Cycling Thermals

 
   
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Guide 2 Cycling   >   Thermals

 

Cycling Thermals - What to Wear When Riding Your Bike


A lot of pedestrians looking at cyclists in cold weather imagine that the riders must be freezing, wet and miserable. However, providing you wear the right gear, they don't need to be uncomfortable when riding your bike.

The most important thing to remember is that when cycling you need to be able to easily and quickly change the amount of insulation that you're wearing. When you first hop on your bike on a cold day, you need to heat up quickly, when you pedal up the first hill, you'll start to work up a sweat and may even need to cool off, and when you freewheel down the other side of the hill, the last thing that you want is the sweat starting to freeze on your skin.

The key to being comfortable is wearing layers of clothing. This way, you can add or remove layers and thus precisely control your temperature. Furthermore, each of the layers that you wear serves a different purpose:
  • Base Layer:

    The layer closest to your skin is probably the most important one for keeping you warm, dry and comfortable. You don't want to choose a cotton T-shirt, as cotton will simply absorb and hold your sweat which will make you feel instantly chilly if the slightest draught gets to it.

    Modern synthetic fabrics such as Coolmax will take the moisture away from the skin, which is a big advantage. There's no need to buy a vast array of different clothes, as you can wear the same item in Summer as a jersey, and in Winter as a vest.

    On the other hand, if you prefer natural fabrics, you should consider merino wool. This doesn't retain odours as much as synthetic fabrics, although of course you still need to wash it every once in a while. Lots of people are deterred from buying wool garments because they think that they are difficult to wash, however this is a misconception as most modern wool garments are in fact perfectly capable of standing up to normal 40-degree washes.

  • Mid Layer:

    The mid layer of your clothing is intended to keep you warm. On very cold days a fleece is a good choice provided it's not too bulky, but when it's not so chilly, you'll want something like a long-sleeved jersey in Coolmax. Whatever you choose, you'll select a breathable fabric, and make sure that the cut is generous enough that your wrists and the bottom of your back won't be exposed when you are stretched out on your bike.

    One thing to bear in mind is that it's easy to get both cold (from the wind) and hot (from physical exertion) while cycling, even during a short cycle trip. Many thin layers are better than one thick layer, because you can add or remove them at will. Zips are however even better, as you can open or close them to instantly control that amount of ventilation that you're getting.

  • Outer Layer:

    The purpose of your outer layer is mainly to keep the weather out. That includes both the rain and wind.

    For your outer layer you want to wear a jacket, preferably one designed specifically for cycling. As with the mid layer, you'll want to choose jacket that doesn't expose your wrists or back when cycling. Additionally, avoid jackets which are stretched too tightly across your shoulders (because they will restrict your movement and soon become uncomfortable), or which sag forward when in the cycling position (because the wind will get in underneath in this case).

    Other considerations when choosing a jacket are pockets (for your wallet, keys and so forth) and safety. In terms of safety, a lighter color will help you be seen, but if your jacket has reflective features (or you're prepared to add your own reflective strips), then even better. Avoid out for jackets with hoods (most cycling jackets don't have them anyway), as they restrict your vision, especially when turning your head.
The final issue to consider is to make sure that your layers are compatible with each other. Remember that your outer layers need to be big enough to accommodate both your body and the inner layers - and you can make this easier by avoid bulky items for the inner layers. Additionally, you'll want to avoid wearing a mid layer fleece that sticks out from under your outer jacket (most commonly at the sleeves or back) as this will tend to suck in both cold air and moisture.

Here are some cycling vests:

See Also:
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