It's become a sort of tradition for the North American Vasa to come on the coldest weekend of the year, and February 13 seems to be no lucky exception. Dressing for subzero can be tough, especially if you haven't had time to practice dressing for it in the weeks preceding your race. We put together a toe to dome guide of what our racers race when the mercury drops.
Dedicated winter cycling boots, like the 45NRTH Wolvhammer or Wolfgar and Lake MXZ303 might be expensive, but if you're a fat biker in Northern Michigan, you'll get much more than your money's worth out of them. Underneath, a good thick wool sock goes a long way, and if you're really sensitive to cold, a toe warmer can take the edge off.
Our go-to bottoms are the GORE Bike Wear Element pants, which are wind proof and keep the cold out. Underneath, many riders just wear their normal bibs for the chamois. If you're looking for a little more warmth, a 3/4 knicker or thermal tight can make sure even the coldest day doesn't affect your muscles and tendons, especially your knees, which are exposed to the wind all the time.
Base layers are worth their weight and cold. The biggest factor for cold riding is getting moisture away from your skin as quickly as possible. Our two favorites are the GORE long sleeve and the Arcteryx wool long sleeve. Wool is especially cozy and warm, while the GORE option relies more heavily on synthetics and Windstopper material to make sure you don't get a chill and that any moisture is moved away from your skin quickly.
Above that, a long sleeve jersey is a great option. Fleece-lined or even wool, these jersey provide warmth while also essentially relaying sweat further from the skin. Our racers tend to wear a long sleeve team kit or the GORE long sleeve jersey as well. For the outer layers, a softshell works well on days when it's dry and there isn't much wind. This also breathes much better than a hardshell, which can keep you drier longer. A wind proof vest is a great final outer layer, and can help put more accessible pockets within reach for snacks, warmers or your lucky rabbit's foot.
Hands are the toughest. Many riders will opt for 45NRTH Cobrafist poagies, which cover your hand and much of your arm to keep your digits warm and out of the wind. These are great options that usually let you use a slightly lighter weight gloves even when it's absolutely frigid. Two other options are good if you'd rather stick with a traditional glove. The 45NRTH Sturmfist 4 and 5 are about as warm as a glove can get, and borrow from the base layer playbook to do it. They use a merino wool liner that wicks sweat and can even be removed if conditions require. HAND finally, (get it?), the age-old lobster glove from companies like Pearl Izumi and Louis Garneau, are still fixtures among fat bikers everywhere.
For everything above the neck, it's personal preference. A light scarf of neck gaitor is an easy way to cover the lower part of your face, while ski goggle or sunglasses protect your eyes. A thin running or ski hat will fit under most bike helmets, but if you're riding in very cold weather consistently, Giro and Lazer make winter helmets that fit nicely and have nifty features like light mounts and a slot to hold your goggle strap in place.
Finally, one tip for before head out. Many riders opt to get dressed and move around a bit to get warm, but not so much that they start to sweat. Walking around the house can often be enough, but doing a few push-ups or jumping jacks, or even just doing some stretching can help build some core heat that will make the first ten to fifteen minutes on the bike less uncomfortable.
Good luck to all of our friends skiing and fat biking this weekend! Be smart, stay warm and take care of each other out there, and we'll see you at Ec Coffee Bar after for something hot!