Shedding Layers

Took a nice Sunday ride with my buddy Maggie. The main club ride left at 8:15, and during winter, I’m not ready to go then — maybe after Daylight Savings Time begins. We decided to leave an hour later and head for Creedmoor. No other B riders joined us. The Bs in our club don’t do club rides during winter, but they’ll be out in force once the weather warms up.

I got to Starbucks as Maggie was unloading her bike from the car rack. She was wearing a short sleeved jersey with a long-sleeved tee under, and long socks. I was wearing a base layer, a short-sleeved jersey, arm warmers, leg warmers, and a windbreaker. The temperature was about 45 degrees (7C).

“I think I overdressed,” I said.

“I feel pretty comfortable,” she replied. “Do you want to put some stuff in my car?”

“You know, I usually dress this way when it’s in the 40s,” I said. “We’ll wait until we get to Creedmoor, then see.”

It was a great day for biking. The sun was out, traffic was still light at this hour on a Sunday, and the wind was an easy breeze from the north. We chewed up the miles heading southeast of town.

The only casualty during that first leg was my camera. I had the bright idea that I would snap some shots as we rode, but caught the battery door with the heel of my glove and the batteries fell out. So no pictures on this ride.

One highlight of the trip was our ride past the exotic game ranch behind the landfill. Various species of African antelopes were much closer to the fence than usual (Because I was unable to take pictures, I assume). Some had long horns that curved back from their heads (scimitar oryx), while others had those horns that spiral (perhaps a lesser kudu?). One of the biggest ostriches I’ve ever seen was by itself farther down. No zebras today.

Sixteen miles and a little over an hour later, we pulled into the convenience store in the crossroads hamlet of Creedmoor. I took off my windbreaker, and debated about whether to just remove the sleeves and keep the vest for the trip back. I decided it was now warm enough that I could stash the entire windbreaker. It stows in its own pocket, and fastens with a locking strap. But it made a pretty big ball, even after I compressed it as much as I could. Maggie jammed the windbreaker into the back center pocket of my jersey, after I moved all the stuff out of it (ziplock bag with cellphone and money, fig bars, cleat covers) into the other pockets. The result was an ungainly-looking lump on my lower back. I unzipped my leg warmers and pulled them down, too. They fit more easily into one of the other jersey pockets, and my accessories went into the third. I think the temperature was well into the 50s by now, although I didn’t bother to check it on my bike computer, since that’s notoriously inaccurate.

A few minutes later, we were ready to head back. We take a somewhat different route that gives us a longer return leg.

“You lead the way,” Maggie said. “I always miss that first turn.”

I headed out of the parking lot, and immediately wondered if I’d made the right decision about clothes. That breeze from the north might have been light, but now that I was facing directly into it, I could feel its effects. One thing about that windbreaker — it does its job well, but it does make me sweat underneath. Now, the wind was hitting my damp jersey and arm warmers, and I was cold.

And that’s the problem with layering. It’s the best way to adjust for temperature, but each time a layer is shed, the body chills. By the time we’d gone a couple of miles and were on a fast stretch of country road, I didn’t notice it anymore. I was concentrating too much on keeping the bike under control going downhill at 35 mph and being passed by locals on a two-lane road with no shoulder. The folks out here are used to cyclists, but that doesn’t mean they like them much. Once, a car passing me stayed in the oncoming lane a little too long, and an oncoming car had to brake and hit the horn. Nice to see them call out other drivers instead of cyclists.

We got back to our Starbucks starting point, and found some members of the morning’s A ride already there. I sat down at an outdoor table in the sunshine, and realized that I was now quite comfortable. The breeze from riding had dried off my clothes. At home a few minutes later, I got ready for a shower, and found my jersey, base layer, and arm warmers to be soaked through. A warm shower took care of any residual chilling I might have had.

How about you? Do you struggle with layering? Do you have any strategies you use to keep from sweating too much under layers? Or is that just to be expected?


  1. Jonathan M says

    From many years of experience, I’ve found that the best strategy is to under-dress. Dress lighter than you think is appropriate for the conditions. After a half and hour or so of farily rigorous cycling you’ll warm up. There is nothing worse than being too warm but being too cool or even a little cold isn’t near as bad.

  2. says

    I have similar issues, but I have learned from experience not to lose that first layer too quickly especially when going with tailwind. I have learned that if you are riding with the wind, you will feel a bit warmer, but the minute you turn into the wind, it will feel cold. I also have created a spreadsheet that reminds me what to wear depending on temperatures. Again, I have learned from experience as cold rashes are not fun 😀

  3. says

    Layers are a big issue here. It’s always windy and in the winter that makes is much more difficult to get the layers right.

    Last time I talked to you #3 son was living in Austin. He came home two years ago, but on Friday he begins his drive back to Austin. Three bikes in his pickup truck doesn’t leave much room for all his other belongings.

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