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What to Wear for Winter Rides



Happy New Year! I hope you're reading this blog because one of your goals this year is to ride your bike more, especially in winter! Living in Anchorage, we have a long winter to contend with and sometimes it is difficult to find the motivation to get out in the cold and dark to go for a ride. For me, I enjoy rides more when I get my clothing right. Comfort is key to making the ride fun! This is what works for me but everyone is different so hopefully this gives you a good reference point to find what works best for you.


Please keep in mind, this advice is based on riding around trail systems in town. Backcountry rides in the winter are very different from trail system rides! More planning and gear is required.


The categories are: underwear, base layers, outer layer, head/neckwear, footwear, and gloves. I will share what I wear for each clothing layer and share some changes I make to account for temperature variations. I'm only sharing what I wear up to 32 degrees because when temperatures get above freezing in the winter, it is best to wait to ride until it freezes again. Riding while it is above freezing causes ruts in the trails which makes the trail unpleasant when it re-freezes.


Underwear

I always wear a wool sports bra. I used to also wear wool boxers but then I found these wind resistant baselayer shorts and I absolutely love them. They make a big difference in warmth.

I never wear a chamois in the winter.


Base layers

25-32 Degrees

  • mid-weight wool tights

  • lightweight wool long sleeve shirt or synthetic long sleeve shirt

15-25 Degrees

  • heavyweight synthetic waffle knit/grid fleece pants

  • mid-weight wool shirt

  • synthetic t-shirt over the top (this might seem a little weird but the little extra layer on the core helps keep in warmth but also helps draw out sweat)

0-15 Degrees

  • lightweight wool tights plus heavyweight waffle knit pants

  • mid-weight wool shirt

  • mid layer such as a fleece or R1

Below 0 Degrees

  • mid-weight wool tights plus heavyweight waffle knit pants

  • heavyweight wool shit

  • mid layer such as a fleece or R1


Outer layers

15-32 Degrees

  • lightweight breathable shell jacket

  • I got these insulated bike pants from Pearl Izumi this year and I wear them all the time! They have a grid fleece lining from the knees up and since I tend to run cold, it's perfect for me. Unfortunately, they don't make these pants for women but the men's fit wasn't as bad as I expected. There are other insulated options out there such as these Endura pants. If you don't run as cold, a regular softshell pant might work better for you.

Below 15 Degrees

  • Insulated jacket w/vents. I have an Endura coat which I love!

  • Insulated bike pants


Head/neckwear

I always wear a buff around my neck, no matter the temperature. I also bring a Skida bandana when it is below 15 degrees. I have three different hat choices: light, midweight, and fleece. I usually bring two on the ride.


The wind chill is really harsh on my face and I get wind burn easily. Rather than covering my entire face, I just use a little vaseline. Some people wear nose hats. I prefer a little vaseline over a nose hat.


footwear

I wear Salomon winter boots. I bought these boots years ago and they're holding up incredibly well especially considering the fact that I wear them biking, walking, and around town every day. If I found myself in a place of needing new boots and budget wasn't an issue, I'd try some 45NRTH boots, but for now, my 6-year-old Salomons have lots of life left and I will wear them until they're exhausted. The grip of my boots on my pedals isn't an issue because I have extra large flat pedals. I don't ride clipless. I think it would be super annoying in winter because there can be a lot of on-and-off the bike, especially if you're riding on narrow singletrack. Sometimes the on-and-off results in having to step into deep snow which could cause snow to build up. Some people do choose clipless though. I always suggest people ride with whatever they're most comfortable with.

For socks, any old ski sock will do! I really love Darn Tough's mountaineering socks. They're so warm but don't get sweaty when you're too warm.


Gloves

I always ride with pogies in the winter! I use them mainly because they block the wind which allows my hands to stay warmer. The use of pogies also means I can wear lighter weight gloves which helps me use my bike components better. I have a pair of 45NRTH pogies which are great because they lock on to the end of my handlebars and stay put! They also have vents on the top and bottom so I can get a little airflow if my hands get too warm.

As for gloves, I bring at least two pair but I usually end up bringing three. I start my ride with my warmest gloves and adjust the weight of my gloves as needed. It is good to have options so your hands don't get sweaty. I avoid sweaty hands as much as possible because if something were to go wrong on the trail, I'd really want a dry pair of gloves! My heavyweight gloves are these insulated waterproof ones from Endura. My mid-weight gloves are a softshell glove by Pearl Izumi which have been discontinued but there are many mid-weight options available by many different brands. My lightweight gloves are my regular mountain bike gloves I wear in the summer.

In my experience, bike-specific gloves are most comfortable because they are shaped for the position your hand is in while biking. I spent my first season winter riding using ski tour gloves and I found that the thumb was too short and it was always a strain when I needed to shift gears.


Final Thoughts

Shop locally when possible! If you haven't checked out AK Cycle Chic yet, I highly recommend! You will find some of the products I linked there in addition to some lovely wool layers and a variety of mid and outer layers as well. Many of the bike shops around town carry a good selection of apparel as well.


With winter clothes, baggier is better! Creating a little airspace helps keep you warm and allows you to move more freely.


Frame bags are great. I always prefer to use a variety of frame bags in winter over any type of pack you wear on your body.


I hope this post helps you dial in your winter riding layers. If you have any questions or comments, let me know!

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