Thursday, January 6, 2011

Winter Gear - The Upper Body

Last year when the cold hit I wasn't serious enough about training to ride outside much.  This year is different and more cold rides means more cold riding gear.  There's been a lot of trial and error to find the right combinations for each temperature range.  Here is a selection of my favorites from the head down.

For the Head
Only 2 items in my arsenal here.  First is the Barrier Skull Cap from Pearl Izumi.  It's much thinner than the thick fleece or wool caps but just as warm thanks to the wind barrier fabric.  The end result is a very versatile cap.  I've even worn it under a baseball hat in street clothes watching my wife or sister in a race.  When the temperature really drops though, I opt for the full coverage offered by the barrier balaclava.  It's the same light material and it remains comfortable even with the lower part pulled below your chin if you're the conversational type.  Otherwise, wearing it over the mouth can allow for some warmer air to breath if the cold air is tough on you.

For the Torso
First step as weather cools down is to utilize a base layer and arm warmers with your existing summer gear.  Once again I gravitate towards the Pearl Izumi gear favoring the barrier base layer over the standard version.  The next step is a fleece-lined long-sleeve winter jersey and I've tried a variety.  The Pearl Izumi and Canari are good bang for the buck.  The Descente stuff just never fits me right, tight through the chest with overly long sleeves.  They're a very unique fit so I don't recommend ordering one without trying one on first.

Now, when it gets down below 40 it's time to put it all together.  Base layer, arm warmers (if base is short-sleeve), and winter jersey.  There is another category to consider and that is the winter jacket.  Just recently I made my quarterly trip up to Plano Cycling & Fitness.  Members of the Cheesy Riders team get a discount there and so I will swing by occasionally.  Oh, by the way, you don't have to be affiliated with Pepsico in any way to be part of the team --- just ride with us at a major event like BikeMS and get the discount! (hint, hint) But I digress ...... one of the things I like about that particular shop is they stock clothing by Capo which I personally can't say enough positive about.  I swear by Capo bibs, the most comfortable I own by miles (and for miles).  Now I have a new favorite - the Capo Monza Winter Jacket.  This has got to be the softest fleece lining ever.  It also has a high, yet comfortable neck, cuffed sleeves, wind-barrier fabric on the front, and all the standard features.  Jacket?  Ha!  When worn alone it is more comfortable than any of my winter jerseys and warmer, thanks to the barrier.  As is typical with Capo stuff, it's not cheap but it's always my first choice when grabbing something out of the closet.

For the Hands
Gloves took me awhile to get right.  The first full-fingered gloves I bought were the Pearl Izumi Cyclones --- took them out for a ride in a windy 50 degrees and thought they were crap as my knuckles got very cold.  Next I tried the softshell glove.  This ended up being the polar opposite as even at 40 degrees my hands wouldn't stop sweating.  Well, at least I found my go to glove for temps in the 30s.  But what about at other temps?  The solution was to continue using the Cyclones but with a liner, a cheap and very effective solution with the added benefit of being able to shed the liners on a ride that starts cold but warms up.

The Lower Body
Now that you're upper body is all warm and toasty, what about the rest?  Well, keep your pants cycling tights on --- that'll be in the next post.

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