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Sat Feb 18, 2012, 06:37 PM

Recommendation for an outer shell

I got back into cycling last year after a 30 odd year break, and with this mild winter, I figured why stop.

The problem I'm having is that while I have top layers that are warm enough, I tend to perspire on the uphills and then freeze on the downhills. The wicking base layer is doing its thing, but there is still a lot of sudden evaporation.

I tried an impermeable rain jacket, but that just gets to be like a sauna in there. So I'm wearing a jacket from an old training suit, but the wind just goes right through it.

Is there a reasonably priced compromise between windproofing and breathability that you would recommend?

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Reply Recommendation for an outer shell (Original post)
jberryhill Feb 2012 OP
happyslug Feb 2012 #1
ge26252se Feb 2012 #3
wtmusic Feb 2012 #2
Kolesar Feb 2012 #4

Response to jberryhill (Original post)

Mon Feb 20, 2012, 10:35 PM

1. I have bicycled in Winter for many years, my advice is take excess clothing off.


Last edited Wed Feb 22, 2012, 12:17 PM - Edit history (6)

In winter I always travel with Panniers so I can put away clothes that I no longer need, and pull them out as needed. The problem is excessive heat, you have to leave it escape your body, and the only way to do that is to take off layers of clothing,

On the other hand, at times you need extra clothing do to excessive wind (i.e. going down hill, little peddling, thus little heat being generated, but you need a lot of protection to keep what heat your body is producing to fight off the wind hitting your body by you just going down hill).

The only solution I have found is to take off clothing if to hot and put it back on when one is to cold. Unlike walking where you can often just open up your coat and leave it hang, biking, do its greater speed, you have to take off the excess clothing when not needed. The problem is you have to have a place to put it, and that is where panniers come into play.

In my panniers I carry Gore Tex bid overall with insulation that is easy to put on and take off over my boots. I have a chain guard to make sure the legs of the overall gets caught in the chain (and if it does, I have learned to live with it, i.e. leave the overall get chewed). I use the bid overall when temperatures are in the 20s, occasionally lower.

I tend to wear a Gore Tex type out garment, with a liner and a sweat shirt. I take them off as needed (often the Jacket stays on me, even as I take the goose down liner out of it and put it away in the Pannier). I do this to permit my body to cool down as I pedal. If i get to cold I stop and add another layer of clothing.

As to Gloves, I carry on me three (four if you count liners as separate Gloves). A light weight leather glove, that can take a polyethylene or silk insert (Silk is preferred, through I have used wool, the problem with wool is it tends to be to thick to fit under a glove unless the glove is designed for that insert). I also carry with me a set of water proof Gore Tex type gloves for use as temperatures reaches about 32 degrees. I buy them big enough for use with the same insert as the leather gloves. The third pair of gloves are US Army winter mittens. These mittens are NOT water proof, but at the temperatures I tend to use them at, 25 degree Fahrenheit and lower, Gore Tex is not needed (the Snow is to cold to melt AND at such temperatures you tend to have very little snow compare to 30-25 degree range). These can fit in my handlebar bag and I change them as needed. I use the leather gloves from about 50 degree Fahrenheit to about 35 degree Fahrenheit, 30 degree Fahrenheit with inserts. The water proof gloves I use from about 35 to about 25, the Mittens below 32 degree Fahrenheit. Notice they is a good bit of overlap, the reason is simple, water is you main enemy even in winter and the Gore Tex gloves is the best at handling water. The temperatures when water is the worse is right around freezing, thus the Gore Tex type gloves at the temperatures. Leather gloves are best at getting a feel for the handlebars thus the best for temperatures where rain/snow/water is not a major concern.

For Head gear, I tend to use a Russian Usannka (Also called a "Trooper" hat for State Troopers tend to use them in winter as do letter carriers and quite a few people who are outdoors. These hats were even issued to US Army personnel before the adoption of helmets during WWI, the army found it was hard to fir a helmet under them and have been looking for a replacement ever since).

The Trooper style hat has one major problem, the front "lip", in my it was removed and with it removed fits under my bicycle helmet quite well. I have used balaclavas, the main advantage of the balaclavas is that there fit over your head and under a helmet but at the cost of being made of knitted material and as such hard to water proof. I tend to like balaclavas but always have something over them to water protection (Such as the hood to my water proof jacket). I have been known to use BOTH a Trooper style hat with a Balaclava underneath it in temperatures below 25 degree Fahrenheit. I also tend to take them off and put them into my panniers or handlebar bag as needed.

