Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gearing up for winter riding - I'm a year 'rounder'

I hang my gear on the scale in my office (perfect drying rack)

Winter riding has season has started and I am still commuting by bike.  I have yet to purchase my bus pass for those incredibly icky hellish days that usually include the "S" word.  Last year I was only off road for about two weeks during the entire winter - here is hoping this one is the same.  I don't mind commuting in the rain & cold, if you dress appropriately and have the right combination of base layers, I find that I am actually warmer on my bike than in my VW van. 

I have worn my TourMaster Transition 2 jacket and TM Flex pants for an entire season and they have worked well for me.  They are starting to show some wear and tear, particularly the pants, because honestly I do wear them every time I am on the bike, even in the dead of summer.  The pants are definitely 4 season and I have gotten my monies worth of riding out of them. 

My winter gear consists of: 
1) TourMaster Transition 2 jacket which has the waterproofing built into the jacket, it comes with a quilted liner and it works well keeping me dry and warm.
2) Merino wool base layers - I have found this is the best for wicking away moisture and keeping me warm, Costco had a screaming deal on the shirt and leggings.  They probably aren't as upscale as what you would find at a sporting goods store but heck, they work well for me.
3) Ski socks - I have had a pair of Hot Chilly ski socks for several years and I pull those out and wear them in my boots.
5) Valhala Pure fleece vest with a high collar
6)  Neck tube.  This is invaluable and way easier than wrapping a cumbersome scarf around my neck, I actually tuck it up over my pony tail and up onto my face and slide my helmet on so it keeps my hair dry and chin warm.  I am asking Santa for a Merino wool version for really cold weather.  If you haven't gotten one of these you need to go find one!
7) TourMaster Flex pants.  These pants are amazing!  They are four season pants and work well all year.  You can zip off the outer nylon layer in warm weather and they convert to mesh which allows you to still ride safely in the heat.  They come with a warm quilted liner and rain liner.  These pants have been the best investment and I will definitely buy them again.   These pants have been through hell and back and have served me well. 
9)  GoreTex Boots. My TCX T-Lily boots are a relatively new addition to my riding wardrobe.  I am extremely happy with them, they fit well, comfortable and best of all keep my feet dry and relatively warm. 
10) Waterproof gloves.  This part of my ensemble is currently a work in progress because I have some gloves, but I am NOT happy with them and they are NOT waterproof at all and I have had to add thermal liners in them.  I have been searching for the perfect pair and am leaning towards something with GoreTex and a thermal liner in them. 
11)  Hi Viz yellow traffic vest.  This is a winter riding staple for me, with riding in the rain and usually its dark when I leave I prefer to have my vest on to increase my conspicuity. 

Some things I have learned commuting year round.  You get what you pay for, if you buy inexpensive gear, expect that you will need to replace it sooner rather than later.  It probably won't be waterproof (eventhough the manufacturer rates it as waterproof) and you are going to be soggy.  Layering is a motorcyclists best friend, invest in some good base layers you won't regret it.  GoreTex gear is definitely something to think about if you live in a wet and rainy climate and it's breathable and windproof.  I prefer gear that is waterproof because dragging around separate rain gear for me is a pain in the tookus.  Always make sure you are conspicious particularly in winter months when it is darker early.  Do your homework and get opinions from other riders. 

PS - The other day I weighed my entire gear ensemble and it came in at 19.84 pounds - WOW!


cpa3485 said...

It has taken me much time and experimentation to arrive at a sort of standard type of winter riding attire. But one thing's for sure, and I can't agree with you more, is that layering is of paramount importance. I don't always wear the same things, but I seldom wear anything real heavy by itself, but possibly many layers of lighter things. I once counted 7 layers on my upper body.

My weakest spot has always been the gloves. The rest of me usually survives pretty well, but I have yet to find a winter glove that really works for me. Currently I am trying out a layering effect in that area as well. I have a fleece liner and silk liners for my winter gloves and I have been trying out various combinations of that. The best solution may just be to get heated grips or heated gloves. I'll just keep experimenting out there.

Stay warm out there, and btw I'm adding your your excellent blog to my blog list.


Diane Higdon said...

We don't let cold hold us back either. I am going to look into the Tour Master flex pants. My husband has the jacket like yours, only I think it is the 3, and he really likes it. My hands are always the cold part for me. I have heated gloves, but still seem to always be cold. Thanks for talking about the items you wear. Seems like we have to try and see which work and which don't. Thanks again. :)

Dar said...

Jimbo - Awesome - thanks for the add. It is about trial and error. I too am thinking heated grips and/or gloves. I love my summer gloves, but my winter 'waterproof' have been sorely disappointing. I am going to look at some Revit Fusion gloves which are goretex and some silk liners. My layering techniques change as well, but one thing that I have found that really works for me is the neck tube, kind of seals everything up and blocks the chill from creeping down my coat.

