Sunday, January 9, 2011

Winter Gear - The Lower Body

As I type this it is snowing outside.  That being said, winters are more of a short-term concern in Texas ..... and that affects my clothing choices.  In a perfect world all cycling would be in warm weather.  In a slightly less than perfect world we could all afford specialized clothing for any set of conditions.  In the real world, we find ways to maximize what we already have.

For the Legs
So, what do we already have?  Around here, it's all summer gear like standard length shorts and/or bibs.  The typical winter clothing guide will show you thermal cycling pants, full-length bibs, etc.  If you're riding all the time then those are certainly worthwhile investments.  For me, I find a set of thermal tights from Pearl Izumi worn over my preferred bibs (Capo Limited Edition) to be best.  The tights are less expensive than cycling pants due to the lack of a chamois.  It also makes them more versatile whether it be for running (like my wife) or as a thermal layer under a pair of pants (like me watching my wife).

For the Feet
Ah, those nice vents on your clipless shoes that keep your feet cool during the summer work against you when the temperature drops.  This area gets deep into personal preference.  For example, I have never had an issue with hot spots on the feet even on the most sweltering of days.  My wife on the other hand is constantly battling hot feet.  Still, the two areas to be addressed are the same.  It is simply a matter degree.

First order of business is to upgrade your socks.  Make them wool and keep them taller than your normal socks.  There is a wide variety available out there in varying thicknesses and heights.  For me the thin ones are perfectly fine when coupled with the covers mentioned below.  However, the thick ones definitely have the place.

The next step is get some sort of barrier for your shoes to help keep that cold wind out of the vents.  If your feet tend to overheat then basic toe covers may be sufficient.  Otherwise, go for the full shoe covers.  Something to consider if you're long-legged like me is that if your tights rise up a bit when riding then the shoe covers can rub on the back of your bare leg.  This was the catalyst for my recommendation of longer socks.

Anything Else?
Well, that's it.  While the clothing options presented in this post and the last may leave you freezing in many parts of the country, they are more than adequate for the brief Texas winters.  I've ridden in temps down to the 30s in this stuff and have been more comfortable than you might think.  If the temps drop below that then allow me to recommend one last piece of winter gear ......

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