The dependable BOM radar said bleak. But filled with hope we zipped our jackets, tightened our ratchets to roll in search of sunshine. We found absolutely none.
Our faces were quickly splattered by everything found wrong on a road (seriously, would you eat from tarmac? we did). On a diet of oil and grot, some of us continued our happy chat. We were the smug ones in toastie merino base layers and impenetrable rain jackets.
Others were unable to speak. They sported a familiar look - chattering teeth, blue lips and general all-over shaking. They grabbed at their brakes with potato fingers and apparently their toes were left behind. Apparently they were later found in hot showers highlighting the fact chilblain season is here.
Some of you were protected in your warm cocoon beds while we were out. We are not jealous. But it does show that, when you have the right kit, there's no excuse.
Several Winter tips can keep you going through Winter... And here I my favourite three.
How to Avoid Winter:
1. INVEST IN EXCELLENT KIT.
Benefits? Good essential kit will last years AND being dry and warm will leave no excuse to miss a ride.
So, to keep you motivated we've put together an Winter Essentials List. Its the basics we think you need to ride through various winter terrains and conditions.
Initially the price of items may prove more than your everyday wear, but believe me, for the price of a couple of dinners you'll use them for years. Plus, you'll thank them every time the weather starts to freeze over.
Plus consider this... You're descending Bobbin Head and the first signs of unexpected rain hits. Your fingers reach for the brakes but your gloves aren't wind proof and those fingers are so frozen you can hardly bend them. The cold has gotten under your neck and inside an ill-fit jacket thats flapping. Wind escapes under even the thicker fabric and now your jersey is soaked in sweat. Cold moisture sets your teeth chattering so bad your mouth cant form words. Actually, the region of your mouth is totally numb anyways. Don't start on your feet, because you no longer feel them. Thats what its like to ride unprepared. We've been there, and we do not want to go back.
Chainsmith Essential Items list for Winter ...
2. Layer up -
- Neck Buff
- Base Layers
- Knee/Leg/Arm warmers
- Merino Woollen Socks
These items are, in our view, absolutely the way to go.
Im sure you've heard advice on just how much warmth you can loose through your head. Apparently the head is particularly and thermostatically sensitive. With minor subcutaneous fat for insulation, and Blood vessels on the surface of the head constrict fractionally in response to cold, we need to wrap up. Some say we can loose up to 50% of warmth in extreme weather conditions. End of story is to cover that head!
We're really enjoying the thicker Velocio Winter Caps for coffee rides which keep tips of ears under wraps. Or, if you only need a light cover for long or hard rides, we suggest ear warmers or a beanie by either Castelli or Q36.5 to do the trick.
Recommendation of gloves depends on how you feel the cold. They definitely join our Winter Essentials List, and when it gets chilly we know you'll agree.
Being a first point of contact with wind, your hands tend to bare the brunt of chill. Our advice : Keep the extremities warm, including both fingers and toes.
If you want versatility, choose a windproof glove and add a merino liner when the temperature drops below 5'. Otherwise, a glove like the Termica above by Q36.5 will sort out the cold days.
We are loving the latest Velocio Neck Warmer. You can wear it anywhere, including daywear. The neck buff is a small item that will save alot of pain on particularly crisp morning.
The neck buff acts threefold. Firstly, on the neck (obviously!). Secondly, over the face when the air is particularly freezing. Thirdly, you can twist it and wear it as a beanie. As a totally versatile and awesome item, we've added it to our Winter Essentials List.
Whats an item we wear year in and out, through every season? Yep, the base layer. For those unintiated, its an item to wear under the bib, and therefore under the jersey. Different seasons can require different materials or weaves and we've an array to suit every ride. But we choose carefully. No matter what they're made of, base layers must have one essential property. Wicking.
Wicking is the ability to not only dry quick but to pull the wet away from your skin. In Winter, to stay warm, you must remain dry. If you're caught in a sweat you won't escape the chill.
