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Winter Riding: What to Wear on your Body to Keep Comfortable


Lots of Options to Wear

Stay Comfortable, Stay Warm Fat Biking

It seems like fat bike riding requires a bit of magic to figure out what to wear to be comfortable.   Wear too little and you’ll be cold – too much and you’ll sweat too much and ultimately be cold again.   Moisture management is the key to keeping comfortable – you need to generate heat to stay warm, but you don’t want to generate so much heat that you sweat too much.   And remember that unlike road cycling where your speeds higher speeds generate a colder wind chill and thus you need to bundle up more, fat biking is not fast – so you won’t have the colder wind chills.   So finding the balance of layers and insulation to keep comfortable while on long or even short rides can be both a learning process and a challenge.   And remember that what works for me might not necessarily work for you – so experiment with your system.

First up:  Base layers to wear regardless of the temperature.

Torso: I like to wear a thin, stretchy base layer on my torso.

  • In my case my favorite shirt is a Craft Base Layer.    It breathes well, is warm but not too warm and is really comfortable.   And it launders easily.
  • Another option is to wear a long sleeve jersey: the Sugoi Hot Shot Jersey is a great choice.  It has a full length zipper which allows you to unzip to vent as needed.  And like a normal cycling jersey, it also has  three back pockets to store some trail food or a camera or phone.  And if you size up so that there is room for a base layer, the HotShot Jersey can make a great outer layer as well because it has a tightly woven fabric that helps break the wind and keep in heat.
  • Brandon tends to run a bit colder than I do, so he often wears a base layer with a sleeveless windshirt over top the base layer.   We have long sleeve versions of these shirts – they help keep you warm by blocking the wind and they breath less than your baselayer which helps keep the heat in.
  • Wool or synthetic?  I wear both but for some reason I find my wool layers to be warmer so I wear them when it gets colder.   I also like my synthetic layers because they are a bit easier to care for because I can put them in the dryer where as I like to hang dry my wool layers.   As a result, I tend to go with synthetic layers for everyday riding.

Legs: Keep in mind that if you wear ski socks and cycling shorts you already have most of your legs covered under your cycling pants.

  • For my legs, I usually don’t wear a base layer unless I am riding in temperatures below 10 degrees.   When I am riding when it’s on the colder side, I like to wear a light weight wool base layer.
  • Don’t forget to wear your favorite cycling shorts or padded liners.

Feet, Hands & Head:

  • I turn to my favorite wool ski socks every time I ride.
  • And I wear my favorite long fingered mountain bike gloves.  I don’t need to ride with thick gloves because my hands stay relatively warm and I ride with pogies that give me the main insulation for my hands.
  • Hats keep you warm.
  • Check out our previous video and blog about keeping your extremities warm.

Next Up:  Outer Layers

Just like my base layers are relatively consistent regardless of the temperature, my outer layers are also pretty consistent.  I like to wear either one of two jackets and then layer with warmer layers if needed.

Favorite Pink Jacket

Craft Base Layer, Pink Jacket, Craft Pants

Torso:

  • I have two jackets that I wear regularly – one is a wind shell on the outside lined with a wicking and lightly insulating layer, the second is a Sugoi Firewall Jacket – basically a cycling softshell.    Both jackets break the wind really well which helps keep me warm.   And one is bright pink which makes me very visible to oncoming snowmobiles.
  • The Sugoi HotShot Jersey would work great too.
  • Don’t forget to bring a puffy on your longer rides – you’ll need it when you stop.   The Mont-Bell UL Down Parka is super light and will pack down small so you won’t even notice it in your frame bag.
Montbell UL Down Parka

MontBell UL Down Parka

Other key items:

  • A down vest is great to wear when it’s cold – I wear one under my softshell on very cold days while riding.  It keeps my core warm without a lot of bulk.
  • A wind vest is perfect for warm days when one of my jackets might be too warm.

Legs: The same nordic ski pants you love when skate skiing are the best pants to ride in.

  • We carry the Craft Storm Tights – they have a windbloc front and are stretchy.  Plus the back of the pants are higher than in the front – this prevents a gap from forming between your pants and your jacket when you are bent in the riding position.

Final ideas

  • I know that if I am warm or comfortable at the trailhead, I will be too hot once I start riding.   Acting on this can be challenging, in fact yesterday on my ride I was thinking at the car that I was comfortable and should take off a layer, but I thought it might get colder so I kept my jacket on rather than switching to a vest.  I was hot & sweating when I rode –  what I should have done was ride in the vest and take the jacket in my frame bag.
  • Start with warm hands and feet, particularly if you have trouble keeping your hands and feet warm.  That means put your feet into WARM DRY boots to start with and keeping your hands and feet warm on the way to the trailhead.
  • On long rides bring a puffy to hang out with at your lunch break.  Once you stop, you will get cold relatively quickly, so have something on hand to keep warm when you stop.
  • One tip I learned this past weekend from Jay P, was that you need to dress your hands and feet warmer than the rest of your body because they naturally don’t stay as warm as your torso.     But I have also learned that keeping your core warm helps you keep your feet and hands warm.    For more information about how to keep your extremities warm, you should check out one of our previous blogs or this video.
  • Bring a thermos and drink warm fluids to help keep you warm.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with your layers – it will help you find a system that works for you at all temperatures.


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