We are lucky enough to ride year-round here in San Francisco. While most days require nothing more than a jersey and bike shorts, once winter actually hits, the riding gets cold. I know, I know–winter in California is not exactly winter in Minnesota but I have been colder riding my bike here than ice climbing in Canada. Morning temps hover in the low 30s, with the afternoon warming up to the 40s and maybe low 50s if there is lots of sunshine and little wind. This can make dressing for a ride difficult, so layers is key. Here is a look at some of my favorite gear that keeps me cranking out miles straight through the off-season.
Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal LTD Jersey ($130): This long sleeve, fleece lined jersey keeps you warm and cozy when the temperature drops, and also helps to quickly wick away any sweat build up from those long climbs so you don’t freeze on the descent. Three super deep pockets at the back give you plenty of room to stuff those extra layers and even a thermos full of coffee. Sometimes I throw a baselayer on underneath depending on the weather.
Zojirushi Vacuum Mug ($28): There is nothing better than a swig of hot coffee when you are suffering through a cold, windy, and wet ride. Not many of my locals rides (especially gravel ones) go near coffee shops, so I bring the coffee with me. This stainless steel, double-wall vacuum insulated thermos weighs less than 200 grams and holds just under 1/2L of liquid–that’s triple shot 16-ounce latte size. It fits perfectly into a jersey pocket and the push button lid locks to ensure no leakage. You can bet this thermos will also live in my ski jacket and ice climbing belay jacket this winter.
DeFeet Duraglove ET ($20): Unless it is raining, these are my go-to winter gloves. My hands sweat a lot when I ride, so I need gloves that will keep me warm but are also ultra breathable–the Cordura yarn plated to the outside of the glove creates an abrasion resistant exterior that blocks enough air to keep you warm, while still allowing your hands to breathe during high-intensity activity. The grip on the palm helps you grab hold of the brakes and the fingers are touchscreen compatible for operating your phone and Garmin.
7Mesh Revelation Jacket ($450): When the rain starts rolling in or I need an extra cold wind barrier, I throw on my Revelation Jacket. Made from Gore-Tex Pro, it’s breathable enough for riding hard on the flats–when facing a long uphill slog, I simply throw open both side vents. The hood is removable if you don’t plan to encounter heavy downpours.
Pearl Izumi Symphony Thermal Cycling Tight ($145): When it’s REALLY cold or raining, I will throw on these fleece lined tights. The key is the strategically placed panels of softshell material in the knees and front thigh areas that gives you added protection from wind and rain. Note–be sure it’s really cold, snowing, or raining before you decide to throw these on. They are warm. If the weather is somewhat mild or your route involves a bunch of climbing, you will end up feeling like you are riding in a wetsuit–stick with the regular fleece lined or 3/4 tights instead. All you fat bikers and winter commuters will love these tights, however.
Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Shoe Covers ($70): My toes are the first thing to go on a cold ride–by the time I get home, I can barely walk. So now, I throw on some CEP merino/polyamide compression socks to help keep blood flowing and moisture moving away from my skin, my cycling shoes, then these softshell shoe covers over the top.
Knog Blinder Mob Front ($45) and Vertical Rear Light ($45): I normally only ride in the daytime, but I find in the low-light winter conditions around here that cars and even other riders are more apt to see you if you run both a flashing rear and front light. As they don’t have to be bright enough to navigate–just bright enough to get people to notice–these 44 lumen (rear) and 80 lumen (front) lights are perfect. Super easy to attach and remove from your bike, these Knog bike lights operate in 5 different modes (steady high, steady low, strobe flash, fancy flash, eco flash). You will be surprised at how effective these small, fun lights can be–they are called Blinders for a reason.
My favourite winter accessory is the Castelli Thermo Head Thingy—it’s just so cosy and comforting I don’t mind getting cold in other areas of my body so much when I wear it.