worst; you can’t make a jacket magically appear. You need to prepare for the weather.
So, let’s get right to it: the Art of layering.
The clothes you wear to start your ride impact your comfort on the ride. When you are overdressed, you sweat easily, dehydrate quickly, and feel fatigued faster. Leaving the house without enough layers can leave you cold and it can be hard to come back from that. Both situations can have a negative impact on your mood. Here are a few tips on layering appropriately to assist in the most comfortable riding experience in almost any weather.
Check the weather forecast.
Many forget to check the weather forecast and assume it will be the same as the day before. Plan the evening before your ride. Check the weather and temperature for the time you expect to be on your bike. Lay out the clothes you will need. This can avoid the morning scramble to find everything the morning of (as we have all done) and avoid you rushing out the door with “oh I forgot to grab this.”
How many layers is enough?
Three is the magic number. However, final factors are temperature, wind, rain, or snow. Consider the quality of layers, as they can differ greatly. Let us look at each layer individually. This guide may vary based on the individual. What works for me might not work for you, but it will help you find what does.
1. The base layer
Base layers are the foundation of keeping your body dry, therefore I recommend a high-quality, snug-fitting, and great moisture-wicking base layer. Even riding in the cold will make your body sweat, so if your base layer doesn’t pull enough moisture away from your body, you will end up with a fairly wet base layer and become cold quickly. Cold wind lowers your core body temperature quickly and it is hard to come back from that. Cotton t-shirts don’t work. Many brands offer high-quality synthetic blend base layers with moisture wicking and anti-bacterial features. Merino wool-made base layers are the best choice for winter layering because the natural material pulls moisture away from your skin while retaining heat and it has natural anti-bacterial properties. Invest in a high-quality base layer, you will be glad you did.
2. The key layer
Key layers, worn over the base layer and under the protective layer, should be chosen based on the highest temperatures you expect during your ride. Choose between a short sleeve jersey (possibly with arm warmers) or a long sleeve jersey. A full zippered jersey will allow for easy adjustments and added ventilation. If temps stay cold, I recommend considering fleece fabric for added warmth. You might also consider replacing regular lycra bibs and leg warmers with fleece bib tights.
3. The protective layer
The protective layer shields you from wind, rain, and snow*. What you choose for your protective layer depends on the weather forecast the most. I recommend jackets with a two-way zipper. These give you the option to unzip from the bottom for a little more cooling ventilation, while still protecting your core from the cold wind. Depending on your location, a gilet/vest might be sufficient, especially if you have a fleece key layer. In cold, dry weather, grab a thin, high-quality windbreaker jacket. Pack or wear a waterproof jacket for the rain. These can be easily stored away in your jersey pockets.
*Snow conditions might require higher quality key and protective layers.
Don’t forget protective gear for your head, hands, and feet.
© Armin Rahm - ICE Sportswear 2021