This is the second of a series of winter riding gear that I personally have run through over the last several years. It is a personal take, but to be honest seems to be pretty accurate if I do say so myself. Looking at the long range forecast, we are due for some snow in the coming days, so why not get all psyched up for winter riding. Who is with me!!!
Last time we discussed footwear, well we are slowing working north, and talking pants and bottoms. Legs can be a little tough to figure out, cause with biking, you are using them, and using them a lot in winter biking. One thing you will find out if you are new to fat biking / winter biking, your poor legs never get a break, even on the downhills, you are constantly spinning… But you will have a smile on your face for sure!! But I digress.
Temperature: 2-5 degrees C
Some folks in this temperature range continue to wear their normal riding shorts (Paul!). Others will start the layers. Personally in this range, I will put on a thin base layer of Merino wool. Again I will use MEC as my guide as to what to look for. A lot of the gear you can buy at other shops like Sojourn, or any outdoor shop.
The above photo from MEC, https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5043-956/Merino-T2-Long-Johns is a nice thin layer of Merino wool long johns. The ones I ride with were actually from Costco, and they work great. These are used more to break some of the wind, and they do keep the legs nice and warm.
One note for this, daytime 5C, and nighttime 5C feel much much different. You may want to skimp down a little bit on the daytime 5C, and go with something more like a leg warmer, that in the case you start to overheat, you can pull them off easily, and not do a full strip tease in the middle of the forest.
Something like the above would work perfectly in those situations.
Temperature: 2 – -5 degrees C
In this range I still tend to continue to wear the Merino wool long john’s. I personally have 2 different types of long john, a thinner one from Costco, similar to the above mentioned, and also a thicker set, which if memory serves correctly, they came from a store in Ohio. But regardless, in this temperature range you will start to notice the cold on the legs. The temperature will start to suck some of the energy out of them, making them feel heavy. Hence a thicker pair of long johns will work nicely.
These slightly thicker long johns will provide a little more warmth, as well as blocking more wind.
Another option, if you have leg warmers, and the thinner base layer bottoms, is to double them up. This will give you a nice warmth, and again cut the wind very nicely.
Temperature: -5 degrees C and Colder
Once we dip below the -5 mark, is when I just switch to a thin baselayer, and a pair of cross country ski pants. The nice thing with the cross country ski pants is that they are able to move easily, as well as block the wind and keep your legs toasty warm. Usually at this colder temperature, you are not breaking any land speed records, due to the bitter cold, and the possibility of your eyes freezing open. If you watch National Lampoons Christmas Vacation you will understand that reference for sure.
For pants, you do not want to skimp out on what you get, as the pants do take a good beating over the winter. Another thing to look at with the pants, is the cuff. Ideally you find a pair that have the cuff tight against the leg. The main reason for this is that it could get caught in the chain rings.
A way around getting caught in the chainrings is to put a reflective strap around you leg, similar to the below.
As for the pants themselves, the below from MEC are a nice softshell pant. Look around at other places, see what people have, just make sure you get something that will keep you warm, and allow you to move your legs for pedaling purposes.
With another edition in the books, we get closer and closer to the winter riding season, and you have to start thinking of your legs, not just for strength and conditioning, but for warmth and comfort.
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Get out there and ride your bike!