Whether it's drizzling rain in the Willamette Valley, freezing clear in Bend or foggy and damp in Medford, some folks thumb their noses at the weather and ride their bicycles all winter long. To quote one of my friends: "There is no such thing as bad weather for bicycling, just inadequate clothing."
Staying comfortably warm and dry on winter rides requires a "www" approach, as in choosing fabrics that are wicking, windproof and waterproof. Layering is essential for maintaining body heat and regulating perspiration, allowing you to build a microclimate around your body and adjust it to various moisture, wind, temperature and exertion levels as you ride.
I took a tour of cycling Web sites, catalogs and local stores, looking for the latest cycling gear best suited to the vagaries of Oregon's winter weather. Although I haven't tried everything listed here, these are some of the items that piqued my interest. Check out the company Web sites listed at www.OregonOutdoors. com to find a store that carries these products near you.
A base layer should transport moisture away from the skin and disperse it to the outer layers where it can evaporate. The Assos Winter Body Insulator, a versatile, super-soft PowerStatic base layer, was engineered to keep your body temperature warm and stable across a wide range of temperatures. A high-loft inner surface insulates your body, drawing moisture to the outside of the fabric for quick evaporation. Anti-microbial X-Static silver fibers are permanently knit into the fabric to neutralize odor-causing bacteria. A tall, zippered collar protects the neck and chest from cold drafts. $146.
Mid layers provide insulation and transport moisture away from the inner layer. Castelli's 170 Wind Jersey features a "smart," breathable fabric that is designed specifically for aerobic effort in cold weather. Fleece-lined fabric covers the chest, arms and shoulders to effectively block out the wind, yet allows two-percent airflow penetration to enhance ventilation and maintain dryness during exertion. Fleeced Thermoflex on the back and sides provides warmth, moisture management and stretch. $150.
The outer layer protects you from the cold and wet elements, but should allow air to circulate and excess moisture to escape. The new Hincapie Tour Jacket features a special lightweight, breathable, waterproof/windproof WindTex fabric that provides superior packability for easy storage in a jersey pocket. $150.
Cyclists in Western Oregon who battle the torrential rains should consider the Showers Pass Elite 2.0 Jacket. Completely waterproof with fully taped seams, the jacket uses Event fabric to vent moisture through microscopic pores, offering 50 percent better breathability than comparable laminates. A two-way, waterproof front zipper, 11-inch armpit zippers, and a large back vent offer optimal ventilation and prevent overheating. Details include elastic cinch-cords at the collar and waist, soft micro-chamois inner collar, zippered chest pocket, zippered back pocket on drop tail, reflective accents and gusseted-cuffs to secure the fit. $210.
Comfortable winter cycling requires the added protection of bibbed, long-legged tights to negate the effects of cold temperatures on the legs. Descente's Coldout insulated bib tight, built with stretchy fabric to enhance muscle support, moisture transfer and breathability, fills the bill. A soft-brushed inner surface provides exceptional warmth while the breathable D-Vente mesh bib helps you maintain a constant body temperature. $130.
Warm feet are essential to a comfortable winter ride. Sidi's Hydro GTX Winter Shoe, developed for the roadie who just won't train indoors, features a boot with a neoprene cuff, billowed tongue and Gore-Tex® membrane to ensure that feet stay warm and dry on even the messiest days. $330.
Keep those hands and fingers warm with the Pearl Izumi Inferno Glove that combines a waterproof AmFib fabric shell, a fleeced liner glove and a split-finger design to offer the warmth of a mitten with the mobility of a glove. $65.
Cover your head with a Craft Gore WS Scull Cap that features a Windstopper® outer shell and soft microfleece inner lining and fits easily under a helmet. $30.
Cyclists who brave extreme low temperatures should tuck their noses behind the Gore Face Warmer. It provides protection against biting wind and cold. Constructed with Windstopper® Soft Shell fabric, it is windproof and water-resistant, yet allows moisture vapor to escape. An opening for the nose and additional perforations for the mouth aid in ventilation. $26.