My Winter Riding Gear

Typical winter ride set-up

Typical winter ride set-up: frame bag, Gas Tank, Mountain Feed Bag for camera, two bottles

An article by the Professor.

Riding in the winter requires a bit more gear than in the summer. I have quite a bit of experience cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter camping. Whenever I head out into the mountains in winter, there are a few things that I always take with me, just in case. Winter cycling on a fat bike is no different. The trails we ride in Winter are sometimes fairly remote, meaning an occasional snowmobiler or other skier may or may not pass by. In other words, its pretty important to be as self reliant as possible when in the backcountry. And cell phones don’t get reception in the mountains around here so don’t plan on calling for a rescue if you get into trouble.

This is what I take packed into my Revelate frame bag.

A small Granite Gear silnylon zip pouch with the following inside:

• firestarting kit (sparker, mini lighter, Wetfire, in a ziplock bag)

• Basic first aid supplies (bandaids, tape, single use Neosporin, ibuprofen)

• duct tape wrapped around a small dowel

• Leatherman Squirt mini tool with pliers

Small emergency/survival kit

Small emergency/survival kit

Contents of the emergency/survival kit.

Contents of the emergency/survival kit.

Small emergency bivy bag

Emergency bivy bag; 2.5" diameter by 3"

Emergency bivy bag; 2.5″ diameter by 3″

Tools: small bike multitool, patch repair kit, 2 plastic tire levers

The small pouch and tools go in the back section of the frame bag. I also stuff a pair of Montbell waterproof-breathable lobster mitts in there as well since they don’t get used much. On the left side of the frame bag, in the small shallow pocket goes a small tin of Cat Crap and 1/4 of a cotton bandanna. This is to keep my glasses from fogging up. I may also stuff a Buff in there as well.

In the main compartment of the frame bag I keep the following:

Lightweight puffy jacket (Patagonia Nano-puff jacket)

Patagonia Nano-puff jacket is very lightweight, packs down small, and is very warm and windproof.

Patagonia Nano-puff jacket is very lightweight, packs down small, and is very warm and windproof.

It stuffs into its own inner chest pocket.

It stuffs into its own inner chest pocket.

Extra gloves (either Outdoor Research lightweight windproof fleece, or Black Diamond midweight windproof fleece)

Three weights of gloves, light, medium, and heavy.

Three weights of gloves, light, medium, and heavy.

Extra hat (Buff,  Montbell softshell beanie, or Outdoor Research balaclava). I usually take all three.

L to R: half of a Buff, full size Buff, softshell beanie

L to R: half of a Buff, full-size Buff, softshell beanie

In the Revelate Designs Gas Tank, I keep the following:

•Snacks, iPhone in a waterproof sleeve, sometimes the small bike tool

Revelate Designs Gas Tank.

Revelate Designs Gas Tank.

I then typically wear the following:

On top, a lightweight long sleeved wicking shirt like a Patagonia lightweight Capilene or something similar. Over that goes a lightweight Outdoor Research softshell pullover. If it is colder, I will wear a midweight long john top. On bottom, I wear either regular lycra cycling shorts, or a pair of padded liner shorts, then either a pair of lightweight thermal tights, or a little heavier pair of synthetic running pants. If it is really cold, I will wear a pair of lightweight or midweight long johns under the pants. I think I will also get a pair of heavier winter tights as well.

OR lightweight softshell pullover; very versatile piece; wind and water resistant, and very breathable.

OR lightweight softshell pullover; very versatile piece; wind and water resistant, and very breathable.

For my feet I wear a midweight pair of merino wool hiking socks, then either a pair of Gore-tex, low top light hiking shoes, or if colder and the snow is deeper, I wear a pair of Lowa all leather Gore-tex light hiking boots. I then wear a short gaiter to keep the snow out of my shoes. I have a pair of Rab short gaiters that I like. If I am anticipating deep snow or really cold weather, I have a lightweight pair of Outdoor Research gaiters that come up to my knees.

Boots and shoes, both with Gore-tex liners.

Boots and shoes, both with waterproof, breathable Gore-tex liners.

For my head I usually wear a Buff doubled, or if it is less cold, a Buff cut in half to wear as an earband. If it is colder I have a Montbell softshell beanie with fleece around the bottom. And if it is really cold I will wear an Outdoor Research balaclava, either the Ninjiclava or the windproof Sonic for really cold and windy weather. Sometimes I will wear two or three different pieces of head gear on a single ride. Sometimes the Buff will get saturated with sweat, or I will swap into a warmer hat for a long downhill section. I really like Buffs as they are very versatile. They can be used as an earband, hat, face mask, neck gaiter, etc.

Dressed for a cold, windy day (and descending). Buff used as a face mask, softshell beanie, and puffy jacket.

Dressed for a cold, windy day (and descending). Buff used as a face mask, softshell beanie, and puffy jacket.

For gloves I wear either lightweight or midweight windproof fleece gloves. Only occasionally will I wear the Montbell lobster mitts. Usually I will only break these out for a cold descent.

I take two bottles with me on most rides. On the right fork I have a 1 liter Nalgene bottle in an Outdoor Research water bottle parka strapped to a Salsa Anything Cage. On the left side I carry a 20 oz. insulated bike bottle in a regular bottle cage. Sometimes the bike bottle will freeze up but I have never had a problem with the Nalgene freezing.

1 liter Nalgene bottle in an insulated bottle "parka."

1 liter Nalgene bottle in an insulated bottle “parka.”

Insulated bike bottle on the left fork.

Insulated bike bottle on the left fork.

Here is a view of the cockpit from above.

The cockpit.

The cockpit.

I am currently using the Revelate Designs Mountain Feed Bag to carry my camera. It’s easy to get the camera in and out quickly. Lately I am using an Olympus E-PM2 with a Panasonic 14mm f/2.5  lens. I also use an Olympus OM-D E-M5 with various lenses, and a Nikon P300 point and shoot.

The Winters here are not that severe so the set-up described above has been adequate. I’ve ridden in temperatures as cold as Zero and was fine, but most of the time it’s usually in the 20’s. If I was riding in much colder weather I think pogies would be a good idea. The problem I have with them is that I get really hot climbing and my hands sweat. Many of the trails around here consist of long climbs, then you turn around and make a long descent. The challenge is finding something that is not too hot on the uphills but keeps you warm on the downhills. I usually end up wearing a light glove for the climbs, then a heavier glove for the descents.

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