How to Stay Warm While Biking

In the past few days the temperature in Tempe dropped lower than what most residents consider to be their comfort zone. It’s not abnormally cold for the fall season, but for those accustomed to sunny days in the 80s- we have noticed the change.

So what is a cyclist to do?

Walk?

Drive?

NO!

It’s time to layer up.

Layers are the best way to dress for colder weather because as you warm up, you have options. If you get too hot, it’s easy to take off a sweatshirt until you need it again.

Within about 10 minutes of bike riding, your body tends to warm up. If you have overdressed, you will be uncomfortable and wish you hadn’t.

The overall purpose of layering is to trap heat between the layers of clothing.

  • The first layer should be dry wicking to prevent moisture. When you sweat and are in cold weather, the moisture becomes wet and you become COLD.
  • For the next layer try a thermal fabric or polyester to trap heat. My favorite brand of thermal underwear is made by Hot Chilly’s.
  • The outer layer should hold heat in while blocking cold air and wind. A nylon, windbreaker jacket would serve as the perfect biking jacket. Cotton and wool are not recommended fabrics because once they are wet, they stay wet.

Think with your head and think about keeping it warm too! The important stuff is kept up there and about 30 percent of your body’s warmth is lost through the head.

  • If the weather is cold and windy add a hat, gloves, and scarf to your attire.

I find that my hands are the most sensitive when riding in the wind. I need my hands to steer and break so I stash a pair of gloves into my backpack just in case.

Related links:

Cold-Weather Riding Tips (active.com)

Lame excuses to not commute by bike (treehugger.com)

Commuting by Bike in the Winter (wordpress.com)

Learning to Layer Clothing (basspro.com)

How to layer for maximum warmth (helium.com)

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4 responses »

    • I totally understand how I sound like a wimp talking about being cold in Arizona. I am a Maryland native, but 4 years of desert living have converted me. Your comments are funny. Thanks!

  1. Nice post Lauren. As the other commenter said, it isn’t strictly cold here in Tempe, which actually makes choosing layers a bit harder. When it’s really cold you might be able to keep the same layers on throughout the ride. But here you might have a 30 degree temperature swing over the day.

    Because of this, I like to wear layers that I can easily remove while riding. I use arm and knee warmers instead of a long sleeve jersey and tights, and I’ll wear a wind vest that I can zip up and down, instead of a full shell. I only put a shell on if it’s really cold or raining.

    And no matter where you are, don’t discount wool as a material. As a base or insulation layer it’s one of the best. It dries fast, and even when it is wet from sweat or rain it still keeps you warm. Synthetics can’t do that.

    • Thanks for your input Ryan. I know you are a much more experienced cyclist and I appreciate tips that personally work for you. Living in Tempe has turned me into a wimp so I piled on the layers yesterday for my daily commute. 🙂

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