The winter season is upon us and if you’re in a cold landscape, keeping warm will be vital to continuing your mountain biking adventures. Fortunately, the 21st century has brought us advanced materials that will help keep you comfortable while riding without looking like Randy from A Christmas Story.
The most important aspect of winter riding is to keep the extremities warm (hands and feet). Your feet don’t get half as much circulation as your legs do while peddling, so it’s important to give them special attention in cold weather environments.
More serious riders will want to consider specialized winter boots for rides. Elitists will consider the Mavic Crossmax Elite CM MTB Shoes. These boots are designed for muddy, damp conditions, and have the ability to grip the most slippery ground thanks to their aggressive outsole. The Mavic’s are waterproof and almost weightless, so your feet will stay dry, without hindering your ride by adding substantial weight to your outfit.
If you’re looking for a specialized show for a great price, try the Northwave X-Arctic GTX Winter Shoes. These shoes still help avoid griploss on slippery terrain. They are both water and windproof, and will protect against temperatures as low as 26 degrees fahrenheit.
Cyclers on a budget can simply use winterproof socks to shield themselves from harsh conditions. While they can often be difficult to remove, they will help eliminate unwanted water and help keep your feet warm when shredding snow or mud on your bike.
Specialized gloves are essential to protecting your hands from cold weather, while maintaining traction during a ride. The best winter gloves will want to have a strong material for insulation on the back of the hands and also have a thin gripping palm. This will allow for greater control and comfortable warmth on your ride.
One of the most advanced cold weather gloves are the SealSkinz Cold Weather Heated Cycle Gloves. These gloves are 100% waterproof, windproof, and breathable. They have an electronic thermal protection device (electronic heating shell insulator) that lasts for up to 5-6 hours for very cold climates. While they are expensive at a price of $160 a pair, they are a surefire way to protect yourself from harsh climates without sacrificing grip and control.
Your legs will not need as much protection as your hands and feet because they will obviously have more circulation during peddling. As a result, they will be less susceptible to the cold weather dangers associated with winter cycling. This gives you a few options.
For colder rides, try using thermal-lined bib tights under your riding shorts. These will help to keep you warm, but won’t sacrifice on flexibility during your ride. Three quarter length bib tights will work fine for warmer days. However, it’s always good to be prepared for wetness, so make sure you wear waterproof shorts to keep your bottom dry. No one wants a wet bum during a ride.
Essential Base Layers
It’s important to control sweat retention while performing a winter ride to help keep you warm. Make sure you include a base layer to help whisk away the sweat from your body. Typically it’s usually best to use a wool based fabric because it’s warmer when wet. While these can be more expensive than synthetic fibers, they will pay off when you’re not looking like Jack Frost because you underprepared for mother nature that day.
An outer-layer jacket most likely be the more expensive items on your winter cycling apparel list. Outer-layer jackets are essential, however, to keep you warm during cold harsh climates. In this instance, it’s important to not sacrifice functionality for warmth, as most jackets can be quite cumbersome.
A good outer-layer jacket will include adjustable cuffs and waists, droppable tail, removable hood, but also should be waterproof. The fabric should be somewhat breathable to help prevent any weigh down feeling from the accumulation of sweat. While some may prefer only a soft shell jacket, it’s probably better to sacrifice the weight for warmth on your ride and wear a thicker outer-layer jacket. Layering up with a thicker shell jacket can help you stay warm, but make sure it’s one that allows for layering down when conditions warm up.
My favorite new outer-layer jacket is the Showers Pass Elite 2.1 Cycling Jacket. Essentially, it’s the fancy country club sports car of mountain biking jackets. It ranges from $250.00 – $280.00 in price, but has a three layer waterproof and breathable shell. The jacket also offers fully taped seams for extended durability. If you get too hot, no need to worry because this jacket offers 7 different venting options to keep you cool: 2 pit vents, 2 cuff vents, single back vent, and a 2-way zipper.
No one likes dirt or water in their eyes. If you’re into extreme competitive conditions, it might be best to invest in some clear cycling goggles to protect yourself from the natural elements (mud, dirt, snow, water). If wearing clear protective classes, it’s always good to carry a cloth to keep them clean.
As mentioned earlier, the most important part of winter riding is to warm the extremities. Keeping your ears warm during these rides will help you stay a happy rider.
A low profile skull-cap or beanie should suffice to keep you warm and won’t interfere with your helmet. If you want more air flow, try using a thermal headband. While you may look like you’re fresh out of Jane Fonda fitness video, at least your ears will be warm.