Poor Mans Winter Clothing

Problem: Winter riding clothes can cost hundreds of dollars!
Challenge:Find the right combination ofcheapclothes that work.
Way down, by the Chattahoochee… deep in the dirty south, we may not get as cold as our more northerly counterparts, but cold enough to do more than just hop on a bike. Mornings in the mid 20’s are not uncommon, but seldom colder. Afternoons usuallyreach 50, only occasionally less, and oftenreach 60 plus.Today was a typical February day.
Morning low – 29 … Afternoon high – 62.
Such large swings in temperature createother considerationsfor winter cycling.
This fall, I prepared for winter by hitting a few sales, and looking for “cycling appropriate” clothing.My best success came from severalitems I picked up at an Old Navy outlet. They look good, they work good, the quality is good, and they were dirt cheap! I have 3 levels of layering I was able to satisfy from that one sale at Old Navy. I found other sales, and I’m sure other stores carry similar clothing with similar prices, but this is what worked for me.
  1. A jersey, 100% nylon, half zipper. No matter the temp, this is my first layer. I paid $5.00 last fall, and the jersey is still in great shape after at least 50 washes. Today I checked their web site and similar jerseys were less than $7.00. This is the most important addition to my layers. Anything else as the base layer, leaves me too cold, or too wet, or too hot. The 100% nylon may not be the latest in high tech, but it works well. I stay dryer all the time, and warmer when it’s cold, and I don’t over heat, even up to the mid 60’s.

  2. A Tee-shirt, (no pic) 100% cotton. Plain old tee, or long sleeves if it’s below 40. My tee-shirts come from work, but you can get them anywhere for $3.00 – $6.00. The tee-shirt pullsmoisture away from the first layerand adds warmth. If the temp is around 57 or higher, this is my outer layer.
  3. A Vest, 100% nylon (fleece). This is the outer layer when temp’s range mid 40’s – mid 50’s. I like the pockets on the side for easy reach of my handkerchief when I need it. They also can zip to secure a wallet. Sometimes I wear a pullover fleece for this layer, not a thick one, about twice as thick as the jersey. Cost – under $7.00 on sale.
  4. Pullover Terry-Fleece, 100% nylon. The terry-fleece is the very thick, plush material, that looks too bulky to ride in, but its not. It’s light and compliant. When it really gets cold here, (below 45) This is my outer layer. It breathes, keeping the middle layer tee-shirt drier, but still blocks the wind and keeps me toasty. In fact, unbearably warm if the temps range over 45. Cost – $6.99 on sale. (Mine is blue)

The great thing about the nylon outer layers, is that even the thick fleece rolls tightly and compactly to fit in my backpack for the warmer afternoon ride home. Other things I tried were:

  • Wool sweater for an outer layer – it always made me too hot. I guess we’re just not cold enough for that.
  • Wind breaker style shell outer layer – made me sweat too much.
  • Cotton sweatshirt – get’s too heavy in wet weather, or heavy perspiration. Too bulky and doesn’t have the compliant feel that the fleece variations do.

As for the pants, I was not successful in finding a good replacement for winter tights. I tried nylon shelled, cotton lined, parachute pants, or wind pants. They were too noisy, poofy, and hard to wear under jeans or dockers. Sweat pants – ditto. Long-Johns are warm, but when you sweat in them and have to take them off at the office, then carry them home in your back pack – forget about it! No, nothing beats a good pair of winter tights. You don’t have to spend a ton though, I got some Craft Winter Tights for around $70.00, but they can be found online for as low as $50.00. I can wear them under jeans or slacks,so I don’t get the looks walking into work, and they keep me very warm, plus wick the sweat.

Other stuff – My gloves are Lizard Skins, which I’ve written about. Since I have them for the long term test, I’ve not used anything else when I ride in sub 40 weather. Over 40, unlined gloves of any type suffice. I prefer leather pads, gel is OK, if the gel pads aren’t humongous. A Pearl Izumi head-band covers my ears when the temp is around 45 or less. I wear plain athletic socks, and run of the mill New Balance shoes. I really don’t want to carry two pairs of shoes. I don’t need shoe covers, knee warmers, or other items that some in colder climes might have need of.

Conclusion: Withabout $100.00 worth of clothes (70% being spent on the tights), I am able to stay warm enough to cycle comfortably through our southern winter. I may not look the best, but I’ve seen worse. I may not have the latest in high-tech cycle clothing, but that could easily cost $400.00 or more, and for that, I can get an entry level bike,or a good used one anyway. With today’s fuel costs certainly on the rise, and my own need for good exercise, I am glad to have found a way toride year round.

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