By Matt Walthour
In the wake of last week’s cold snap or as I like to refer to it as “freezing”, I had the need to search out my freezing out riding gear. I am not sure about everyone else, but when it gets below 60 degrees outside, I am cold. I guess being born and raised in Boston didn’t stick to my bones too well, or I was a true Floridian all along. Either way, I need to be warm, especially when I am riding my bike on these chilly days. Let me offer a few ideas about how to stay warm in the colder months, because for me there is no way I can postpone riding my bicycle for months.
It just boils down to choosing the right attire. Besides the obvious layering of t-shirts, sweatshirts and jackets, which works great for a leisurely ride, there are technical clothes made for cold weather riding. I like to layer, but with more of the “technical” style riding gear. Let’s start with the head and work on down.
It is most important to protect one’s head and we should all wear helmets all the time. Personally, I never ride without one and it’s also the law for children younger than 16 years of age. There are a few different cover ups you can wear under your helmet for cold days. One is a balaclava, a sort of ski mask, but usually of a lighter material. These work great, especially on really cold, windy days. There are also ear warmers, that you basically wear around the back of your head or some that attach to the sides of your helmet.
Onto the upper body, I usually start with an undershirt that will help in wicking moisture, because even in the cold you will sweat some. Then over the undershirt I wear a short sleeve cycling jersey, usually one with back pockets. Next are arm warmers, and justas they sound, they protect the whole arm up to the armpit. Arm warmers are especially good for longer rides because as you warm up, you can just peel them off and put them in your back pocket. Then, depending on how cold it is, I wear a windbreaker style jacket, one that I can fold up and put in my back pocket as well. There are long sleeve riding jerseys available for those who do not like to deal with arm warmers or are more comfortable with long sleeves. To complete the warmth level I sometimes wear long fingered riding gloves. I always wear gloves but in the cold the long fingered ones are best for me.
Regarding protection for the lower body, I always wear padded cycling shorts, which are very comfortable for me and aid in wicking moisture. I prefer them to the pads and I am more comfortable in the saddle. I wear either whole leg warmers, or just knee warmers depending on the cold and how long I plan to ride. Both styles are helpful because they can be removed as you warm up. Lighter weight, loose fitting cycling pants are available that can be worn over cycling shorts. Some brands are water and wind resistant. Finally, there are booties available to cover riding shoes, or covers for just the tip of the shoes. However, I am generally comfortable with a good riding shoe.
These suggestions are the basics of what is available for cover up in cold weather riding. The same clothes and clothing accessories are also available in wool, which is particularly helpful for riders in bitter cold and snowy areas. Remember to stay hydrated, even in cold weather, because you will sweat, no matter the cold, so always replenish!!! Bundle up and keep on pedaling.
Matt Walthour, a Marco Island resident since 1985 is a graduate from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, and is the owner of Island Bike Shop and Scootertown on Marco Island and Naples. He is also a member of the Marco Island bike path ad-hoc committee .