Fall’s chill is a great time to wind some rural roads and drink in nature’s light show, but being southern by birth, cold isn’t my thing. So layers keep me happy and on the road when the weather is inhospitable to my sunny southern sensibilities. Here are a few of the things I adorn to keep me warm on chilly rides:
1. A three season jacket.
( or four season jacket, depending how far north of the Mason Dickson line you live) No need for a different jacket when the temps drop. Get one versatile jacket for all seasons.
This time of year I have to sit on the edge of the bed, bite the bullet and get to work zipping, snapping, and velcroing together the three layers of my three season jacket. ( see gear and gizmos for more information about my Tourmaster jacket.) Although the process is a little time consuming it’s a labor of love. Take care of your jacket and it will take care of you. The outer layer keeps the cold wind out and the inner thermal layer keeps the body warmth in. A well-fitting collar and cuffs are key to a warm seal, so always try your gear on before buying to insure a good fit.
2. Thermal underwear
( top and bottom) Not much to say here, keep da giblets warm and you’re warm. End of story. I bought Duofold after hearing an old yankee sing their praises. They won’t break the bank but they will keep ya warm. The key features are soft, warm, and, important to me, thin, so I can layer over them and not feel like the stay-puff marshmallow man.
Smartwool tall socks will keep not only your nasty feet warm and dry but your shins warm as well. Smartwool isn’t the cheapest option but I have found they outlasted my bargain brand wool socks so they saved me money in the long run.
4. Wicking layer?
For me, no. I only ride for an hour or two when its cold but for a long ride its something to consider. On long rides with a lot of layers you may get hot and sweat. If that moisture is left against the skin it can make you very cold. A good wicking layer will remove the moisture from your skin and in the long run keep you warmer.
5. Over-gloves (yes, I invented it, if you try this and it works, send me a donut)
There is an endless sea of good winter riding gloves out there but I found that pulling a pair of smart touch gloves over my summer mesh gloves is a great winter answer. It’s warm but thin enough to not affect my grip and I can use the iPhone friendly fingertips to take photos or make a call without taking off my gloves.
6. Okay all the items listed above are quite nice, but the big must have item for me is my Balaclava.
This is hands down my favorite cold weather gear. I have gone on rides in early spring with a pack of motorheads and midway through the run they were warm but their necks were red and half frozen. Not me! Warm and ready to keep riding. The key to this item is the “pharaoh” neck. Covering the exposed area between the neck of your jacket and your helmet. Just pull it over your head, tuck it in your jacket, zip up and ride!
Besides, you look more mysterious when you take off your helmet at the post ride pub. (well, until ya pull it off and the static gives you the hair of an 80’s New Wave band)
That’s it, no full body plug-in electric suit or battery operated moon boots, just layer, protect from the wind and ride! (warning: the above does not apply to those of you living in areas of the country that are not fit for human inhabitants as we journey farther from the sun. (you know… Winter) for you, plug in, skin a bear, drop coal in your shorts, whatever it is that keeps you riding. Or store your bike, rent On Any Sunday, chew some whale fat and await the return of the sun’s warming rays.