The knack to winter riding pleasure is to manage your body temperature with different layers - typically a thermal base layer against your body, a mid-layer of insulation, and an outer shell to top it all off. Each garment should be lightweight and low bulk so you can shove it in your rear pockets or backpack.
- Start with a light thermal fabric like Heatwave™ Merino against your skin.
- Heatwave™ combines the comfort, warmth and low-odour properties of merino wool with the durability of polyester.
- Merino wool absorbs more moisture than synthetic fibres like polyester or polypropylene, letting it deal with excess sweat very effectively as the moisture is absorbed into the fabric rather than settling (and cooling) on your skin.
- The polyester component repels moisture, avoiding total saturation of the fabric and helping it to dry faster. The strength of the polyester also maintains the shape of the garment and minimises wear 'n' tear.
- Cotton t-shirts, sweat shirts and old-school rugby jerseys absorb water and should be avoided.
The base layer's primary function is to keep you as dry as possible. Add a mid-layer like an extra merino top, Baked Alaska or Frosty Boy to provide insulative warmth.
A versatile alternative to standard base and insulation layers are specialist tops that incorporate lightweight windproof panels.
- For short trips in relatively stable weather conditions you can travel light and fast with just a single composite layer.
- The Baked Alaska and Popsicle combine a Heatwave™ Merino base layer with a WindFoil™ fleece front. The more heavy-duty Frosty Boy and Ice Queen supplement a micro-fleece mid-layer with WindFoil™ fleece arms and front.
- The windproof panels take the edge off cold winds and long front zips provide venting so you can effectively manage your body temperature in a wide range of conditions.
Your shell is the primary defence against wind and rain.
- Unless you live in Alice Springs, you'll want to cart a lightweight rain jacket around with you all the time as insurance against flash floods or a bitter head wind at the end of a hard day's toil.
- In cold and even wet conditions, keeping the wind out and warm air in prevents the majority of heat loss.
- Staying dry is clearly also highly desirable - which means letting sweat escape as well as keeping the rain out.
- The Storm Trooper, She Shell and Flash Gordon are constructed from lightweight HydroFoil™ fabric. It's waterproof, windproof and extremely breathable. However if you're in heavy rain for prolonged periods, or working hard you're still likely to get damp. Even the gruntiest waterproof fabrics eventually leak when you're belting along at 30kph - rain gets in through the collar, cuffs or closures.
- Although breathable fabrics let moisture escape they don't actually stop you sweating. And because they're windproof, you lose the cooling effect of the wind as you ride. So an effective base layer that moves excess moisture away from your skin is an important part of the layering system. Sweat condenses on bare arms so opt for long sleeves.
- Helter Skelters three-quarter rain pants are more breathable than full-length pants, avoid chain suck and are easy to haul on and off. A valuable part of your armoury.
The Long and Short of it
Your legs work hard while cycling. A cold, early start typically results in the need to disrobe once the sun hits and your body comes up to operating temperature.
- Layering a pair of tights over your favourite cycle shorts, or adding a pair of leg warmers, provides maximum versatility.
- For die-hard baggy wearers, the Juggernauts can be transformed from summer to winter garb by swapping out the mesh liner for a pair of 3/4 length Montezumas. With their woven outer, baggy shorts provide additional winter warmth.
Protecting the Extremities
Your head, ears, fingers and toes take a hammering in frosty conditions. A Baked Beanie under your helmet, Chipolatas thermal gloves and Lucifers windproof socks are cheap additions to your ensemble... and will change your life.