Cold weather riding gear

Every year I tell myself I’m gonna do more winter mountain biking and every year I come up with new excuses, all of which have to do with not wanting to freeze my ass off. My aversion to cold weather riding is so intense and so deep that it even affects my summer riding schedule. To whit: I’ve been wanting to ride Oak Mountain State Park in Alabama for some time but over the summer I told myself I should stick to north Georgia rides and save more “southern” rides for winter months when I don’t dare bike north of Atlanta. Fortunately this year I picked up two new items that should help melt away those excuses: the Novara Arosa Jersey and Thermal Tech Beanie from REI.

I’ve said it here before and I’ll certainly say it again: having the right clothing makes all the difference when it comes to mountain biking in the winter. The Novara Arosa Jersey is a pretty simple long sleeve jersey made from 90% polyester meaning it will keep more than half its insulating value even after it gets wet or muddy. The jersey is amazingly comfortable and features a full length zipper to control ventilation, making it a great outer layer that can be easily shed later in the ride. Mine fits great despite my freakishly tall and skinny torso and since it’s an REI-branded jersey it’s a great value (especially when you factor in the 20%-off any single item deal they’re running at the moment). Plus, this jersey also gets props for being low maintenance and high quality – just toss it in the wash after you ride.

The Novara Tech Beanie is actually really awesome if you think about it: a thermal hat meant to fit under your bike helmet. Now I’ve heard that up to 30% of your body’s heat loss can occur through the head and although I don’t know if this is accurate, I do know I feel much warmer when I wear a hat on cold days. Mountain bike helmets are generally designed to provide maximum ventilation but in the winter this can work against you. After adjusting my helmet straps a little I was able to fit the Tech Beanie under my helmet comfortably and – bonus – it even covers my ears at the same time! On a recent ride in the mountains last weekend where temperatures were well below freezing the Tech Beanie was a little too toasty – but I stuck it in my Camelbak just in case. At $18 this is easily the most heating value you’ll find for winter mountain biking under 20 bucks.

I’ve also heard a good bit of heat can be lost around your neck and while I haven’t seen mountain biking scarfs yet (though I’m sure they exist somewhere) I’d be a little afraid of Isadora Duncan-ing on the trail. Fortunately most long sleeve jerseys like the Arosa have extended collars you can zip all the way up to keep out the cold air. Obviously gloves are good for keeping digits warm and I’ve found the same full finger gloves I use in the summer work well for winter riding too. I haven’t tried toe covers yet but I’m pretty sure with a pair of those I’d be unstoppable all winter long.

Yep, getting out on the trail in winter really isn’t as painful as you might imagine, especially with a few key pieces of winter clothing. Stay tuned to the blog this season as we serve up more cold weather riding tips and motivational pieces about our favorite winter rides.

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