You've done it countless times. You check the weather on your phone before you head out to ride, cozy in your robe and slippers. It blinks back at you something hovering around freezing, and the windchill doesn't look any better.
What do you wear to survive-or dare we say, thrive- in this conditions? Our in-house cold weather expert, Cody Sovis, has some tips. Last year, Cody was second overall at the King Vasa Fat Bike Race, where the wind chill made it -22, and won the 45 North Vineyard Race in balmy -20 conditions.
We've divided the tips into two categories, road or gravel riding and mountain or fat biking. Different speeds and different conditions make dressing a bit of a challenge for each.
Road riding in the cold can be a necessity. With hunters in the woods from mid-November into December, if you're a morning rider, you have to find some open asphalt or gravel to keep the miles coming. The key thing here is wind; even if it's calm, going over 15mph can make you absolutely frigid in just a few minutes. You'll almost always opt for a hardshell jacket, which might be less breathable but will do more to keep the chilly wind off your skin or getting into your base layers.
And those base layers are the key. GORE makes a thermal base layer and undershort with Windstopper to keep any wind from your skin. For most road rides, a base layer, long sleeve jersey and shell jacket usually do the trick. A thick, windproof glove also helps, such as the Louis Garneau Monsoon. Made of neoprene, it's keeps all the wind off and doubles as a great rainy day option.
Always keep your throat warm, too. A neck gaiter keeps the wind from out of your coat and you can keep your chin out of the wind. A cap or thin hat under your helmet keeps the heat in as well, but the other tough part is your feet. A neoprene cover can get you close to these cold temperatures, but a dedicated winter boot is will keep you comfortable as the temperatures dip. Cody sticks to the Lake MXZ303 in any temperatures under 40 degrees, but if you don't want to ditch your three-bolt road pedal, 45NRTH makes a Japanther boot with a three-bolt option.
When it's under 40, stick to flatter routes that you decide the pace and keep a steady effort. Climbing might warm you up, but the descents will absolutely freeze you.
For fat biking or cold mountain biking, you don't need to worry about the wind as much. Tucked away in the trees and on loose snow or trails, it's almost easier to dress. Here, a base layer and a softshell can be more comfortable that a hard shell, and provide a bit more breathability as you change efforts. Especially in TC, the short climbs and short descents make it easier to maintain an equilibrium than on the road. Being able to take stuff off or unzip helps a lot. Cody typically wears a GORE softshell jacket over the thermal baselayer. Bar mitts can be a great install, especially for people that have issues with circulation or keeping their hands warm. Leave them on when it's a bit warmer and you can usually ride with no gloves; when the temperature goes low, a decent glove and the 45NRTH Cobrafist keeps you golden well below freezing.
For the days when it's the temperature is freezing and still dropping, 45NRTH has two great options. The redesigned Wolvhammer is still the standard for winter riding boots and is the go-to for most riders in the Short's Brewing Fat Bike Series. But if that's not warm enough, or if you have trouble keeping your toes cozy, the Wolfgar is coming. Rated to -10 degrees, there's simply nothing warmer that will take an SPD cleat.
Cody's Fat Bike Stuff
Helmet: Giro Synthe
Hat: Ec Buff
Neck Gaiter: Surly Get Over It Merino Wool
Base Layer: GORE Thermo Base
Jacket: GORE Power Active Jacket
Pants: GORE Element Windstopper
Socks: Ec Woolie Boolies (Of Course!)
Gloves: Pearl Izumi Lobster Glove OR Sturmfist 4
Boot: Lake MXZ303