Winter is here and that means slightly later starting times and a few more layers to your cycling wardrobe. Cycling gear for winter can be tricky. South Africa has a moderate winter climate, but early mornings can dip below freezing. The highveld being dry and crisp, frosty and biting winds greet you as you start off on your morning training rides. However by mid-morning the sun is often streaming down and can provide warmth and can even become hot on some days. The Cape has wet winters and this makes your gear choice even more important for those colder days. If the weather forecast shows a possibility of rain it's best to have the right gear that not only keeps you warm, but dry too.If we can give you one piece of advice about your winter cycling gear it is this:LAYERING. You will never be the same temperature throughout a ride and you will either get too hot or too cold, so the best defense is to layer, layer, and layer.There are some great layers us cyclists can easily remove or put on as needed during a winter ride. We have selected the top 5 essential items for every winter cycling wardrobe and then we take a look at the nice-to-have options.
F R O Z E N T O E S A R E N ’ T C O O L . G O O D S O C K S L A S T F O R Y E A R S . B U Y S O M E . D O N ’ T B E C O M E M I S E R A B L E .
Some like merino, some prefer synthetic. If you wear your shoes tight, you might need some bigger ones. Or alternatively get yourself a good set of neoprene toe caps. They offer some good protection from wind and cold. You may not want to wear toe caps on your mountain bike if you are riding technical or rough terrain so then a good winter sock should do the trick.
WINTER G L O V E S S H O U L D O F F E R C O M P L E T E P R O T E C T I O N F O R T H E H A N D A N D T H E B E T T E R O N E S W I L L H A V E A D E E P C U F F T H A T E X T E N D S A B O V E T H E W R I S T . The trade-off for insulation can be a loss of‘feel’ in the fingers, so try a few at your local bike shop. Ideally, the greater part of the insulation will have been placed on the back of the hand, offering the best of all worlds. Palms are often gel padded (a good thing) and frequently offer a silicone or similar coating on the section of the fingers likely to come into contact with the control levers. Also look out for wind protection as it's often the wind that makes your hands cold while riding.
Y O U L O S E A M A S S I V E A M O U N T O F B O D Y H E A T T H R O U G H
Y O U R H E A D . When it gets cold wearing a layer under your helmet can make a massive difference especially with the wind chill of traveling at speed downhill. Take your pick of a skull cap, a headband or a buff-style tube. On a dodgy, cold day it’s worth throwing one of these in your backpack or pocket in case things turn nasty.
U N D E R G A R M E N T A N D / O R A W I N D S T O P P E R P R O V I D E
P E R F E C T P R O T E C T I O N A G A I N S T C O L D A N D W I N D .
The windstopper fabric keeps you warm when the temperature dips down to single digits especially with the right layering underneath. Without the long sleeves, you can still enjoy the warmth on your chest without overheating. Most windstoppers are easily fold-able and can be carried in a back pocket if the day gets warmer.An undershirt is essential on very cold days. It provides warmth while directing sweat away from the body to stop chills.
ARMS & LEGS
PART OF A BASE LAYER SOLUTION IS SOME MODULARITY.
These items come in various thicknesses, up to the point that they can become body armour. Arm warmers turn a short sleeve into along sleeve and take up very little bag space. Knee warmers are good almost all year – warm knees are happy knees. Longer Leg warmers for cold days, again removable and pack-able should the day warm up.These are essential to a good day in the saddle throughout winter.
NICE TO HAVES
A T H I C K W I N T E R C Y C L I N G J E R S E Y O R F U L L L E N G T H B I G T I G H T S A R E G R E A T A D D I T I O N S I F Y O U A R E W I L L I N G T O S P E N D T H E C A S H . You won’t make use of these items too often in South Africa as we don’t have the below freezing temperatures to warrant them. Full length bib shorts can become a problem should you warm up as they cannot be removed. Full shoe booties are also a great alternative to warm up the feet on chilly days. They also offer some water resistance which may be needed in the winter rainfall areas. Long sleeve jackets are great but should it get warmer you may overheat.