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It’s hard to believe that it’s winter once again.  Didn’t we just get done with winter a few months ago?!   With the changing seasons and drop in temperatures it’s too easy to get scared from riding even before actually getting on your bike.  I know how much of a shock it is to the system to get on your bike decked out in winter gear for the first time; it’s frightening.

Well ladies and gents — it’s time to commit! It’s time to psych yourself up for a winter full of riding outside and overcome your desire to stay inside. And you need to get outside soon because the longer you wait the harder it is going to be to get yourself motivated.

If you’re new to cycling and have yet to ride through the winter, or your riding as picked up over the past year and you want to give it a go, there are pieces of cycling clothing that you’re probably not going to want to go without. …as you can imagine, keeping the feet and hands warm is hugely important.

Winter Cycling Gloves
The two key elements of a warm cycling glove are 1) wind-blocking capabilities 2) insulated properties. Notice I didn’t say anything about padding in the palm. I didn’t because I’d recommend a skiing glove over something that is “made for cycling” with a cush palm. Cold hands are cold hands, and nobody likes to ride bike with them.

Shoe Covers
I’m not talking about the Lycra ones that look pretty. I’m talking about shoe covers that have some form of insulated properties and keep the wind completely at bay. Skimping on the shoe covers will either have swearing up a storm because your feet are so cold, or you’ll be buying a pair of toe covers to wear overtop of them. I wear the Castelli Diluvio Shoe Covers and think they’re the best thing on the market. It’s not uncommon to see steam coming from my feet after taking them off.

Base Layer
You wouldn’t go skiing with a jacket on and nothing underneath it, so why is it so hard to convince cyclists that a base layer is a necessary clothing item? Base layers necessary! It’s up to you which fabric you like touching your skin, I personally go with a mid-weight Merino wool, but anything that fits close to your skin and isn’t cotton will do the trick.

Tights or Bib Tights
It seems like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how many people try to get through the winter with their summer shorts and a pair of leg warmers. Cycling shorts are not insulated, leg warmers are, and you’ll figure out how much it really does matter that your mid section isn’t covered with anything other than summer-weight Lycra. Spring for a nice cozy pair of fully insulated tights or bib tights. Whether you go for a pair with a chamois, or without, the most important element is the insulation.

The time is now! Get out and ride your bike this winter! You’ll be glad you did.

The temperatures during the fall season (same with early spring) really test how creative you can be with your cycling wardrobe. It’s not warm enough to be wearing short sleeves and shorts, but it’s not cold enough to break out the tights and jacket. So then when presented with the opportunity to ride in the fall, your brain starts to think through what’s in your closet that can be mix-and-matched to meet your needs. I’ve seen some very creative attempts, from wearing two pairs of shorts (both with chamois) to arm warmers over a long sleeve jersey. Whatever you find that works for you, great. For those who don’t have a clue where to begin, here are a few options to consider:

Top
• short sleeve jersey + short sleeve base layer + arm warmers
• mid-weight long sleeve jersey
• short sleeve jersey + arm warmers + vest
• short sleeve jersey + wind jacket
• short sleeve base layer + windfront long sleeve jersey

Bottom
• kickers
• bib shorts + knee warmers
• insulated bib shorts
• insulated bib shorts + knee warmers
• non-insulated tights

What apparel combinations have you tried that have become your go-to option in the fall?

Castelli Nano Knee Warmer

Roubaix Silverline Bib Shorts (insulated)

Roubaix Silverline Bib Shorts (insulated)

Descente Coldout Roubaix Bib Knickers

Descente Coldout Roubaix Bib Knickers

Hincapie Tour LT Vest

Hincapie Tour LT Vest

Castelli Core Mesh Sleeveless Base Layer

Castelli Core Mesh Sleeveless Base Layer

Base layers are thought to be for keeping warm. When you’re heading out on a ride and a single layer isn’t enough, whether it be a jacket or jersey, you put on a base layer for a little extra warmth. So then why do you see pros wearing a base layer under their short sleeve jerseys during the hot summer months? It turns out base layers do more than keep you warm. A short sleeve or sleeveless base layer underneath your jersey does two major things: 1)keeps your bib straps or jersey from rubbing you raw and 2)keeps your jersey away from your skin. The first reason is an obvious one why it’s a good thing; nobody wants to be on a long ride and have to deal with the discomfort of being rubbed raw. The second isn’t quite as clear-cut. Keeping the jersey off your skin doesn’t allow it to become drenched with sweat and stick tightly to your upper body. Everyone knows how uncomfortable it is to wear a sweat-soaked t-shirt, and having a jersey stuck to you in this same fashion doesn’t exactly allow for peak performance. The base layer creates a pocket of air between your skin and the jersey, which is exactly what’s needed to keep the dreaded jersey-stick from getting you down.

The Castelli scorpion logo peaking out the top

The Castelli scorpion logo peaking out the top

There is obviously an argument that a base layer will only make you hotter on a hot day. I don’t have a scientific answer to say it doesn’t, but what I do know is that if the Cervelo Test Team is wearing them on hot days, they’re not hindering performance. The Cervelo Test Team is arguably the most technologically advanced team on the Pro Tour. They have looked at all facets of the bike and human body, tweaking ever-so-slightly, anything and everything that could created an advantage over other teams. If a summer-weight base layer slowed down the Test Team, they wouldn’t be wearing them.

