Help me stay on my bike as this winter without turing into Frostilicus!
November 9, 2007 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Cold weather cycling gear that wont make me look like I am getting read to pilot an X-Wing?

Inspired by the nice 40 degree and rainy days we are getting more and more of I thought I would ask this fair community if they could share their personal experiences with cold weather cycling clothing, more specifically a jacket that wont make me look like I am just back from space.

This isn't for long distance recreational cycling, as that largely gets shelved for the winter, and I have some bright blue spandex that handles most situations adequately. I am more specifically looking for a nice, not too expensive, WINDPROFF, strongly water resistant, nice flexibility, longer sleeves, and no hood that I wont be able to use anyways. I will be using this to get around town, so if its not some neon color that burns my eyes and is actually comfortable and warm that would be fantastic, bonus points for accessible pockets during cycling.

Also tacking on an additional question, would anyone have any particular recommendation for a pack I should invest in, or a good online store for some something bike friendly?
posted by BobbyDigital to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Can I ask what constitutes "piloting an X-Wing"? There's plenty of flat-black stuff out there that should look like any other cold weather athletic gear - look at Pearl Izumi and Castelli as far as brands go. The only difference will be that something for cycling will have a longer back (for coverage while in riding position).

You can certainly *find* neon yellow jackets with crazy netting and stuff, but it's not the norm these days. Performance Bike and Nashbar are both having sales (as always), check out their selections.
posted by kcm at 9:45 AM on November 9, 2007

I used a ski jacket to get around town on my bike last winter and that worked out well. There's probably more to choose from in the ski department, just make sure you get something with armpit zippers so you stay dry.
posted by waxboy at 9:53 AM on November 9, 2007

I've got a Descente jacket that works well (but no rear pocket).

For the best of the best of the best, look at the brand Assos. It'll last forever, it's very comfortable, and it's very warm (but expensive).
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:09 AM on November 9, 2007

I've found the ideal to be an undercoat of a normal hooded sweatshirt (I saw that you said no hood*) followed by an overcoat of a gigantic construction company hooded sweatshirt (my brother works in construction and give me one that's huge and warm).

If you can get them with zippers, all the better as you can open them up if you get to warm.

I haven't needed to use the hoods so much after I got a Balaclava(sp?), though.

*The nice thing about the hood is that if you're really cold or it's really windy, the bigger one will fit over the helmet (even my gigantor helmet)
posted by drezdn at 10:24 AM on November 9, 2007

I have a marmot jacket that I love (I think it's this one). It's just a shell, so you can make it warm by layering, or just wear it alone on warmer (but still wet) days. It comes in quite normal looking green and black shades. It has a pair of very functional zippered pockets, and though there is a hood, it rolls up in the back and is very unobtrusive if you don't want to use it. Bonus is that it's waterproof, rather than just water resistant. If you browse or some other retailer, you should find many similar options by other brands.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 10:34 AM on November 9, 2007

I know you don't want to look like you're piloting some sort of alien craft, but since one person has died and another was injured in two separate incidents on my regular commute to work in the last three weeks, I would humbly suggest that wearing a garish neon colored jacket is probably not the worst thing in the world.

As for specific recommendations, I'm a big fan of the balaclava; it really keeps heat in quite well. Beyond that, I have no specifics, but REI is a very good source for cycling gear.
posted by pdb at 10:47 AM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have reflective panels on my current bag, and I dutifully use a blinker when its dark or in inclement weather. Also as far as east coast cities go, I feel that DC is fairly bike friendly and I try to be as aware of my surroundings as possible because I generally assume that most motorists are oblivious morons while I am on my bike.
posted by BobbyDigital at 11:09 AM on November 9, 2007

Mountain Equipment Co-op has nice cycling gear.
posted by captaincrouton at 11:15 AM on November 9, 2007

For your needs, I don't think you need to buy something extremely specialized.

I've been going with a 3-layer style (a la hiking and backpacking recommendations) while on the bike this fall, and it's working well so far.

Baselayer: some fabric that wicks sweat and insulates a bit, like good long underwear or an "athletic" fabric

Midlayer: warmth and insulation; for me, a regular wool sweater has been working best

Outer layer: wind breaker; for me, an old nylon REI windbreaker that I found on a playground. It does have a hood, which I thought I didn't want for cycling, but I've ridden with it up and under my helmet on windy mornings and I've actually appreciated having it. Without a hood, I use a balaclava, which is nice, too.

That's not a waterproof setup, but between the windbreaker and the wool sweater, I've ridden in light rain with no problem; not getting very wet and still letting my sweat breathe out. It's also surprisingly warm (into the high 20F's so far).

If you were big on having a truly waterproof shell that's still appropriate for moderate aerobic activity, you can buy jackets made of things like eVent, Pertex, schoeller, etc. fabrics (like the Marmot PreCip mentioned before). These are at outdoor outfitters like REI, etc.
posted by alb at 11:19 AM on November 9, 2007

Cold weather cycling isn't much different from cold weather anything else. Just because clothing marketers have invented categories of cycling-dedicated clothing doesn't mean you need to buy it. Wear normal clothes; you'll be fine!
posted by gum at 1:01 PM on November 9, 2007

In general, Specifically, a Foxwear jacket.
posted by flug at 1:35 PM on November 9, 2007

i commute everyday and ride-in-the-woods regularly almost year round at 7000' and i think this stuff rocks. i use some of it skiing as base/mid layers, too.

in fairness, we often get this stuff on the cheap 'round here via friends who get to shop their annual employee's-only sale; gore's a local co.

but, ymmv, 'cause ya know, sometimes when i ride i still like to imagine i'm piloting an x-wing... or one of those speeder bikes from jedi!
posted by RockyChrysler at 2:33 PM on November 9, 2007

Please, just wear the bright yellow already. Really!
If you can, because in my experience it is the bright colours that are hard to find.

Also, I intend to do some experimenting with mittens, because gloves are always cold.
posted by Chuckles at 2:37 PM on November 9, 2007

I pretty much cycle year-round, as long as the temps are above 30 and the roads are dry, I'll get on the road bike. I also mtb before dawn(yay niterider), so yes, I ride when its cold.

Do not go cheap on the gloves. I've been using these for a few years now. Actually an older version. But, yes, I spent close to $60 on cycling gloves.

Wearing a cycling cap under your helmet will retain a lot of heat and send it back into your head.

I also like to wear a heavy wool jersey instead of a jacket/shell. They keep you warm but they are surprisingly breathable. As an added bonus, you feel like you're snuggled up to your childhood blanket while you ride.
posted by neilkod at 4:16 PM on November 9, 2007

I got an amazing jacket at REI a couple months ago. It's by Gore-Tex and it's windproof and waterproof, and came in some mellow colors. It was very expensive ($250) but it's the best jacket I've ever had on a bike. I stay warm in the 40 degree and below morning rides and so far I'm finding keeping my hands and ears warm with thin gloves and a thin head cap under my helmet is the hardest part.
posted by mathowie at 11:13 PM on November 11, 2007

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