Summer is great. It’s so easy to just hop on a bike and go for a ride. Once the weather turns colder, however, a bit more preparation is needed. It can be daunting to gather up an arsenal of extra gear just to extend the riding season for a bit, so some of us cold-weather crazies put together a list of cold-weather goodies that we’ve tried, loved, and still use regularly. Aside from looking awesome in stretchy neoprene, there are several other advantages to four-season cycling. Let them be your reasons to keep riding.
1. No bike commuter has ever had to scrape the frost off of their windshield. As far as defrosting your face goes, Gore, Smartwool, and 45North, all make some toasty balaclavas and facemasks to help you arrive at work snotcicle-free.
2. No more forcing down lukewarm water. The world is your refrigerator! And if that world gets down to freezer temps, Polar Bottle and Camelbak insulated bottles will help prevent your water’s slushification. If a warm beverage actually sounds appealing, Skratch Labs makes some pretty awesome apple cinnamon-flavored hydration mix. I’ve had some, and it’s great both on its own and with a little rum for extra, um, freezeproofing.
3. Extra layers of clothing provide a barrier against road rash. Crash protection aside, I love getting to wear two of my favorite pieces of cycling clothing–Gore softshell pants and Surly’s redesigned merino wool jerseys. My Gore pants have been indispensable for road and mountain use. They’re windproof and warm, but not stifling – perfect for spring and fall with shorts underneath, and roomy enough to serve as an outer layer in the middle of winter. I’ve only had the Surly jersey for a few weeks, but I’ve been wearing it everywhere, cycling or not, because it’s just so comfortable and well-designed. It looks pretty good, too.
4. Getting to see the sunset on my commute home. Nothing caps off a post-work gravel ride like a wide-open country sunset. Just make sure you don’t ride off into the sunset without some lights to get home. Most of the bikes hanging up around Tree Fort are adorned with something by Light and Motion. For commuters, their Vis 360+ is perfect for a helmet mount, while the Urban 550/Vis 180 combo pack is ideal for mounting on a bar and seatpost or rack. For tearing up the trail at night, the Stella 500 is an amazing value.
5. Chilly air will wake you the #%& up. Also, you get to feel like polar explorer Ernest Shackleton every day, which is both badass and historical. If you still need coffee for wherever you’re exploring, Stanley makes a bombproof travel mug that will keep it hot. It fits in a standard bottle cage, and has a clever one-handed opening mechanism, so you can drink while keeping one hand on your bars.
6. The swarms die down – bugs and people both. This means your group ride might thin out. A GPS unit can really help with navigation, especially at night. Tate Labs has a good quarter-turn Garmin mount to keep your GPS close at hand. If you know where you’re going, and want to shame your buddies for wussing out, toss your phone in a Revelate Designs Gas Tank to record your ride with Strava, and use it as proof of how much more hardcore you are.
7. Fatbikes. Yes, they really are that fun. You’ve either tried one, and know what I mean, or are at least a little bit curious. They’re fun all year round, but winter is the best time to unleash the abominable fat-tired beast.
8. Because riding a bike is always cool, all the time. All the dorky high-vis insulated clothing in the world is still way less lame than sitting in traffic, polluting the air, and not getting exercise. Whatever you need, whether it’s studded tires, or maybe just a little motivation to bundle up and go kick some ass, find it, and keep riding!