The layering system is generally thought about in 3 parts:
- Base Layer
- Mid Layer
- Insulated Outer Layer
Base layers move perspiration away from the skin. Some would think this is only valuable for warm weather riding, and it is, but it is also valuable for cooler weather, keeping as dry as possible is a very important part of staying warm and comfortable. Any moisture wicking base layer will do the trick here, but a snug-fitting top is ideal for bike riding. When in doubt, we recommend anything made with merino wool.
Mid-layers do the job of actually keeping you warm. Depending on how cold it is, this can come in the form of a short-sleeved jersey, a long sleeve jersey, or some sort of soft-faced jacket or jersey. Wear whatever keeps you comfortable! This layer will most likely stay on at all times.
Your shell is your shield from the climate around you. Shells can have insulating properties, but their main purpose is to not let wind or water in while allowing water vapor from sweat to exit. Shells usually are made of a material that is not as comfortable against your skin as many fabrics, so keep this in mind (think sticky rain jackets).
Neck Gaiters can be very comfy for a little extra insulation and can be pulled up over the chin or nose to keep your face warmer.
Gloves sometime take some time to figure out what you need. Most veteran cyclist own multiple pairs for a variety of conditions, but one thing is for sure, you will want full finger gloves!
Shoe covers made for cycling slip over the outside of your shoes to insulate and keep wind off your feet. Warm socks are great, but there is nothing as good as a nice shoe cover to keep your feet cozy.
Cycling headwear is designed to fit under your helmet. Its sometime forgotten as that helmet can make it feel like you already have something on your head (because you do!), but with all the venting in a modern helmet, cold air passes through easily. Additionally, that headwear can help keep cold wind off your ears. Warmers are fantastic modular pieces and are fairly unique to cycling. You can remove and re-fit them easily if need be. If you live in a very cold climate, you may want to consider a pair of winter shorts, bibs or tights that are extra insulated. These do a much better job of keeping sensitive areas warmer.
- If you are headed out on an especially cold morning, some of our staff has been known to shower before a ride. They will take a short shower with the water temperature as hot as they can handle. The idea is that you can raise your surface temp and even your core temp slightly. This can make that first 15-30 minutes more comfortable while you get warmed up. Of course, this really only works if you are riding from your house, not driving to the start of a ride.
- Off-season riding means less daylight hour, more cloud cover and mixed conditions that can mean rain and fog. Choose clothing that is brightly colored so that you are more visible to drivers or get caught our later than you intended. Bright colors don’t have to just mean high-vis yellow – orange, red and bright blue are also highly visible colors.
- Check the weather where you are riding to, not just where you live. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it happens all too often that someone looks out the window to make their clothing choices without checking the weather, only to be caught off guard by a storm or to discover it is much colder/windier/wetter at the location they are riding to.