The Art of Layering
Does the inner weight weenie in you cringe at the thought of layering to ride? I mean, really it’s all about being light and aero right? Well, unless you want to be doomed to a room of sweaty, going nowhere indoor trainer rides; it would be best to figure out your specific layering plans.
The most important aspect to consider before going on a shopping bender for base layers and wind -stopper is to first know thy self. Think about the coldest, hottest, wet ride you’ve ever been on; the one that really made you suffer enough to consider going home. Once you’ve found this memory think about what made you hurt. Decide now what your limits are:
Maybe you are okay with 30 degrees and snow, but ice keeps you inside.
Maybe you don’t mind the rain, but hate to be cold.
Maybe you love it Africa hot, but hate sun exposure.
We all have limits, it isn’t a flaw its reality and chances are you’ve spent enough time in the pain room that your limits exceed those of most normal humans, but knowing your limit allows you to prepare for everything up to that limit. This will keep you happier and riding longer because you are prepared and you have the proper gear for the task.
Layering for cycling is super technical, but there are lots of choices in products to simplify the process. Start by answering these questions:
What type of terrain do I ride?
Flat open plains
Terrain matters when it comes to technical fabrics. If your rides consist of lots of climbing you’ll want to seek out light, breathable fabrics and pieces that can work well together, be easily removed individually and dry fast. If flat open plains for miles is your morning view then you’ll want fabrics that block wind, but remain breathable. You’ll also want the most aero clothing that fits perfectly in the riding position to lessen wind suck. Mixing it up with flats and rollers means you’ll need technical clothes that can wick away sweat while both cooling & heating the body.
What type of weather most frequently makes me avoid riding?
When it comes to rain two things really suck; being wet & cold and being wet & sweaty. Rain gear can be water resistant or waterproof, but must be breathable. Seams need to be waterproof and designs need to keep water from coming inside your wrists, down the back of the neck or butt and or chest. Rain gear can also be tricky to carry, so try on lots of garments and when it comes to the best rain gear choices, always ask your Seattle Twitter friends before making a choice.Winter riding with snow can be tricky as it very much depends on where the snow is. Parts of Colorado can be balmy even if there’s snow on the ground, but New Jersey or Chicago can be brutally cold without snow.
Again, know your limits and look for companies that test and rate their gear for varied temperatures. If you get wet and it is windy these conditions will change the way your clothing performs, so while it might be expensive for a pair of lined, wind proof, articulated knees full length bib tights they might be the one piece you can reach new limits with!
Sleet is killer. If you are in the realm of Jens Voight then go for it. Mount your studded tires, mud guards, pull on your fully waterproof rain suit, sub-zero cycling boots, slip into your heated bar mitts and please put on a helmet. Good luck to you.
Wind stopper fabrics are very common now and can be some of the most versatile pieces one could invest in. So often the wind causes us to be cold—just think about your fingers; wind stopper gloves are amazing. Same goes for wind stopper hats and shoe covers.
Sometimes being comfortable is all about keeping the heat from escaping from your head, feet and hands. Generally wind resistant clothing is light weight and easily layered over your regular gear making it quick and easy to remove and stow if the conditions improve.
Sun protection is more and more available in clothing for all seasons. Guaranteed the sun will come up and whether or not it’s hot, you will still be receiving harmful rays. Treat yourself to proper sunglasses and sunscreen, this you will not regret. When it is hot, look for fabrics that will evaporate sweat quickly and allow for great breathability to keep you cool.
What type of rider am I?
Minimalist – I don’t even carry a tool bag and if I put on extra clothes I am certainly not taking them off and carrying them. If this is you, skip the clothing, stock up on embro and ride hard enough to keep warm and fast enough to beat the rain.
Moderate – I like to be safe rather than sorry, so I don’t mind keeping a pocket free if I need to carry an item. Invest in a great rain cape, long finger gloves/hat, arm warmers and knee warmers and toe covers if you want to splurge. You should be good until it drops to 40 degrees depending on your own body needs.
Extreme – It doesn’t matter what the weather I am prepared for the apocalypse, I’ll carry it even if I don’t need it. Go for the full deal: Full length lined bib tights, base layers, shoe covers, long wind stopper gloves, balaclava and an extreme jacket. You’ll need a suitcase to carry it or maybe you’re that person riding in the sleet?
What are your budgets?
Broke…back to the embro/minimalist approach.
I’ll buy what I need if it functions properly—buy great quality and shop sales off season for great deals on high quality products.
The sky is the limit if it’s fast, functional, light and aero…also helps if it’s made in Italy and someone famous is also wearing it. If you’ve got the cash, it exists or someone will make it for you.
Don’t let the weather or the wrong gear force you into the gym. Prepare now so when the weather comes, you are ready to ride.
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