Side note on Long Underwear: I tend NOT to wear long underwear in winter, the reason being it is the HARDEST thing to get out of when you are to hot. I have them, I have used them, but only in temperatures below 20 degree. Over-pants are a better option, for they tend to be thicker, water proof, wind proof and easy to take off or put on on the side of the highway. If you wear long underwear, make sure your outer clothes are still easy to get off. Only use long underwear as part of your "base" of clothing, clothing you need even if you are going uphill for hours at a time. If you are getting to hot with the long underwear when doing you your highest workout level, then GET RID OF THEM.

Second Side note: Avoid Cotton Long Underwear. Cotton Long Underwear is design for people to sleep in, NOT to work in. Cotton absorbs any water it comes into contact with AND does it best to retain the water. Wool and Skin are much better at getting rid of any water, be the water the product of Rain, Snow or Sweat. Polyethylene is good at retaining heat, but is terrible at both absorbing water AND getting rid of water. Polyethylene is best used next to the body, to wick any sweat away from the body to some wool outwear, the wool then gets rid of the sweat.

As to polyethylene and other "Wicking" materials, such materials are terrible at getting rid of sweat. Such material do wick it away from the body, but then the sweat sits until you go down hill and the air takes it away. Wool and Silk will get rid of the Sweat, at least partially, while you are going up hill, polyethylene will NOT. Furthermore Wool and Silk will retain some of the sweat as you go downhill, but that is part of the reason how wool and silk keeps your body warm (polyethylene has been called Science's latest attempt to make something that can do what Silk does, in some ways polyethylene does what silk does better then silk, but in most things silk remains the much better material with Wool a solid second). I like polyethylene and have used it in the past and use it today, but you must remember its limitations, just like you must remember the limitation of Wool and Silk.

I am sorry, but I suspect you choose of clothing is the problem. You are wearing to much clothing and of the wrong type. That explains the perspiration, something you should NOT be doing. People perspire to cool down, in winter you should be leaving the cold air do that. If you are perspiring you are probably wearing to much clothing. Ditch the long johns, buy a set of panniers to hold over pants in. Only wear the bid overalls if you are still cold after biking for about a 1/4 mile or so. Wear a balaclava under your helmet, but be prepared to take it off if you are to warm elsewhere (and be prepared to put it back on if you get cold elsewhere, remember the old story of the frontiersman when ask what someone should do if they feet gets cold, he retorted "Wear a hat". Your body will pull heat from other parts of the body to heat the head and then the lungs and heart. Thus if such body parts are cold, put on a hat.

Also protect yourself from wind, but that does NOT mean you need a thick coat, often all that is needed is something wind proof, with your work peddling the bicycle doing enough to keep you warm once the wind is taken care of by a piece of wind proof material.

Here are some other articles on the subject of biking in cold weather:








Here is what I wrote on the old DU2 thread on this subject in 2005:

When I ride when it is cold I tend to wear regular winter clothing.

Except it is design for about 10 degrees colder than if I was walking (The wind makes up the difference).

Remember three things when riding in Cold Weather:
1. Protect against the wind
2. Thermal protection from the Cold.
3. Make sure your Sweat is removed from your body.

The first two are related but are different, the third (Sweat) is your worse enemy in winter and will be addressed separately. Wind Chill is nullified by protection against the wind, even if the protection provides NO thermal protection from the cold. Thus a good wind proof outerwear is important including for your head, feet and hands.

Thermal protection from the cold should be obvious, but one of the problem with such protection is that people wear to MUCH clothing. People tend to dress to be comfortable as they exit their home. THe problem is once you start to peddle your body will increase energy use and thus internal heat. In simple terms you start to overheat. You really can NOT prevent this, you have to address it as you exercise. For example in winter I have two rear panniers for extra layers of clothing THAT I PUT ON IF I AM TO COLD, or IF I AM TO WARM THE PANNIERS GIVE ME A PLACE TO STORE THE CLOTHING I TAKE OFF. Layer clothing is the best way to do this and you will learn how much to wear and when to take it off (each person is different as in your situation). You are in Minnesota so you do not have to go down any long hillsides (Which require extra clothing do to increase wind AND lack of exercise as you coast downhill). On long hillsides I always add clothing even if I am already warm do to the effect of going downhill (I live in the Appalachian Mountains so I go down 2-3 mile long hills).