Every brand has their own take on a summer base layer. To stay with the Cervelo Test Team example, their clothing sponsor, Castelli, makes a sleeveless base layer called the Castelli Core Mesh Sleeveless (pictured). If you’ve ever seen the Castelli scorpion logo peaking out the top of an unzipped Test Team jersey, you’ve seen the Core Mesh Base Layer. The Core Mesh is made with a lightweight mesh-like fabric that allows air through while still providing the layer you need between you and the jersey. There isn’t anything too special about the Core Mesh compared to other summer-weight base layers, but it does everything you need it to and it does it well.

Why do cyclist take newspapers from spectators? To catch up on the latest news.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the old-man humor. Newspapers happen to be great for blocking wind. After a long climb you’re hot and sweaty, and the last thing you want to do is freeze while you’re bombing down a mountain pass; the cold temperatures have actually been known as cause hypothermia. Clearly the place you want to insure is the warmest is the mid-section, and that’s where the paper is going. It’s tucked flatly under the jersey to cover the stomach and chest area at the top of the climb and then taken out when the cyclist has reached the bottom. Stuffing newspaper under a jersey isn’t the most technically advanced form of wind protection, but for the circumstances of going from overly hot to suddenly cold, newspaper has seemed to stand the test of time.

Descending down the French Alps

Descending down the French Alps

Other than pro cyclists starting a descent, I have see riders at the start of an early morning ride stuff newspaper up their jerseys as well as under their long sleeves. The issue with rolling newspaper around your arms is the lack of arm mobility. They do a great job of keeping the wind off your arms, but not being able to move your arms fully can be a bit of an issue. Of course they have come up with the modern day arm warmers that are bendable, offer wind protection, and have thermal qualities — so getting a subscription to the Wall Street Journal probably isn’t a cost effective way to keep your arms protected from the wind.

Now you know. And yes, using a newspaper as wind protection is a form or recycling the newspaper.

Technology has created a monster. Nothing seems to be too expensive for the overly-obsessed cyclist and nothing is permanent; an upgrade is always on the horizon. The next best thing keeps getting one-upped and the demand, at least for now, these seems to always be there.

Pinarello Dogma 601 Carbon Frameset

Pinarello Dogma 601 Carbon Frameset


In the frame sector it started with moving away from heavy steel to using a lighter-weight aluminum. Then it went to titanium or ultralight steel and then a mixture of two materials, and then onto the now popular carbon fiber. But it didn’t stop there, carbon fiber went from a low weave to an 8K to a 10K to a who-knows-what-K; all in the quest for finding the stiffest, lightest frame. And of course the cost of a frame went from a couple hundred bucks to several thousand. The same progression happened Continue Reading »

Nobody, and I repeat, nobody wants to become victim of a dreaded saddle sore. Saddle sores are responsible for quite possibly the greatest discomfort you can experience on the bike. They take professional cyclists out of races and force cycling addicts to take a few days off. And anyone who has had a saddle sore knows that not riding because of them has nothing to do with being tough.

Assos Chamois Creme -- Saddle Sore Preventer

Saddle Sore Preventer

Myth vs. Reality
Saddle sores don’t happen because you’re riding your bike too much. Your saddle doesn’t cause them. The padding, or lack-there-of, that makes up your chamois is not making them appear. These are all myths that “seem” like they would be the culprit; they aren’t. With that said, after you already have a saddle sore, the amount you’re riding and the chamois in your shorts does play a role in the healing process. Keep riding on it and it will get worse.

So what exactly is a saddle sore? A saddle sore is a boil caused by bacteria. That’s right, bacteria is what causes saddle sores. And the #1 way to prevent them — DO NOT WEAR THE SAME SHORTS TWICE WITHOUT WASHING THEM. That’s right, keep away from recycling your shorts and you’ll keep away from them altogether. In addition to wearing a clean chamois every ride, applying chamois cream to your nether regions is a good way to keep everything moving smoothly and most brands have antibacterial properties.

The Endurance Bib Shorts by Castelli is a new addition to the Castelli family for 2010. And in my opinion, the greatest addition. Yes, the much-hyped Castelli Body Paint Bib Shorts are great, but I’d take the Endurance Bibs over them if I had to choose (and I’ve got both pairs). Let me explain.

Long distance chamois
Castelli isn’t known for making a super-comfy chamois. Well, not until they came out with the Progetto X2 chamois. The Progetto X2 uses a combination of soft-to-the-touch foam and won’t-squish-to-nothing gel. Gel?! Can you believe it?! Castelli put gel into a chamois! So you’ve got this supple layer of foam right next to your skin and then gel underneath that to match up with your sit bones and the saddle. It’s a beautiful thing. So here’s the best part: Castelli thinks this pad is so top-notch (as do I) that they put it in their most high-end, high-dollar bibs; The Castelli Body Paint. The price tag on the Body Paint Bibs is $249.99, and the price tag on the Endurance Bibs is $179.99 — that’s a difference I can appreciate.

Castelli Progetto X2 Chamois

Castelli Progetto X2 Chamois

Compressive fabric
The ‘shorts’ section of the bibs are made of a micro fabric called Action. When you get past the lame name, the fabric is definitely more compressive than your average Lyrca, and it does give off a sense of everything being secure when you’ve got them on. I guess that’s what compressive fabrics do. And why is that good? The Compression of the shorts increases the blood flow in your thighs, which translates Continue Reading »

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