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A Cyclist's Winter Wardrobe

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pixelDressing for cold weather rides requires layers of lightweight clothing.  Everyone has a different tolerance to cold so there may be a little trial and error. Comfort is all about proper gear and no exposed skin.

General Guidelines
pixelIn temperatures below 50° it’s hard to overdress even though less is often more than enough. A working torso generates considerable heat and is therefore warm from the inside out.
pixelHands and feet are the first to feel it. For the feet, shoe covers, layers of lightweight socks and chemical warmers keep things truly toasty.  Hands are harder to deal with and good circulation is everything. I don’t ride when it’s below 30 but from there up my fingers feel fine in full fingered gloves.
pixelThe face is the exception to the no exposed skin rule but when the temperature dips into the 30’s a balaclava is essential. Breathing into it sends warm, moist, air directly to the brain and that tricks it into thinking all is well and warm. It’s magical.

Proper Gear
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Padded shorts, unlined tights, short and long sleeve technical undershirts, outer jacket that’s nylon faced and lined, shoes, socks, toe or complete shoe covers, full fingered gloves, doo rag, helmet and you’re good to go in the milder cold weather.  Below 45 nylon faced and lined tights, glove liners, chemical toe warmers, extra layers and the almighty balaclava are essential to comfort.

General Shopping Tips
pixelBike clothing is highly specialized and the only intelligent choice.  Almost all of it is well designed and performs exactly as it should.  Bike shops are finally into selling clothing and they sell high quality gear that offers a wide variety of price points.   Find a shop where they ride in colder weather and they’ll be glad to give you the skinny.
pixelIn this instance mail order is no cheaper than bike shop retail and it’s really best to try everything on. Assuming a riding position in a new jacket, or bib tights or shorts to make sure they’re non-restrictive throughout your range of motion is important.
pixelFor those carrying a few extra pounds all this stuff is cut as if its fabric is spun gold so think larger size. Also it only stretches where it’s supposed to and if something doesn’t feel quite right it will not break in; try another brand or another shop with different lines. 

Specific Tips
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For those with thick ankles, tights without leg zipper closures are best.  Zippers bind and break and it’s amazing how annoying that is. The funky fix is pull a sock up to cover the gap but cold air like water intrudes at the slightest opportunity.
pixelThe outer jacket should zip all the way up to become a turtleneck. Look for breathable material on the sides and back.
pixelFrom my experience the cheaper clothing is still of decent quality and works as well as the most expensive stuff made out of the latest wonder fabric.  The differences are really slight and if something cheaper fits well saving money does not compromise comfort.

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