I hate to be cold. I’m not even gonna sugarcoat it. And winter can really suck if you’re sitting inside, watching the outdoor thermometer, waiting for it to inch above freezing (guilty). I’m sometimes envious of my wind sisters that have perfect riding weather all year, yet I can’t imagine living someplace without a change in seasons. So, we have no other choice. We ride in the cold. If the roads are dry, and mostly free of road salt, we ride. Give me 40-degrees, a sliver of sunshine, my heated gear, and I’m ready to roll.
Cold weather gear is just as much a personal preference as what type of bike you ride. Everyone has their own favorites, just as everyone has their own level of tolerance for the cold. Me? I’m a wuss. Not kidding. If my hands get cold I get cranky. Not only is it uncomfortable, it’s also unsafe when I can’t feel my fingers. You know…that whole operating a clutch and brake thing.
So below are this wuss’s 7 favorite pieces of cold weather gear. These are my “go-to” pieces all winter long:
1. Leather Jacket – It seems cliché, right? But, not only is leather very protective, it’s also very warm when layered with the right pieces. Yeah OK…it’s pretty badass too. My leather jacket is roomie enough to wear a lighter jacket underneath, and the sleeves are long enough that when I reach for my handlebars there are no gaps where cold can get in. This year I invested in a heavier leather jacket for even more warmth, and it’s worth every penny.
2. Heated Jacket Liner* – Yes, I LOVE my heated gear. Remember, this is me, the wuss. One of the things I love most about my heated jacket liner is that it eliminates the need for too much bulk under my leather jacket. I wear a turtleneck, then my heated jacket liner and then my leather jacket on top. Three layers, that’s it. The closer the heated jacket is to my skin, the more I’ll feel it’s warmth.
3. Heated Gloves* – Oh, did I mention I LOVE my heated gear? These are non-negotiable. While I don’t love the bulk, they keep my hands and fingers super, toasty warm. Cold, numb fingers are not only uncomfortable, they’re also a safety issue. My hands tend to be the first part of me that gets cold, so I’m willing to put up with a little bulk if it means I can still get out and ride. I chose this pair of Gerbing heated gloves because they came in extra small to fit my tiny hands. The gloves plug into the jacket, and the jacket connects to my bike battery.
4. Leather Chaps – Just like my leather jacket, I love my chaps because they give me protection as well as warmth. In the winter, I’ll wear a pair of long johns under my jeans, and then the chaps. In early spring or late fall, I especially love the chaps because as the day warms up I can peel them off and just ride in jeans. This year I may splurge on a pair of leather pants at one of the bike shows. We’ll see.
5. Balaclava – Not only is this little gem a multi-tasker, it makes me feel like I’m part of the SWAT team (Kidding. Kinda.) The top part is a thin spandex that fits comfortably under my helmet without squeezing my noggin. The lower part is a cozy, soft fleece that covers my ears and neck. And, if I want a little extra warmth, I can pull it up to cover my chin and mouth.
6. Wool Socks – My favorites are a pair of hiking socks called “Smart Socks” I purchased a bazillion years ago at REI. They’re just thick enough to fit comfortably inside my boots, and they come up high enough to tuck my long johns in to avoid any drafty spaces. Normally, I don’t wear much wool (too itchy), but these socks are a cotton/wool blend so they’re not itchy at all and they’re soft and warm. Guess that’s what makes them smart.
7. Insole Warmers - For an extra measure of warmth in my extremities, I sometimes slip in a pair of Hot Hands heated insoles. One pair will keep my little feet and toes warm for 9-hours, and I can keep a spare pair in my saddlebag just in case.
*A little side note about heated gear. It’s worth a little extra money to buy a thermostat instead of just an “on” “off” switch. I learned the hard way that the gloves can get too hot when left on high for too long. The thermostat lets me adjust the heat level to get just the right balance of warmth for both the jacket liner and the gloves.
There you have it. Would I trade all of this for 70-degrees year ‘round? Maybe, but probably not. It’s all part of the adventure, and physical challenge. So, I’d love to hear from you. How cold is TOO cold for you to ride? And what do you wear to stay warm when you do venture out?
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