For outerwear I tend to go with Gore-Tex clothing, it provides the needed wind protection and in a pinch snow and rain protection (Notice I put wind protection over Snow and Rain protection for wind is a constant problem in cold weather while Snow and rain disappear after a few hours). Gloves are important, but at 9 degree you should go to Mittens for Mittens greater thermal protection. I liked the Army trigger Finger Mittens for temperatures below 20 Degree. Now remember at temperatures below 20 Degree, such air do NOT hold much moisture so Gore-Tex is not needed (It is to cold to snow much at such temperatures). I tend to have on my bike four gloves, a light wind proof glove for temperatures in the 40s, a poly Glove Insert if I need more warmth than provided by the other gloves, My mittens for real cold temperatures and a pair of water proof Gloves for temperatures around Freezing. I have a nice size handlebar bag to keep these gloves in (along with other items). A to water-proof gloves be sure to spend the money, Gore-Tex is the best at not only keeping water out but making sure sweat is removed from your body (Sweat is your number one enemy in winter, and dress to make sure it can be removed from your body.

For shoes I use Neos over my tennis shoes (Through if I expect real bad weather I switch to a set of boots with the Neos). I like the Neos for the same reason I like layered clothing, if my feet gets to hot I can take off the Neos.

Head cover is tough. I have used old army helmet liners (Which I liked for their were a tight fit, kept my head warm and permitted me to turn my head if Needed), Russian style "Trooper" hats, which forced me to adjust by Helmet to fit under but were warmer than the Helmet Liner but still permitted me to turn my head, knitted caps and Balaclavas (Which had the problem of being knitted so minimal wind protection, worked best under something else) and a goose down hood attached to my Goose down coat (The problem with such hoods is they restrict your head movement since their are attached to the coat, but give complete protection to your neck).

I liked my Russian hat. Tough fit under the Helmet but can be done. Like my shoes NOT water proof for at the temperatures I am using at (i.e below 20 Degrees) I rarely run into snow or rain. Near the freezing point of water I prefer something more waterproof. I tend to use an Oregon Research hat at such temperatures do to it being Gore tex-ed and fit either a Balaclava or knitted cap under it if I need more warmth. I liked the Balaclava for its protection of my face and nose, these areas do NOT need the same level of protection as the rest of the body but needs some protection and a balaclava is generally adequate (Even if just knitted and the wind blows through it).

Now to address you worse enemy in winter, sweat. You must get rid of Sweat. Silk and Wool are you best material to absorb sweat from your body. remove it from you body, and disperse it to the outside. Polyethylene is good at the first two, but weak at the third. Cotton is even worse at getting rid of sweat. If you decide to go with Cotton be prepared to change often (i.e. every hour or so) if you go with polyethylene remember it will get soaked as fast as cotton but retain some ability to keep you warm, Silk and wool are the best material (Through you will feel better if you change any underwear every so often on your trip as the underwear gets saturated with your sweat).

The best way to get rid of Sweat is to change clothing (If you are using cotton this is ESSENTIAL). When I take a three hour ride, about half-way through it I change my T-Shirt. It makes my feel a lot better and warmer. I have done this in a open field (no wind) in 20 degree temperature so not a problem is done quickly.

Now to the bike itself, I use studded tires only when the road is NOT cleared, Other than that I stay with Slicks. The reason for this is Studded tires will increase the roll Resistance of your bike. Basically I would say 3-4 times the effort. I have NEVER taken my studded tires on any real long trips (Just to commute to and from work). I suspect if I did it would be just to tiring. One good thing about using Studded tires, when you switch back to Slicks you are in good shape to do a long trip without building your self up.

And I have had some good like with some of the more expensive non-gore-tex "Breathable Water Proof" garments. On the other hand I did buy a cheap pair of "Breathable Water Proof" Gloves and all their do is sweat up my hands. The reason for this is Gore-Tex has been doing this since 1960 and thus has decades on the rest of the industry.

The only things I tend to like as well is Army surplus mittens, warm, have that Trigger finger which can help you switch gears. They are heavy, durable and out of Style, but your head stays warm. I also like the Bomber series of Fur hats, but remember it is a tight fit under a helmet (Again like Mittens, Gore-Tex not needed for use is at temperature generally to cold for snow). I like the Bomber series for the front flap snaps up not sewed up like some of the Cheaper hats. To fit a sewed up Bomber type hat under your helmet you have to cut the stitch holding the flap up, Bomber series hats snaps just snap out and than the flap lays downward and the bike Helmet fits better.

