5 Tips for Cold Weather Riding

Pathletes Leslie Williams and Brooke McFerren (right) brave the elements on Harding Truck Trail in 2019.

Pathletes Leslie Williams and Brooke McFerren (right) brave the elements on Harding Truck Trail in 2019.

With daylight hours diminishing, many riders find themselves sneaking mid-week rides in before work or after dark this time of year. While Southern California rarely experiences the kind of cold our neighbors to the north endure during the winter months, temps can and do dip into the 30s and 40s overnight, particularly in the canyons and at higher elevations in our local mountains (which also receive snow a couple of times per year), making for chilly morning and night rides. If it’s foggy and misty out, as it has been lately, cold weather is not out of the question for daytime rides.

Here are 5 tips for being prepared for cooler weather:

1) Pack a jacket. Stash a lightweight rain or wind jacket in your pack, and leave it there throughout the winter months. You'll always be prepared in case of an unexpected storm rolling in, long breaks, or for a chilly descent after a sweaty climb.

2) Bring extra gloves/socks. Working hard on long climbs can result in sweat-soaked gloves and socks, making for cold extremities once you stop moving and when riding downhill. Consider packing an extra pair of each to avoid numb fingers and feet later in the ride. A lightweight beanie is also nice to have.

3) Wear wicking fabrics. Wool and synthetic fabrics stay warmer when wet but are breathable in warmer temps, so consider wearing taller wool socks to help keep your toes toasty. A wool jersey can also help keep you warm early in the ride, but won't be too insulating when the sun comes out. Avoid 100 percent cotton, which takes longer to dry. 

4) Layer up. Temperatures can swing upwards of 40 or 50 degrees when the sun comes out, so for longer rides, dress in layers and make sure you have a place to carry them when it's time to take them off. Also consider knee warmers for chilly days. These take up very little space in your pack, and are a good thing to have at the ready. And, besides offering protection, knee and elbow pads also add a layer of warmth on a cold day. Pants are also a great option if temps are expected to stay cool throughout the ride. 

5) Pack emergency gear. On longer and remote rides, carry a warmer jacket, a hat, extra food and water, a space blanket, and other gear that might make being caught out in the cold more comfortable. Mechanicals, crashes and other unforeseen delays might keep you out longer than you planned for, so having some creature comforts stashed in your pack will ensure you are ready to handle the unexpected. 

BONUS: For long rides in the mountains, stash a hot drink in a thermal mug in your pack, and maybe a baked good to go with it. Not only will it warm you from the inside out, it will give you something to look forward to at the top of a long climb!