Clothing: a cycling post

Yesterday I rode for two hours, and I had to wear both knee warmers and arm warmers for the first time. This is a sign of cold days to come, and of all the layering I’ll have to do in an effort to keep warm. I’m going to try to ride regularly all winter so I can be in shape for the races in March, but, boy, let me tell you, riding yesterday when it was 58 degrees out felt cold, and I’m not looking to riding when it’s 28. Or 18. I might draw the line about there. At that point, I can ride indoors on the trainer, much as I hate having to do that.

Riding in the winter is complicated because I have what feels like endless layers of cold-weather clothing. All this takes forever to put on as I’m getting ready to ride, but it’s also difficult to figure out exactly what clothing I’ll need. 30 degrees on a sunny, windless day feels very different than 30 degrees on a cloudy, windy one. If I put on too much clothing and get hot, I can take some of it off, but then I’ll have to carry it around, which is annoying, and if I don’t put on enough, I put myself in serious danger of frostbite or hypothermia.

And I have a lot of options for what to wear on the bike (probably more options than I have for my non-cycling clothing!): I always wear cycling shorts, a jersey, socks, shoes, cycling gloves, and a helmet, but to these I can add arm warmers, knee warmers, tights, tank tops, t-shirts, a thin fleece jacket, a heavy fleece jacket, a nylon jacket, thin long-fingered gloves, thick long-fingered gloves, thin shoe covers, medium shoe covers, thick shoe covers, thick socks to cover my regular cycling socks, an ear band, and a hat. The Hobgoblin plans on ordering both of us balaklavas for those really cold days, and I might look into battery-powered shoe-warmers, as all those socks and shoe covers still don’t keep my toes warm. I need some long-sleeved t-shirts also, I think.

And in what combination do I wear these things? If I wear a jacket, do I need arm warmers? If I have shoe covers, do I need two pairs of socks? Thin gloves under thick ones, or thick ones all by themselves?

And I’ll frequently make trade-offs. For example, I hate wearing knee warmers (they go from mid-thigh, under my shorts, to mid-calf, but they frequently slide down my legs and then I’m out on the bike trying to hitch them back up and looking like an idiot), so I figure I’ll wear a lot of layers up top so I don’t need them on my legs. And sometimes that works. Or I may wear my tights over my shorts, but then not have many layers up top, in an effort to avoid those knee warmers again. Or I’ll figure if I have a jacket on, I might not need the super-heavy gloves, or if I wear a hat under my helmet, I can get by without the jacket because I won’t have all that heat escaping from my head.

You see how complicated this all is? It can take me as long to get ready for the ride as it does to do the ride itself. But the worst thing — the absolute worst thing — is when I’m all ready, I’ve got all my layers on and I’m walking out the door, and I realize that I forgot to put my heart rate monitor on. The heart rate monitor is a strap that goes around my chest right next to my skin. So I have to peel a bunch of layers off, put the thing on, and start all over again.

How long until spring?

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