It’s that time of year; the temps are dropping and the warmer weather is leaving us for a while. Of course, just last week I was soaking up 70’s to 80’s thinking how awesome it was to be so warm this late in the year. Then BAM… A couple days later and we are close to freezing with wind gusts up to 40 mph. OUCH. Every year this time, I get constant questions about what kind of winter clothing do I use. Well, stick with me as I share with you ‘Robert’s Picks’ on winter gear; you may be surprised it’s not always the most expensive.
Over the last 18 years of cycling, I have ridden in very cold temps (as low as 22 degrees) and my toes and fingers were always the coldest part…and the hardest part to stay warm. I have literally tried over a dozen brands of winter gloves, ranging from $25 – $200+ a pair; split fingers, lobster fingers…you name it, I have tried it. In this tireless quest for the best winter gloves, I finally found the BEST WINTER GLOVE.
And the winner is? RavX WindX gloves. No, RavX is probably not the brand that comes to your mind first, but they will be the last pair of winter gloves you will buy. In addition, they are not the most expensive, either (avg $30), which proves that the most expensive does not always mean the best. Certainly not in this case.
You must know up front that a couple of years ago I had to wear 3-4 jerseys AND a winter jacket to be able to ride in 30 degree temps. It took that, along with several layers on my hands so that I wouldn’t lose my teeth from chattering together so much. That said, I am the type of person who does not like to wear a lot of layers; I like to wear the least amount possible because I hate to feel like I can’t move freely without restriction.
Fast forward a few years and what you will find me wearing in those same 30 degree temps….my Craft Windstopper baselayer and my long sleeve summer jersey with arm warmers. The material on the front literally blocked the cold from hitting your chest; you feel the wind but not the cold. Of course, I wear this Windstopper when the temps are in the low 40’s with a lot of wind and anytime it’s in the 30’s.
Like the Rav-X gloves above, I have spent $100’s over the years trying to find the most effective protection without feeling like I’m wearing a winter snow ski coat or one of those NFL coats. I don’t like feeling bulky or wearing a bunch of layers. In my many purchases and experiments, the Craft Windstopper baselayer is THE BEST. Imagine riding in 30’s with the wind chill several degrees lower than that…and being toasty. Yes, you feel the pressure of the wind hitting you….but NOT the cold that comes with it. The very first time I wore this was 24 degrees with the wind chill at 18. I did a 50 training ride with the team I use to race with and was blown away (no pun intended) that I felt the wind but not the cold; I was amazed.
Then, $90 each, I went the next day and bought 2 more, so that I would rotate them and last much longer over time. Never regretted spending that amount and for winter riding, it was the best money I’d spent. Like all my cycling apparel, I wash in cold water with non-frangrance, non-bleach, etc. soap and then I let them all air dry. About every other month, I will throw those pieces that have elastic banding into the dryer to help bring back the stretch. For the Windstopper, I never put in the dryer; I always let it air dry.
For socks, there is all kinds of brands out there but what I look for are the ones that are not bulky, yet keep my toes warm. For that, the Hincapie Power Merino winter sock is perfect. I use to wear Polar and DeFeet winter socks but never liked how thick they were. Not the case with the Power Merino sock. I was shocked how warm these socks kept my feet. I stopped my search after the first time I wore them.
The only other item I use on my feet is a pair of neoprene winter shoe covers. There are countless brands out there so pick one that you like. Prior to wearing these Hincapie socks, I was researching shoe covers that had a wind-stopping material like my base layer because my feet needed a bit extra to be as toasty as I wanted. Well, after wearing these socks, I never needed that extra protection; the combination of these socks and basic neoprene is what works for me.
Regarding winter jackets, I cannot help you there. Why? It goes back to me not liking a lot of clothing in the first place. I never found a winter jacket that actually fit me as snug as my jerseys. That said, I wear ‘race cut’ jerseys, which are designed to be really snug fit. If I had found a winter jacket that fit like that, I would have bought it in a heart beat. After stumbling on the Craft Windstopper, I never needed a winter jacket and ended my research right then.
Finally, a great winter tip that I can’t even remember who told me, is to turn your shoes over and see if there are any vent holes on the sole. If so, grab some cardboard and fold a piece a few times, shove it in that vent hole and then cover that with electrical tape. I was SHOCKED at how much a difference that tip made. As I’ve shared this with cyclists over the years, their reactions were just like mine. Try it and you’ll see what I mean.
OK, that’s about it. Hopefully my $100’s of dollars wasted on winter apparel that just didn’t keep me warm, will save you lots of time and headache. It’s been a journey but just know that if you ride with me in the winter time, you can best I’ll have the least amount on that will keep me the warmest.
Hope to see you at my 2nd annual Atlanta Winter Bike League that starts November 22nd. Like nothing you’ve ever experienced (winter or summer time).