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Layers of Cake

17 June 2021

The knack to winter riding comfort is to manage your body temperature with different layers of clothing - typically:

  1. A fast drying base layer against your body.
  2. A thermal mid-layer for insulation.
  3. A windproof outer shell or rain jacket to top it all off.

This provides the versatility to add and remove layers to match conditions and your work rate. That wisdom applies to rides generally, but is especially so for multi-day adventures.

Ideally each garment will be lightweight and low bulk so they can be effortlessly stored in your backpack when not being worn.

Base Layer

  • Your base layer is a critical part of the clothing system in cold conditions. Its primary purpose is to move excess sweat away from your body to minimise the cooling effect of any dampness against your skin.
  • Ground Effect Lightwave™ Merino base layer garments.
      • It 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 than standard merino.
      • The strength of the polyester also helps maintain 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.

      Thermal Mid-Layer(s)

      Your mid-layer adds insulative warmth and should let any moisture pass through it and evaporate - without condensing inside your clothing system.

      • It traps warm air between your base layer and outer shell to keep you warm. And adds static warmth - ie. when you're not riding.
      • A good option is a Lightwave™ Merino riding top (or two) and possibly a Thermostat™ Jetson vest or Toaster jacket.
      • A lightweight primaloft (synthetic down) jacket is useful in (much) colder conditions and can double as garb for around the hut at night.

      Composite Layer

      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 men's Baked Alaska and women's Popsicle combine a Lightwave™ Merino base layer with a WindFoil™ fleece front.
      • The more heavy-duty men's Frosty Boy and women's Ice Queen supplement a Thermostat™ 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.

      Outer Shell

      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.
      • Ground Effect rainwear is constructed from lightweight HydroFoil™ Plus 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 and Droplets 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, your shorts can be transformed from summer to winter garb by swapping out the mesh liner for a pair of 3/4 length men's Geronimos or women's Black Widows. 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.