In Time for a Break and Cyclocross, the first of a four part series of articles on preparing for the winter, coach Shawn Rosenthal covered how to spend time, train, and even race CX during your off season in both preparation and as a cool-down. In part 2, team rider Jim Wingert covers some of the basics of winter cycling clothing. Stay tuned for part 3 and 4 on clothing accessories and prepping your bike for winter.
With winter setting in, it is important to have the proper clothing for cold-weather riding. Wearing the right gear can have a dramatic impact on a rider’s comfort. Fortunately, Mike’s carries all the essential items you will want to have in your closet.
Base Layers: A good base-layer combined with a summer jersey keeps a rider much warmer than a jersey alone. When it’s not too cold, this is all you really need (along with arm/leg warmers and gloves). Regardless of what you’re wearing over it though, this should be your first layer all winter. Mike’s carries the Craft brand, which has a great reputation. I wear the Pro Zero Extreme Short Sleeve.
Arm & Knee/Leg Warmers: These are absolutely essential for riding in cold or variable conditions. They keep your limbs warm and are easily removable if the weather heats up. I find that the Specialized Leg Warmers and Arm Warmers fit me especially well and has comfortable yet effective “grippers” that hold them in place. Mike's also has warmers from the reputable Pearl Izumi brand.
Knickers: While it’s common for riders to just use their summer shorts combined with leg or knee warmers, a pair of knickers will offer greater comfort (and style!) in my experience. If you find that wearing leg/knee warmers with shorts feels awkward, give it a shot. Also, most knickers are made out of heavier, warmer fabrics, which translates to a warmer pelvic area for the rider. I have the Specialized BG Pro RBX Bib Knickers, and they are my favorite cold-weather shorts. Mike's also has some great bib and knicker options from Gore and other companies.
Vests: When it’s not quite cold enough to warrant a jacket, a vest is a great option. Racers love them because there are no sleeves to flap in the wind and slow you down, and because they can be easily unzipped when things heat up on the climb and zipped up for the cold descent. Mike’s carries the stylish and well-made Capo vest that the team uses. They feature excellent cold blocking Windtex material up front and easily accessible pockets in the back.
Jackets: When it gets truly cold or the rain clouds pop out, wearing a jacket becomes mandatory. My favorite jacket that Mike’s sells is the Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier Lite Jacket. This jacket will easily pack into a small jersey pocket! That’s where I keep it when I’m working hard to climb a hill. I’ll throw it on before a descent or when it starts sprinkling. Despite its light weight, it blocks wind and rain very effectively. It keeps me warm enough for almost all my rides in the winter. Capo also makes a really nice jacket that’s currently on closeout.
When things start to get wet, you need to have a jacket on the whole time. The good ones will breathe enough to remove moisture from a sweating rider, yet keep most wind and water out. A truly waterproof jacket will just cause a rider to accumulate sweat at almost any temperature, making them wetter and colder. Gore, Specialized, and a few other MB Brands make terrific jackets with the best water-resistant yet breathable fabric available (a popular one is “Windstopper”). I would recommend the Gore Bike Wear Contest 2.0 AS Jacket.
For early mornings and late nights when the temperatures drop below what's comfortable with a jersey and wind vest, Capo makes some excellent jackets which give you the proper insulation and feature their excellent Windtex material up front to keep out the chill out while allowing you to ventilate throughout the rest of the jacket. If it starts to drizzle, these jackets will keep some of the rain off you, but you will end up soaked in a downpour. The jackets come in several styles which match Capo's existing kits.
Trainers: Sometimes, it’s just too miserable out to motivate yourself for a ride, especially if it’s just for an hour and you’ll need to deep-clean your bike afterwards. In that case, you’ll need to 'switch gears' and ride the trainer. Mike’s sells the best on the market, the LeMond Fitness Revolution Bike Trainer and Cycleops Trainers.