We absolutely recommend NexttoSkin. With Carbon infused within the fibres its both quick to dry and antibacterial so to avoid the smells from bacteria in your sweat.
We've some profuse sweaters in our riding bunches (you know who you are), who swear by this item. Plus, its an all-year wearable item.
"The NexttoSkin Base Layer is definitely added to our Winter Essential list."
To continue the theme of successful wicking, lets decipher our way through the confusing array of vests and jackets.
Yeh sure, there're plenty of cheap winter wear to keep you warm. However, at Chainsmith, we only stock product designed specifically for riding and to withstand the test of time.
There are times you need a jacket. Weather has a habit of changing along a few kilometres, and if you're not prepared your ride can turn from epic journey, to discomfort of horrific proportions. Why?
There's a lot of technical requirements expected from kit. Depending on the nature of weather, where you ride, and how you feel the cold, you may have at least two different jackets. But a jacket should meet several of the following needs : Warmth, Wicking, Breathability, Water proof or Water Resistance, Wind shield, Packable, Lightweight, Comfort, Tailored for a close fit.
Without going on... because we could go on forever about the benefits of excellent kit, for our conversation here on warmth, the jackets we advise are the Q36.5 Termica Jacket or the Velocio ES Jacket, both providing breathable back inserts. For an extremely lightweight packable water proof jacket under $200, the NexttoSkin ZeroWind Jacket is hard to beat.
Leg/Arm Warmers are an absolute essential. they can be taken off mid ride if the weather gets warmer during the ride. But when they're needed they promise to prevent symptoms of winter exposure like chilblaines. You can wear them beneath jackets or combined with vests. Perfectly versatile.
The perfect arm or knee warmer employs an even pressured band to hold them up without squeezing the body part. These days with advances in technical fabrics and engineering the structure of fabrics, using grippers that have a tendency to mark skin is unnecessary. We've seen allergic reactions and welts with the use of rubber even on higher quality products. So if you've sensitivities, avoid those.
Choose a flat wide band, or a total tube style warmer. With warmers, make sure the top is fitted or it will fall and leave skin exposed from either your jerseys sleeve or your bib shorts. Also, look for a product like Q36.5 Warmers pre-moulded to fit on the bike. Warmers should show a change in the weave for woven fabrics or darts in denser fabrics to designate where bends in elbows and knees happen.
Check out fantastic ideas for Warmers designed to keep you riding through out the months of cold ahead.
Toes feel like Potatoes in your shoe? This is a familiar feeling for many cyclists. Avoid numbness and chilblains by simply keeping your feet warm. Don't wait. As soon as the cooler months advance wrap those toes up.
Being an extremity, the feet can really suffer. Plenty of hacks exist which would do the trick... like plastic bags over socks, or newspaper lining the inners.
But if DIY isn't your style, merino socks or sock liners combined with booties will provide the perfect cover.
If you go waterproof, remember they may not breath and you can end up with different foot issues triggered by heat and sweat. In this case look at veloshoes or Velocio Booties to protect you from wet and cold.
We love the botties and thats why they definitely qualify a feature on our Winter Essential List.
3. Keep in touch with your bunch buddies through winter
In seriousness, the groups we involve ourselves with stay in touch by social media and chat forums. We even tend to write strongly persuasive and at times guilt-ridden messages at 5am to pull each other from slumber.
While riding in cold rain is not for everyone, and a sleep-in can be an oh-so-good thing, there are ways to keep the temptations of bed at bay.
Choose the right garments for their warm, technical fabrics. Spend once on realiable kit and if you don't want to waste your dollars don't jsut choose based on fashion.
Lastly, think about your cycling friends/nemesis out there ... This will certainly drag you beyond any wintery blues. and if youre friends are in hiding, find new bunches. They are out there!
When the sun returns and the roads fill again with riders who've enjoyed sleep-ins and one too many casseroles, you know you can still whip up the hills in fine form.