How to Dress for Winter Biking: -15 to -28 C (5 to -18F)

5 Feb

This is Part II of my dressing series.  It’s also the category where most riding occurs… if you’re lucky.  The difference between -15 and -28 is significant, but the basic parts are the same.



Layer 1

X-bionic Underwear – Same deal as before, this is just the base layer that I usually use.   It does the job and keeps me warm.  I actually have 2 versions of the top, one which is slightly thicker.   You can see in the pictures that there are patches of different colors.  These patches are thicker, for areas you lose more feet.  The nice thing about X-bionic is that the women’s versions, aren’t just different colored, but are constructed differently, so that when you put on the long underwear it’s built for your body.

Wool socks – There’s pretty much no reason to wear anything but wool socks if you live north of 60.


Layer 2

Long sleeve shirt(s) – This is where I have some differences.  When it’s a bit warmer, I usually wear a Helly Hansen additional long underwear style shirt.  It’s thinner, but I like the colors and it will keep me toasty.  If it’s a bit colder, I’ll throw on a thick merino wool Icebreaker or equivalent.  This is also the layer that I adjust during my ride if I get too hot or cold.  I often bring an extra long sleeve in my bag  just in case the temperature drops mid-way through the ride.  Also, if I take off a layer in the middle of the ride, I’m never going to want to put it back on, so I like to have a dry, unworn one in emergencies.

Pearl Izumi tights – I have a collection of these tights.  My favorite are the ones that have gone through a few seasons and lost their elasticity.  I wear those when I want to pretend I’ve lost weight, when in reality I’m in a mid-winter cheese-athon.  The thing about tights is they are just easier to move in.


Layer 3

Halti jacket – I picked up this jacket from Icycle exclusively because I liked the hot pink zippers and my friend Monika had one.  I had a mini heart attack when I realized the price, and thought I’d be experiencing some major buyer’s remorse.  But, it turns out that it’s one of the best jackets I’ve ever had.  Ridiculously thin and light, I can’t believe that I’m able to ski/bike in it when the temperatures dip into the -20s.  Yet, despite the holes perforating the back, it does the trick for keeping me warm.  This jacket seems to exemplify the concept of keeping you dry in the cold.  The mesh portions move sweat quickly off the body, so that there’s no chance you’ll become an ice cocoon.

The other great thing about this jacket is that it looks good.  It’s a flattering cut, and there’s some well place reflective bits on the back to increase visibility.

My only complaint about the jacket is that there’s just 2 pockets in the front of the jacket, and nothing on the back.   This is not ideal for night riding, because you end up having to put the battery in your chest pocket, or backpack.



Skhoop Skirt – The love for down skirts is alive up above the 60th parallel.  Alaskans, ex-Alaskans,  and Yukoners are extolling its  virtues.   Nobody likes getting arctic ass – and yet, keeping your butt and thighs warm seems to be an endless battle.   In the past this meant layers and layers of pants, slowly cutting off mobility in the desperate hope that it would keep your tush warm.   But, now there is the down skirt – the perfect outer layer that focuses on the one part of your body that want the extra protection.  Geargals recently reviewed the Sierra Gnar skirt, which I’ve never tried.  I’m a huge fan of my Skhoop.  The side zippers allow you to move the zippers up and down depending on your activity.  For biking, I leave them about half zipped, which gives me enough room to pedal.  If I’m off the bike, eating a snack or chatting, I zip them back down to get the extra few inches of warmth.


Pearl-Izumi Infernos – Unlike colder temps, you need the ability to shift and brake in this type of weather.  The Pearl-Izumi lobster mittens are perfect.  The free index and thumb make it easy to shift and prevent 4-finger braking.  The joined ring and pinky fingers keep your most delicate digits toasty warm.   My hands don’t love cold weather, but these things do the trick.


Smart Wool Balaclava – I need a face cover.  Without one, my lungs shrivel up and turn into Archie’s jalopy – a gasping, hacking, mess.  My face quickly develops two white circles, which grow with every passing minute.  And, my one root canal starts to throb – an instant reminder of my failure to floss regularly.  Why specify my balaclava?  Because the difference between a balaclava and a buff is ridiculous.  And in the world of face covers, material makes all the difference.  A cotton/synthetic buff takes approximately 10 minutes to become soaked in moisture.  Soon you are riding with what equates to a wet washcloth, over your mouth.  If you go down a fast hill, that washcloth freezes and you are stuck with a frozen, stinky, piece of fabric glued to your mouth.  Not good.  The wool balaclava is much more effective and getting the moisture away from your body and the top of the balaclava will help warm the top of your forehead that peaks out from underneath a helmet.

Pro-Tec Snowboard helmet – These things are golden.  Designed for snowboarding, they are great at keeping you warm, without getting your head wet.  The fur lined ear covers are soft and comfortable, the chin strap is covered with additional fabric; and the colors are awesome.  As long as you have something to help reduce forehead exposure, this helmet is perfect.


Dressing it up!

I used to be obsessed with Cosmopolitan magazine.  It didn’t matter that I was 15 and hadn’t kissed a boy – there was something about the big bold headlines promising to teach you how to pleasure your man that seemed grown up.   Let’s face it, until I had a chance to take a practical exam, I might as well do as much theoretical research as possible.

One of my favorite articles was the fashion tips – I’ve never been particularly fashionable – I needed all the help I could get.   Cosmo used to have a running series on how to take a daytime outfit and make it “pop” for a night out.  Western shirt?  Tie it up into a belly shirt, add a jeweled belt buckle and you’ll be ready to dance your night away!

I love dressing up for bike riding.  I can’t walk 5 minutes in heels, but I have no problem riding around in 2 inch stilettos.  There’s something special about looking good on a bike; and with a few small modifications, you can take your exercise outfit and turn it into an outfit that will stop cars (hopefully).

Scarf or Cowl –  Any nice neck warmer, or scarf will do the trick.  My friend Alexis made me my favorite purple  cowl.


Joan of the Arctic Boots – Replacing my plain black boots with the slightly more fashionable Joan of the Arctic’s makes me feel fantastic.

Nice Grown-Up Girl Jacket – I’m lucky I get free nice jackets from my sister, a fashionista living in Aspen, Co.  If it were up to me, I’d still be wearing my 1997 red duvet jacket, kept together with duct tape.  Any nice duvet jacket will do.