I rode off to see one of my clients the other day with the sun shining down on me. On my way home, however, the clouds formed, the skies darkened and buckets of rain started coming down. Yes, Florence, you and the Machine got it right when you said the dog days are over. Summer is gone and the cold drizzle of autumn in Paris is upon us. We even just turned back the clocks!
You can run and swim indoors, and yes, technically you can bike indoors too, but the best training is getting out there and riding on the road, fighting through the weather and knowing how to handle the bike on gritty, grimy, slick and ugly asphalt – but how to dress for your cold-weather ride?
We did a little “prêt à porter” session back in the spring, but for those who missed it or have have reached such extremely advanced years as the author of this piece that they’ve forgotten what we said, here are a few pointers that go beyond just the fact that your shoes should match your saddle bag.
Something to keep in mind, you don’t want to go out all bundled up like the Michelin man with so many layers you can’t put your arms down. Not only will this inhibit your movement and ability to ride, but you’re also going to be generating a lot of heat, which is going to become a LOT of heat if you’re all wrapped up. Quick advice: start your day slightly chilly. You’ll warm up. If you’re doing any climbing, start climbing a little cold, but descend nice and toasty warm.
Winter time clothing, working from the inside out and with a special commuter bonus section at the end:
To make it through the long winter months you should definitely invest in a long-sleeved jersey, a cycling jacket and a waterproof jacket. Yes, all three. The long-sleeved jersey for the days when it’s just a bit chilly but ridable, the full-on jacket for when it’s getting cold/very cold and the rain jacket for… well… the rain… and the snow, sleet, hail, slush, and other such ugliness. Don’t be afraid to spend a little extra on the rain jacket, it’s worth it! The Castelli Gabba jacket is very good both to keep you warm AND dry! Thus proverbially fixing two flats with one patch 😉
To protect yourself from the wind and if you don’t have a wild, woolly badger on your head you should also pick up a beanie/thermal cap that covers the ears and look at a neck-warmer/protector.
Don’t forget your glasses! Just because there’s less sun doesn’t mean you’re safe from that mass of incandescent gas turning oxygen into helium. The sun is lower on the horizon, aiming right for the back of your pupils. For the rainy days, get some clear or near clear lenses.
A quick trick: Next time you stay at a hotel grab a couple of shower caps. They fit perfectly over your helmet and help keep your noggin dry!
Get some long-legged bottoms to keep your legs warm. You will find leg warmers and even just knee warmers, but most of you should just go for the long tights unless if you’re planning on starting cold, warming up and then taking off your leg warmers (like you would do with your arm warmers).
Get yourself some long finger gloves. You can have 2 or 3 different weights if you want, but a good mid-weight waterproof or at least water-resistant glove should get you through most if not every situation Paris and its surrounding areas might throw at you. Personally I wear SealSkinz gloves, but most quality brands will have a perfectly good model. I have a lot of friends who wear Pearl Izumi, Assos and Glacier Gloves and swear by them, so try a few out if you can and go for the ones that fit you and your bank account the best.
Again, don’t skimp on the gloves! They are right out in front getting all the wind, risking turning into little frozen veal sausages from Picard.
There are lots of options here. You can go for thick wooly socks (ski socks do work! but may be a tight fit), little neoprene caps for the front of your shoes, full on shoe covers that look like ski socks, water and weatherproof zip-on shoe covers… you can even find waterproof socks, electric socks and warming insoles! If you don’t want to get new shoes for the winter, I suggest going for a pair of warm socks and some all-purpose shoe covers. Again, yes, you can always get different weight weather protection for different weight weather, but make life easy for yourself and good mid-weight protection and you should be ok. Keep an eye out to make sure you get the right covers for your shoes – they make both MTB and road versions and best to make sure you get the right size as well.
For your trusty steed:
Yes, your bike too can use some good winter gear. Check out your brake pads before you start riding through the cold and damp. I like the dual-surface KoolStops in salmon and black. They are good all weather pads as well. Make sure you get the right pads for the right brakes for the right rims… and don’t ride aluminum pads on carbon rims… Nick. 😉
While you’re checking out your brakes you should think about picking out the flecks of aluminum that are probably wedged in your pads. You can use a small metal pick, dental pick or even an escargot fork to clean them up.
And now some basic biking tips for the winter:
Keep your drivetrain clean! If you go out for a ride in the wetness, you’ll come home with lots of gunk on your chain and cassette. Clean it off and lube your chain with all-weather lube. Not too much! Otherwise you’ll attract more dirt and grime.
When you’re riding through the wet, avoid sprinting or jumping out of the saddle around leaves and on the painted lines on the road. They’re slick and you can end up on the ground faster than the NSA can tap your cel phone. You don’t want to end up like this in the snow either:
For you commuters and sometime commuters out there:
Go for a bright and visible waterproof jacket. Don’t get the bright yellow rain poncho from Decathlon or Go Sport, but their mid to high-end jackets will be good enough. You can also look at a number of other brands like Sportful, Assos, Rapha, Castelli, NorthWave, etc. No, you don’t have to get the most expensive one out there, but again, don’t skimp or compromise on the rain jacket. It may be your best investment yet.
For your bottom half (halves?), get either water-resistant long-legged bottoms or water/wind resistant overpants.
Get some bright blinky lights for the front and back of your bike to keep you visible and safe, and a detachable seat post mud guard like one of these (http://bit.ly/17motXm) will help keep the inverted skunk stripe off your back.
A few sites that I like for buying parts and clothes:
Despite how ugly and bad winter riding might sound, it can be truly glorious. Just check out this video for an idea:
That’s it for this week! Any questions or other suggestions? Let everyone know!