Winter commuting in Virginia is always a challenge. What we may lack in extremes when it comes to temperatures, we more than make up for in a complete lack of predictability. Taking my year round commute into the winter means proper preparation.
This year I have things pretty dialed in. To make even the coldest commute a breeze, it’s all about starting with the basics. From the low 20’s all the way into the upper 40’s there are two things that I always start with. My Ibex merino wool base layer is the foundation that keeps my core warm no matter what. Man has yet to engineer a better fabric than wool to wick sweat and keep you warm. A soft merino blend is not at all itchy and naturally repels the funk to allow for several rides in a row without washing. Hard to believe but true. I pair this with whatever padded shorts happen to be clean to get things started.
On a day like today I then add some basic fleece tights. The best thing about fleece tights is that they seem to last forever. Provided you don’t manage to lose them or get attacked by a rabid aardvark, a pair of fleece tights will probably outlast the rest of your gear by years. To take a little extra chill off I throw on some 40m baggy shorts from Giro’s New Road collection. I’ve had these for almost 2 years now and I have probably ridden in them over 600 times. They still look brand new. Worth the price and made in America to boot.
Up top, a light wool jersey (also from Giro) and some wool arm warmers provide the perfect middle layer. Sweat wicks off the first layer into the second away from the skin helping to keep you warm. The middle layer is always key on cold days. Here wool still rules as my material of choice. Still warm. Still resistant to man musk. A win win.
This year my shell layer is the downright awesome Deflect Hybrid jacket from Specialized. It’s the perfect weight to keep the wind off the inner layers. The cut is close enough to not flap around in the wind but without feeling too snug anywhere. Both sleeves are connected into one removeable piece that allows the jacket to be quickly converted into a vest if conditions on the ride happen to change. I went with the high vis orange for maximum visibility during overcast mornings and dark rides home. A few flashes of reflective treatment help out as well. The weight and convertibility of this piece makes it one of the most versatile in my arsenal and well worth the $120 price tag.
Last but not least comes the extremities. Keeping the head, hands, and feet toasty warm is everything. Even if my core is a bit underdressed I can usually get by just fine if I take care of the rest. Up top, a midweight winter cap with ear flaps fits nicely under my helmet. Wind resistant gloves with a nice amount of loft keep my hands warm. Meanwhile, merino wool Swiftwick socks inside some winter cycling shoes complete the setup. Winter shoes have probably become the most appreciated part of my wardrobe in the cold months. Unlike any shoe cover I have ever tried they actually do an incredible job keeping my feet warm and don’t quickly start to self destruct if you put any time in them walking around on or off road. Indispensable is any understatement.
I’ll tweak things a bit if the temperature gets much under freezing or much over 45 degrees but this setup gets me to and from work in comfort throughout the vast majority of the off season. The only major change I will regularly make will be adding rain pants and a rain jacket if it’s steadily raining.
So there you have it. If you want to get on this level and ditch that car as much as possible, come by the shop any time to talk winter gear. Now get out there and ride!