Diane - The TourMaster flex pants are awesome. I bought them because of the multi season use and it really did make a difference in summer. I won't wear just jeans or kevlar jeans because there is no armor in the knees or hips when riding that way and I have been down once and that was enough to sway me from ever riding that way again. I have to say I am leaning heavily towards gear with GoreTex in it from now on, only problem is the cost, but then I usually have my stuff for eons so if you figure out the cost it works out to be cheap. Try some Silk or Merino wool liners with your gloves, it may just give that little extra warmth and both are ultra thin and breathe & wick away moisture.

bob skoot said...


+1 for the Tourmaster Pants, I love Mine.

I have old Non-Riding leather gloves (Watson), no armour. They get wet but I have handguards and the heated grips dries what little water gets through.

I also bought those Merino wool t-shirts at Costco+ too.

better to buy good stuff once . . .

Riding the Wet Coast
My Flickr // My YouTube

RichardM said...

I have a suggestion about gloves, for my trip last summer, I picked up a pair of waterproof over gloves from Aerostitch that were recommended by ChrisL of I wore them through several days of continual rain and they worked well. I just wore them over my regular gloves and by the end of the day, the inner gloves were still completely dry. And this wasn't just a light sprinkle but almost continuous rain. I like the flexibility of not having special waterproof gloves for rain.

Trobairitz said...

Good gear is definitely worth the price.

Glad to hear you like your Transitions jacket. I have been thinking of getting one. I like my Rev'it, but it isn't waterproof without the thin liner, then I have to add either the quilted liner or heated jacket liner. Too many layers and snaps in the cuffs at that point. I like that the outer shell of the Tranistions is waterproof.

I have Fieldsheer Aqua Sport gloves. I really like them but if it is raining hard enough they aren't waterproof.

Andrew Thomson said...

Good on ya Dar!

It's a bit easier for me to ride year round (although I don't commute by bike every day) but good gear is the go all right.

I run Alpinstars Gore-tex riding gear. Merino is definitely a good base layer too and I also have an Oxford Chill-out top to help keep the wind out.

My boots and gloves are Alpinestars too but not necessarily gore-tex. I don't like wearing thick gloves so both bikes run heated grips - get them, they are cheaper than good gloves and last longer.

Have fun splashing in the puddles!

Deb said...

Good info and virtually a "primer" for how to suit up and commute during the winter months!

I have to admit, it's not in me to commute and have to arrive at a workplace in all that gear. I am just too lazy and I'd submit to the warmth and ease of the four wheeled machine instead.

I admire all of you who choose to do it!

Stay safe out there!

Brenda said...

Great post Dar, some very useful advice there. I dont commute anymore on the bike, I'm too lazy to justify gearing up and stripping when I get to work for a 5 minute commute, so I dont really feel the need for all the weather gear that you have like pants (I just carry overpants in the saddlebags).

Gloves are a problem I've had too, at the moment I'm using some leather Harley Davidson ones in the winter, they've only seen rain once and they didnt let any water in so they seem promising, they are super warm too. My problem with getting good gloves is my small hand (even small ladies tend to be too big and uncomfortable) and a very limited selection in the shops near me.

David Masse said...

Dar, I have Tourmaster Caliber pants. The waterproofness tends to wear out, and when it does I have to throw them in the wash with a good does of wash-in waterproofer. That does the trick.

I'll have to check out the Flex pants though. Getting them down to mesh in the summer would be really nice.

I'm currently using Icon Patrol gauntlets. They've been quite waterproof, but after a ride in heavy rain, the outer bits get waterlogged and they need to dry. Even waterlogged on the outside, they stay dry on the inside.

In the rain I wear a Teknic rain jacket. It works really well, but is just too bulky for true comfort.

I have a First Gear Kilimanjaro jacket on my Xmas wish list.

Time will tell.

Great helpful post.

VStar Lady said...

Dar you are so lucky to live in a low snow area - as for me, the bike is not the mode of transport I prefer to get me through the three foot drifts of snow on top of ice. Perhaps I should think of moving! Enjoy your winter rides - I'll be skating.

SonjaM said...

Twenty pounds of gear sounds about right to me. Congrats on your rounder. Isn't that fun?

Circle Blue said...

+1 to the Aerostich lobster claws. I use them and they've been great. Heated grips are wonderful. I have a dual-lens on my winter helmet with a breathguard which keeps foggy to a minimum. Much of my winter gear is snowmobile stuff. I wear Kevlar longjohns, a Leatt back and chest protector, knee guards to beef up the protective factor.

Also, +1 on Jimbo's comment about time and experimentation to arrive at what works.

One last thing, I have a box filled with gloves. I keep thinking I should get rid of some of the them, but you know what. I find I use them all at one time or another. I'm not sure you can have too many gloves :)