i am typically not one to post about gear and equipment that i use (other than my bicycles of course) but over time and hours of riding and working, it is hard not to notice the quality of certain items in the wet, cold and sometimes bumpy world. some weeks don’t see a lot of time in the saddle but over the years, i have developed a short list of things that i use for winter riding. i am a fan of wool, fenders and good rain gear. every region of the world calls for it’s own special blend of riding gear to keep the wheels rolling all winter.
d*pow at pdw helped me out with a fresh set of fenders this fall and they are the best yet. they are very solid and durable but still light and offer great coverage. i added my own special mud flaps to keep my toes and my fellow riders dry but otherwise, they are 100% great for a skinny tired winter whip. they ain’t cheap but from my experience, if it’s cheap, it will fall apart and these hold up on rough stuff.
the rapha overshoes are the best. i have used these for almost every winter ride over the course of 3 years and they are just now starting to show real signs of wear. retro-grouch alert! back in the day in iowa, i remember seeing riders showing up for winter rides with scuba gear approved booties that looked like they have been through the shredder. safety pins and duct tape were common sights. it seemed to be a goal to see who could go longer without buying new booties. putting all those ideals aside, i can say these are classic, understated and durable. i love them. a lot of what makes for a warm and functional shoe set up is using wool socks, making sure your shoes are dry and facing the fact that your feet will be wet but the trick is to make sure they don’t get cold.
speaking of wool, the little package winter riding is the best winter cap, period. it is thin, comfortable and made locally. it fits under a helmet and won’t bunch up. caroline uses wool panels on the front and back and cotton on the sides. (all wool is too warm for portland, trust me) the earflap is poly and won’t stretch out for years. the only downside is that i don’t have any left. sorry for all those people who have to have something right away. this ain’t burger king!
lastly, this has been one of the tougher parts to nail down and i figured out the perfect solution (this is for me and i know that everyone is different). in portland, it is more about being warm and not being cold even when you are wet (and you will be wet!). when i was a bike courier in portland years ago, i was dirt poor and needed durable gear for riding 9 hours a day in the rain. i found a military surplus store that sold all sorts of wool army gear. i bought a bunch of rag wool gloves for $5 and wore them out. they were cheap and warm but never really that warm. years later, i discovered boiled wool and i employed the same “technology” and boiled up a batch of cheap wool gloves. the key is to buy them a size or two too large. boil them for a couple minutes and have a bowl of ice water on hand. the shock of the hot and cold condenses the wool fibers and makes them tighten up. going back and forth until they fit and let them dry out. they are good to about 35 degrees and if you need full water proofing, buy some extra large yellow dishwashing gloves for another $5.
this is likely to be an ongoing topic and i will most likely mention other things that i like to use for riding and working. while the shop wear isn’t as romantic, i do tend to wear old military sweaters to stay warm and cozy at the workbench.
enjoy the ride.