Exercise in the Cold Pathway - Fast Talk Laboratories

How to Dress for Cold-Weather Cycling

Our Canadian CEO and cycling coach Trevor Connor offers his hard-won tips for how to dress for cold-weather cycling warmth and comfort.

Coach Trevor Connor, our CEO and a proud Canadian who likes to brag about the cold and snowy conditions he rides in, details how to dress to stay warm on winter rides.

Connor’s tips were learned through many hard experiences both in Canada and the mountains of Colorado.

“If you’re looking for style points, this isn’t the video for you. This is the Canadian who does 6-hour rides in the freezing cold telling you how to stay warm on your bike.”

First, he explains why keeping your core warm is so important.

Of course, no explainer on cold-weather riding would be complete without a rant from Trevor about covering your legs.

He also details how to keep hands, feet, and head warm, and why it’s so important to do so.

This video includes Trevor’s practical gear tips on:

  • Core warmth
  • Tights and knee warmers
  • Hands and wrists
  • Feet: socks, booties (zipper vs. velcro), shoe selection
  • Neck and head
  • Bike gear and setup

Video Transcript

Trevor Connor 00:04
If you’re looking for style and the newest, coolest kits, this is not the video for you. This is the Canadian who does six-hour rides in the freezing cold, telling you how to stay warm on your bike!

Chris Case 00:24
Welcome to Fast Talk Laboratories, your source for the science of endurance performance.

Cover Up Your Core

Trevor Connor 00:34
We all think of hands and feet, but if you don’t cover up your core, you’re going to get no blood flow to the hands and feet. It doesn’t matter how good a pair of gloves you’re wearing, your hands are not going to be warm. So let’s get that core covered. Start with a good base layer, something that’s a little tighter that wicks sweat away from you is really going to help but the most important thing for me with core is multiple layers. I’m going to wear a base cover, then a jersey, then I’m going to wear a good thermal jacket on top of that. So if I’m going up a hill, I can unzip and if I’m coming down or it’s getting colder, I can zip everything up. You want to have those options. And if it’s a really cold day out a heated vest, or a heated jersey can be a game-changer.

Trevor Connor 01:24
Moving down to your legs. I’m a big believer on a cold day, don’t wear knee warmers, don’t wear legwarmers, just get the good thermal tights on. You’re not going to sweat that much, you don’t have to worry about that. But they’re going to keep you warm so that you’re getting a good training effect in your legs.

Overdress Your Extremities

Trevor Connor 01:45
Now that we’ve talked about your core, let’s get to the extremities. Do not underdress your feet and your hands. Let’s start with your hands. You need a good set of gloves, I like to have a longer glove that goes fully over my wrist over the top of a thinner glove. The nice thing about that is if you have to pull out your phone and do something on your bike, you can still have those thin gloves covering your hands on a really cold day. It also gives you more options on how much you keep your hands covered. Again, this is a place where if you have the money for this, a good pair of heated gloves can make a big difference. So long gloves that cover your wrists are great, but another really good option is lobster claw gloves, which are going to keep your fingers together and keep them warm. One of the most important things on a cold day is keeping your feet warm. That can be the difference between getting in a good five hour ride and having to go home. A lot of people think a good thick sock, but I don’t agree with that because if you’re bunching that sock into your shoe, and then you have to clamp down your shoe, you’re going to get no blood flow to your feet. So I use a regular cycling sock and actually keep my shoes pretty loose in the winter to maximize blood flow. And again, biggest game changer I’ve ever experienced on rides- this has made what used to be miserable six hour rides actually kind of enjoyable,- heated socks. There’s really good heated socks now that can last six to eight hours. They’re going to keep your feet warm in even really cold conditions. Your feet don’t overheat, so don’t go, “it’s not quite cold enough today. I’m not going to wear booties” just put them on, you can ride booties when it’s 70 degrees out and you’re going to be fine. Get a good, thick thermal booty that goes over top of your shoe. A couple key things about those booties, I personally don’t like ones that have zippers because if you’re riding in the winter, you’re going to get a gunk, potentially snow, water, dirt in that zipper and then the zipper stops working. So the best booties are the ones that have the velcro strap in the back. Last note about the feet in the winter, I prefer to ride mountain bike shoes for a couple of reasons. One is they tend to be a little thicker and a little warmer. Second thing is often you got to put your foot down, sometimes you can be putting it in snow or slop or dirt. If you really want to take it to the extreme, there’s really good thermal mountain bike boots, that if you want to wear those you don’t even need booties.

Properly Cover Your Head

Trevor Connor 04:17
Alright, so now let’s go up to your head. I am a big believer in head shammies, I don’t actually know what these are called. But these are things that just cover your whole head and go underneath your helmet. That makes a big difference, especially if they cover up your ears. Next, neck gators are great and you can actually wear them when it’s not all that cold out, they’re going to keep you warm. In terms of the face, I personally actually don’t like to cover my face unless I absolutely have to because usually you’re gonna have a moist breath. That moisture is going to collect in something covering your face that’s going to freeze up and I find that colder than just having my face a little bit exposed.

What Equipment To Bring During A Cold Ride

Trevor Connor 04:56
Now that your body is covered up, let’s talk about some other gear that can help, particularly with your bike. First of all, you need lots of storage space. This is the other advantage to wearing a couple layers, you get lots of pockets that you can stuff. But if you don’t have that much pocket space, getting a good handlebar bag for your bike can be a real game changer because you can stuff a lot of stuff in there, and allows you to take things off and put things on as it gets colder and warmer through the day. Water bottles, this can be a big issue on a cold day because they freeze. There are a couple solutions there. One, put a water bottle in your back pocket, your body is going to keep it warm. I actually really like to get an insulated water bottle, put some lukewarm water in it and I find even on the coldest days, that water is at least going to be drinkable throughout the whole ride. I know nobody likes the look of these, but fenders can make a huge difference. If it’s going to be wet and sloppy out there it doesn’t matter how good your gear is, if you’re spraying water up from your wheel onto your feet or your backside, you’re going to get cold. Fenders are going to protect your feet, they’re going to protect your backside. If you’re living somewhere like the Northwest like up in Seattle or up in British Columbia, you could actually get fender extenders that go almost all the way to the ground, and you’re going to get no spray. Also, if you’re living somewhere wet, once your gloves get wet, you get miserable. So the best thing you can do is bring a second set of gloves with you and put them in a plastic bag and stuff them in your back pocket, because once that first set of gloves gets wet and your hands are really cold, there’s nothing better than pulling out a dry set of gloves that have it heated up by your body. It feels amazing. Finally, continuing with the hands. This is a bit of an investment but can make a huge difference. Put bar mitts on your bike, they’re gonna keep you warm, they’re gonna keep you dry. I have ridden in below-freezing weather with no gloves on just the bar mitts, and my hands were fine. Finally, one of the best things you can do in the winter is slow your bike down. This is not where you’re going for speed because then you’re dealing with windchill. In the winter I personally ride a cyclocross bike, I weigh it down and I keep the tire pressure low so I’m putting out bigger wattages at slower speeds. If you want to take it to the extreme in the winter, riding a fat tire bike is great because you’re not going to go faster then 10 miles an hour, but you’re going to be working hard. If you’ve listened to our show, you know this is my soapbox. It is so important to dress warmly to make sure you are maximizing your training. If you’re wondering why, go check out our video on why it’s important to dress warmly on our cold weather pathway right here on fasttalklabs.com