With full apologies to our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, winter has begun to arrive in my New England home. Like the first guests showing up to a party, winter is milling about in the living room, eating chips and making small talk. We’re not in full force yet. The cops haven’t knocked on the door to tell us to quiet down, but the music is playing and it’s on.
This morning, with the temp at 29F (-2C) and a fair wind blowing, I opted for a sleeveless, synthetic base layer, a long-sleeve wool base over that, a wool jersey and then a super-thin wind breaker. Wind front tights. A pair of RKP wool socks, with a thicker wool sock over top, and then toe warmers, in lieu of booties.
If the wind weren’t blowing, I’d have foregone the windbreaker and maybe chosen a vest. The beauty of multiple wool layers is that they create layers of warmth, but still breathe. They allow me to practice my own personal cold weather riding strategy, which requires spending the first five minutes of the ride legitimately cold, before settling into the perfect range for long-term pedaling.
I like a thin windbreaker or vest, because I can always pocket it once I’m warm, which I can’t do with the myriad thermal jackets out there. I don’t like to be cold, but I really don’t like to be overly warm either.
I find that one or two of the pieces need to cover my neck. If my neck is warm, I can ignore a lot of cold on my arms.
When things get serious, and they will, then I’ll switch over to Gore-Tex shoes and a heavier, waterproof wind jacket. All of this seems to work for me, given the conditions here, and the only piece I’m still trying to figure out is the gloves.
I like to maintain manual dexterity, so I eschew lobster gloves, but I find that no one really makes a bomb proof, warm winter glove. If you’re a glove maker, and you’re reading this, and you think you have a glove that will do the job, send it to me, and I will run the rule over it.
My friend Neil maintains that makers of cycling apparel just don’t understand gloves, and he only wears ski gloves in winter. I have ski gloves that mostly do the trick, but they’re big and bulky and not all that attractive (I am unfortunately vain). Is there an ideal glove out there?
This week’s Group Ride asks the question: What is your basic, cold weather strategy? What items do you incorporate that we might not suspect? What gloves do you like? I know some of you are using chemical hand (and foot) warmers. Tell us your best kept secrets. Tell us what you’ve tried that doesn’t work. Winter is here, now how do we beat it?
Image: © Neil Doshi
The world is full of cycling caps, and they are not all created equal. Walz makes their hats, by hand, in the USA. Whether or not their handmade-ness or their USA-ness are behind the quality and comfort of the final product is not for me to say. What I will say is that Walz makes a great cap.
Let me start by saying what I appreciated most about this four-panel hat, is that it didn’t require breaking in. It was comfortable from the first wearing, and by the third or fourth already seemed like an old friend. I have owned all manner of cycling head wear, cotton, wool and synthetic, and without exception it takes time to break in. Not Brooks saddle time, but time. My Walz cap did not.
My wife approved it for off-bike wear despite violation of the strict prohibition against wearing cycling caps whilst not cycling. Her approval is a big deal, since any other time I summon the temerity to keep my hat on in a restaurant or at the grocery store she flashes me that reproachful glance that says, “Really? Must you?”
Another plus for this cap is that its fit is not tight/not loose, so you can fit a beanie underneath when it’s really cold, but then not end up with a distended pancake on your head when the weather warms up enough to allow for wearing it on its own. I have an average size head, and the small/medium was just right.
I also appreciated the minimal but highly effective sweat band around the interior, which kept the sweat-wet wool from irritating my forehead. At the same time, this cap breathes extremely well. The wool manages to be both thick and airy at the same time. I have not in 30-40 wearings been able to make this hat stink, which is saying more than you can imagine.
Above and beyond the quality of the hat though, I appreciate that someone makes hats that I want to wear regardless of what might be printed on the brim or the side panel. Sure, I have a collection of cycling caps that broadcast my brand preferences and all the subtle, inside jokes that mark me out as an annoying cyclo-dork, but Walz gives me the option of just wearing something for its pure function, a function it serves very well.