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Winter Biking Part II: Layers

Choosing what to wear in the winter seems easy, but when you plan on cycling you need to consider a few additional factors. Piling on the layers might be OK if you are traveling a short distance, but if you are biking far, you may get too hot and begin to sweat.

Finding that sweet spot is key, but only you can decide what amount of layers works best for you. During our recent conversation about biking in the winter, we discussed what works best for us and found that we had varying approaches to cold weather biking. Here are a few tips we came up with.

If you know you are going to warm up on your ride, start out with fewer layers on your body, and bring some extra layers in your backpack or pannier. If you get a flat tire, or have to stop unexpectedly, you will want that extra layer of clothing.

Many types of waterproof jackets aren’t breathable so if you wear a raincoat, you might work up a sweat faster. If you do plan on wearing multiple layers for warmth, use a thinner waterproof layer so you don’t feel bulky on your ride.

Covering your extremities and face is important and helps you focus on the road. Hands, feet, and any exposed skin are going to get cold first, and once they get cold you are more likely to become distracted. Don’t wear multiple layers of socks unless you know your feet will get cold. A good pair of boots with one layer of socks usually works better than piling on extra pairs of socks.

Use thicker gloves or combination of gloves to keep your hands warm. Your hands are holding onto your cold bike and getting blasted with cold air. If your hands are frozen, it’s going to be harder to hit the brakes. You can also find adult size mittens that will work great alone, or with another layer inside them.

Check out Winter Biking Part II: Layers and listen to Clean Air Council staff discuss differing approaches to layering clothing.