You will, of course, want to make adjustments for differences in your metabolism and in whatever clothing you have.
I at times still have second thoughts before going out in the winter, but once I get out there I'm always glad that I did. Give me your feedback so I can impove this, particularly if you can fill in the blanks below 22 degrees.
|< 22ºF||22º - 28ºF||28º - 35ºF||35º - 40ºF||40º - 45ºF||45º - 50ºF||50º - 55ºF||55º - 62ºF||62º - 65ºF||65º+|
|shoe cover||?||booties||booties||booties||booties||booties||booties||⇐either⇒||toe warmers|
|feet||?||warmest socks & chemical toe warmers||warmest socks & chemical toe warmers||warmest wool socks||warmest wool socks||warmest wool socks||warm socks||good socks||good socks||good socks|
|legs||2 layers: tights & outer-wear||2 layers||tights & shorts||tights||tights||tights||shorts & knee warmers||shorts & knee warmers||shorts||shorts|
|torso||4 layers||4 layers||3 layers||3 layers||3 layers||2 layers||2 layers||2 layers||2 layers||1 layer|
|arms||?||2 or 3 layers||2 layers||2 layers||2 layers||1 layer||1 layer||optional|
|wind breaker||vest. Try microfleece?||vest with mesh back||vest with mesh back||vest with mesh back||optional|
|hands||?||lobster mitts & chemical warmers||lobster mitts & chemical warmers||lobster mitts||winter gloves||full fingered||full fingered||finger-less gloves||finger-less gloves||finger-less gloves|
|head||?||2 layers: balaclava & skull cap||2 layers: balaclava & skull cap||balaclava||⇐either⇒||winter skull cap||⇐either⇒||light skull cap||light skull cap||summer skull cap for sweat|
ADJUSTMENTS for WIND, SUN and CLOUDS:
This chart works equally well if riding at dark with little wind, or in the daytime with 5-10 MPH winds. If it's windier or cloudier than normal, I'll go with the extra warm options or I'll shift one column to the left.
Decide for yourself whether to take wind-chill into account. I used to, but don't any longer. If you find that the prescription in the chart is a little too cold for you, a simple adjustment would be to use the forecast "feels like" temperature.
There's nothing really special here. I try to stay away from mentioning specific products, but I'm fond of really good, thick, wool socks such as Defeet Blaze. The idea is that you can ride in the winter with very little special gear. There is no need to go search out the product I use. With that said, let me give some explanation of some of the items in the table.
- My booties are just neoprene booties (shoe covers) with a fleece inner liner that you can get in many different brands.
- I mention two kinds of toe warmers. In the 30s and below, I'm talking about chemical toe warmers such as the Grabber brand. These are thin pads you stick in your shoe. They produce heat when you take them out of their wrapper. Simply wonderful. I don't care for two pair of socks. Too thick. Use the chemical toe warmers. It's worth it.
- In the lower 60s, however, when I mention toe warmers, I'm talking about simple, light shoe covers. Maybe they cover just the toe. Maybe they cover the whole shoe. But I'm thinking of something lighter and cooler than booties.
- When I say "tights" I'm referring to what is probably a mid-weight tight. Mine is one of the Performance brand tights, but any brand will do.
- "Base layers" are great if you have them. If you don't just wear multiple regular old jerseys. I did that for a while. But I now prefer using a product actually positioned as a base layer. They are often a little thicker, maybe more snugly fitting. I have a sleeveless crew and also a long sleeve base layer.
- My balaclava is old, plain and thin. Nothing high-tech about it. That's why I double up with that and a Headsweat skull cap when it is freezing. If it warms up while I'm riding, I can remove a layer. If you have something thick or high-tech, doubling up might not be necessary.
- In this table I used to mention hunting gloves because that's what I had lying around. The fancy lobster mitts I subsequently bought are a little better. But try to use what you have before you spend money on more stuff. A variety of gloves are useful however, because sweaty hands are bad when it's cold: fingerless, full fingered, a little warmer (light weight winger gloves), even warmer (thick winter gloves), and as warm as you can get (lobster mitts)!
- I found that my fingers were cold only when I didn't have the rest of me fairly well covered. If my toes are hurting, my fingers are going to have sympathy pains. If I take care of my head, my core and my toes, my fingers will be fine.
- I haven't found a jacket that breathes well enough. A jacket that traps any moisture at all is going to be a real problem for you. Anyway, I haven't found that I've needed a jacket, even when the temp is down in the 20s. Just layer on the other stuff. If you already have a vest with a mesh back, that would make a great wind breaker. By all means, use it. If you don't, then slip a couple sheets of newspaper up under your outermost jersey. That worked for me for a long time.