One more comment, I have been know to wear a baseball ap under my helmet , the brim helps block high-beams of oncoming cars. Given that during winter the sun is up less than 12 hours a day, you will be biking at night and need to block the high beams.

This brings me to lights, batteries lose power during Cold Weather. My Night Rider light set rarely last more than 2 hours in sub-zero weather. For that reason I switch my front wheel to a Generator Hub and a LCD front and rear light. Such a light set permits constant lighting without worrying about batteries or if you charged your battery. This is a big factor at night (Notice I continue to use my Night Rider for it is brighter than the LCD generator Light and I use a Battery Rear light in addition to the Generator Read light, front lights are more important than rear lights).

Generator Lights and NOT cheap (and if cheap NOT worth buying, cheap generators just tear up your tire as opposed to providing lighting). I get my lights from White Wheels out of New England:
http://www.peterwhitecycles.com /

But you can get a Cheaper (Through effective Generator) from other places like:

Other Old DU cites on Winter Biking:



Side Note added 2012: Since I wrote the above in 2005 I have switched to Army Surplus Combat boots with GoreTex for cold and wet weather. I still use Neos but I tend to use them in warmer weather and when I wear Sandals. The Neos fit with my Rain Gear in the Saddle Bag, I use a Brooks saddle with a Brooks with a Caddice "Longflap" Bag attached. A little old fashioned (first produced about 1930), but works. The Long Flap is large enough to carry my Rain Gear, Jacket, Pants and Neos for my feet AND anything else I can need on a short one summer day ride WITHOUT the use of the "Long Flap", with the "Long Flap" in use I can carry more. I tend to buy the combat Boots surplus from the Sportsmen's Guide, but you have to watch what is sold at the Sportsmen Guide, he tends to push the limits as to the truth of his products, using a lot of terms like "Army Surplus like". "Similar to Army Surplus" when they are crap. Just be careful what you are buying for he will sell you what he has while making it sound better i.e "Genuine Artificial Diamonds" i.e, he hopes you hear "Genuine Diamonds" when he is selling glass (i..e "Genuine Artificial Diamonds".

As to boots, the one's I bought seems no longer to be in stock, but given what the Department of Defense is spending, the Sportsmen Guide is a good place to look for bargains, but be careful. E-bay has some good items but like the Sportsmen Guide be careful.

The Sportsmen Guide:

For more on Carradice Bags:


I have also converted to Arkel bags to hold my extra clothing. I presently like Arkel for their handlebar bags and Panniers. I retain the Carradice for a seat bag, but everything else I use is Arkel
Web Site:

I use to use Ortlieb packs, till I lost one and then bought the Arkel as a replacement. I still use a Ortlieb laptop computer box (my term) on a Tubus rear frame, but both seems no longer to be made, replaced by a Computer "box" (my term) that use an adapter to attach to any frame instead of just the one designed for the box, which was the situation with my Computer box and rack:

Ortlieb panniers and Tubus frames:

I can NOT find a picture any Computer box available from Ortlieb. I did find one on the Peter White Wheels website NOT the Ortlieb website, so the present box may be in the process of being replaced by some other product:

Old man Mountain use to be 100% made in USA Bicycle Racks, most are still made in the USA, but at least two are made in Taiwan, but the made in USA facks seems to be very good:


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Response to happyslug (Reply #1)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 04:11 AM

3. +1


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Response to jberryhill (Original post)

Mon Feb 20, 2012, 10:50 PM

2. My preference is an unlined barrier jacket like Pearl Izumi's

They're not cheap, but they're well-made and don't flap in the breeze like a lot of other shells. When you take it off it can be rolled up into a size that fits easily into a jersey pocket.


The second piece is very economical:

Take a plastic grocery bag and shove it into your jersey front for those chilly downhills. You'll be warm as a cucumber and cool as toast.

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Response to wtmusic (Reply #2)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 05:05 PM

4. I have a single-layer waterprooof/breathable jacket by Pearl Izumi and it's da bomb!

It has pit zips for super ventilation. Since it is single layer, it stuffs into my jersey pocket. Yes, it was expensive, but it won't tear easily and the stitching will stay taught for a decade.

My other trick is piece of waxed paper that I put on my head if I get cold. Rather like your plastic bag

I finished a tour with a plastic bag under my shirt when the day became cloudy and clammy. I was coming down with a cold.

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