After Saturday’s ride, I tweeted that just the addition of toe warmers really made a difference in on-bike comfort. But there may have been more to it than that.
Our ride started at a temperature of about 40ºF (4ºC), which in the past has been the coldest temperature I will ride in. I made sure to bring all the usual items you’d expect to bring for a chilly day: full-length leg warmers, a long-sleeved, brushed jersey, etc., but in addition to the toe covers, I also brought my full-fingered cycling gloves and liners.
Way back when I used to backpack, I used polypropylene glove liners under ragg wool gloves. The combination kept my hands toasty warm. I’ve discovered that the liners work just as well under my full-fingered gloves, which aren’t cycling gloves at all — they’re a pair of winter golf gloves. And they’re not all that different from the cool weather cycling gloves you’ll find on the rack at a place like Performance. I never worry about cold hands anymore.
I had more than just toe warmers on my feet — I used the polypro socks beneath my wool cycling socks. It’s another great combination, until the temperature gets below about 45 — then I need something more. That’s where the toe warmers come in.
I also took along a cool weather headband. This one is also slightly brushed on the inside, and is shaped to completely cover the ears. One thing about my ears — they’re hard to miss. I do have to make sure they’re covered, or they’ll get cold quickly.
The headband doesn’t solve the entire problem though. Forty percent of your body’s heat loss is through the head, so it’s important to keep your head covered. A helmet doesn’t count. My helmet has huge vents, and the head can get chilly if I don’t take measures. I forgot on this ride, and could really feel the cool breeze across my noggin once we headed out. Luckily, on this day the temperature rose quickly, so it wasn’t an issue. Normally, I would wear a polyester doo-rag under the helmet. Another item that works is a lightweight cycling cap. Or, one could just tape over the vents on the helmet, like the late Sheldon Brown used to do. One thing I’ve found is that if I keep my ears warm, a head covering isn’t that important, or if I keep my head covered, I can get by without anything on my ears.
Although the ride started in much cooler temperatures than I prefer to ride in, I was comfortable throughout. The next day, under much the same conditions, I was cozy all over again. Do yourself a favor when riding in the cold winter temps this year. Take care of your extremities, and the rest of you will be happy for it.