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Winter and cold weather riding means layers

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Winter won't roll in for another two weeks. December 21st is the Solstice this year, with the first full day of winter on the 22d. That hasn't stopped the cold weather from racing in though.

Much of the U.S. is dealing with a pretty good deep freeze right now. What now for cyclists? Put the shorts away would be the first thing.

Riding in the cold can be a bit more a challenge, especially if it is really, really, cold, say, less than 20 degrees. What's a rider to do?

Bundle up. That's the long and short of it. People who live in the colder states don't just quit riding when the weather goes far beyond chilly. Those in the nearby Sierra don't either.

The Sacramento Valley gets consistently cold during the winter months too. No one around here can escape a drop in the temperature.

You do have to take a bit more time getting ready. Putting on the layers that will keep you comfortable on your ride takes a bit of thought and time, more so than in the warmer months.

First, you need a base layer, which translates to long johns. These aren't the Bronco Nagurski lj's that Click and Clack talk about.

Synthetic, wool, or wool blend, lj tops and bottoms, along with wool blend or synthetic socks kick off the layers. Leg warmers are good for some. Wool, wool blend or synthetic, please. Your cushie tushies are already synthetic, no worries there.

Next comes the windstopper gear. Some kind of riding tights or pants that have the ability to block wind. Again, synthetic or wool blend is what's called for.

Another top, topped by a windproof but light weight jacket comes next, depending on the cold. The layers are building, and for good reason.

Taking care of your hands is a pretty good idea. Thermal gloves work. A pair of wool blend/synthetic glove liners, topped by ski gloves works pretty well.

Your head needs some protection, other than your helmet. A beanie of some kind, preferably windproof, is good. One that covers your ears is great if you don't have those cool synchilla type ear muffs. Cold ears, ones that hurt because of the cold, can ruin your ride.

Get a cover for you helmet too. Shoe covers may be necessary.

Notice that everything you have on should be wool, a wool blend, or a synthetic material. Cotton just doesn't cut it for the outdoors.

Combine cold with wet, and any cotton clothing, from your underroos to your beanie, are going to quickly become a liability, a very uncomfortable, and potentially, dangerous liability.

Anyone in the really cold spots in the mountains and around the country will have to gear up even more.

Why layers? Simple. If you get too warm, you shed a layer. Put it back on when the cold starts to bite again.

Rule of thumb: if you are too warm when you start, you've got too much on. Riding will quickly build up some body heat.

This doesn't entail a bank emptying trip to the gear shop. You may already have most of what you need. Anyone who plays in the snow is ahead of the game.

The most important thing: a great big dose of common sense. Freezing to death because you didn't check the weather report kind of ruins the whole thing. Too cold? Stay in, ride the trainer, or just wait for a better day.

Winter riding is pretty wonderful, as long as you're ready for it. The solitude itself is worth it. So is the coffee and bagel at the end of your ride.

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