Enjoy winter cycling – layer by layer

Winter in the land of Oz, contrary to popular belief it can get cold (for example recent snow flurries in eastern Australia!). If you’re cycling gently in decent conditions like in the northern states, you might get away with simple coverings, but if you plan to ride for any length of time and in all weather (for example Canberra & Melbourne), you’ve got to learn to layer. Layers mean you’re ready for heat, cold, rain, sun or snow. If you’re comfortable on the bike, you’ll ride better and for longer. It’s not rocket science (although perhaps some serious science went into the R&D of some products!)

So here’s a simple guide to layering for all conditions:
Types of Layers:
Base layer: This sits next to the skin, keeping it dry by wicking away sweat. This is your first line of defence. Base layers can be manufactured from man-made or natural fabric. Man-made materials dry faster and tend to be cheaper. Natural ones tend to smell less and feel nicer against the skin. The best ones have an anti-microbial treatment to tackle odour. A good base layer should be highly breathable with good wicking qualities. It will remove moisture from the skin, keeping you dry, warm and comfortable. Better wicking jerseys tend to be close-fitting. Winter base layers also need to insulate from the cold. My favourite base layer at the moment is

Mid layer: This adds insulation to keep you warm. This is an all-purpose garment. This is your most flexible layer. In warm weather it could be the only top you’ll wear. Or it can be worn as an outer layer with a base layer underneath. Or, as the name suggest, it can be the mid-layer between a base and a shell. A great mid layer will feel nice against the skin and have good insulating qualities, without being too heavy. It’ll be breathable and it’s good to have a reflective strip or two. This will be useful as it will probably serve as your outermost layer for at least some of the time.

Shell: This is your armour from the elements and can be windproof, waterproof, or both. It may be convertible to a vest as well. The gold standard of an outer shell is its breathability, windproofing and waterproofing. Shells come in two main varieties, hard shell and soft shell. Only a hard shell jacket is likely to be totally waterproof. The best of these are also very breathable, but they can feel inflexible. Lightweight, windproof models are perfect for folding up small in a pocket or pack, in case of bad weather. Totally waterproof heavy-duty jackets are great for commuting and making shorter journeys where you won’t get too hot or sweaty. Weatherproof but highly breathable jackets are more expensive option. These are a brilliant investment if you’re more serious about all season cycling. Soft shell jackets usually breathe better, but tend to be water resistant rather than waterproof. Soft shells with a membrane will stand up to everything but a downpour. They are ideal for intense riding in unpredictable conditions such as in Australia’s winter especially the south-eastern states and alpine regions (no matter what season).

So there you have it – layering for cyclists is simple – it’s just a matter of remembering these three layers, to give you the right balance of heat, breathability and flexibility. Of course, you won’t always need all three layers, but you can easily remove one if needed. Really all you need to do is choose your combination. There’s no hard and fast rule as to how many layers you should wear in each season in Australia, but mostly it’s quite obvious, especially if you check the weather forecast, but just in case here’s a basic guide to all season riding:

Winter all three layers. Don’t forget hands & feet need layering too! Spring and autumn two layers (a base layer and a shell, or a base layer and a jersey). Perhaps arm warmers &/or leg/knee warmers and a vest. Summer you generally only need just one layer. But plenty of water and layer up that sunscreen!

Enjoy your ride – layer by layer!

– By Jessica Laws – Pushys sponsored athlete

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