The "How to dress warm riding in Marin County this winter" Guide

Many clients ask us how to dress appropriately for the changing temperatures of Marin County.  From summer to winter, the cold and warm micro climates actually change from the coast to the valleys and vice a versa. In the winter, the coast can actually be warmer than the inland valleys, drawing in fog and quite cold temperatures from the central valley. Most of us know the opposite affect occurs in the summer: warm inland air pulls the cold and sometimes wet conditions (FOG) from the Pacific Ocean. 

During much of the winter season (November through March), riding comfortably can be particularly difficult with the amount of climbing one must do to get in the miles (LSD rides).   Climbing any one of the local climbs quickly heats ups the core/body, sometimes causing excessive sweating. Result: a wet body from top to bottom.  If you do a Stinson Loop, for example, you climb several long climbs, followed by a cold, shaded descent to the sea.  Heading north along the coast or in West Marin, the shady north-facing sloops can be so cold that ice can cover the roads all day long. These changing conditions can make your clothing selection quite difficult. It occurred to me yesterday, while I set off on a short Muir Woods loop, that it might be fun to share some of our personal ride experience to our loyal followers in this challenging area called "suiting up." 

So what's the key to riding in these conditions?  Not only is layering correctly imperative to riding comfortably, but layering with the right layers, (i.e. the right weight of clothing) is particularly important.

Here is my general routine this time of year.  Follow these general tips to feel relatively confident you are putting on the right gear for most of the weather conditions here in Marin County: 

Believe it or not, I generally take a very brief, but hot shower on cold days.  I warm up my muscles, dry off, and proceed to apply a healthy application of Winter Embrocation to my legs (quads and knees).  I sometimes wear Winter Embro when I am riding in the rain and may not wear knee or leg warmers; but many times I apply it and then cover my legs.  Chamois butter next (sorry no photos or advice on application for this one; you must learn on your own). One key distinction, don't confuse chamois butter with Winter Embro!).

Next, I pull on either 3/4 knickers or full-length tights.  However, I find full leg warmers are the appropriate weight for most training days; they also provide extra versatility that is required for the changing weather conditions. For the early-morning commuter, however, I find 3/4 or full length tights are the perfect choice for quick on-and-off dressing. My new favorite product in this category is the Rapha leg warmers. Fully articulated with flat-lock stitching, these leg warmers offer a nice balance of thickness and comfort and stay positioned very well throughout the ride.

Please keep in mind,  if I am caught mid dress at this point, my wife usually laughs and walks away, reminding me how silly I must look half naked with leg warmers covering my legs only and the smell of  embrocation wafting in the air. Imagine, heart rate strap intact, leg warmers pulled up all the way to the top of my thighs and nothing else but my bare skin.

I now pull on a next-to-skin wool & technical base layer, typically the Rapha merino wool shortsleeve or sleeveless version. I save the V-neck versions for casual outings. Once on, I pull on my favorite bibs, right now they are the Capo GS bib technology used to make the Studio Velo Custom GS Kit. Follow this step with a matching top (no one can see me in a matching top of course, but if I stop at The Station SF or Cibo, I need to look good on the way to and from the bathroom, right?) and you are almost ready. 

Next step, my most important outer layer for this time of year:  I usually select among one of the following, depending on the temperature  and the difficulty of my effort. 

If it's really cold, my go-to jacket is the Capo Padrone Thermal Jacket:  Made up of a windproof outer layer and a mid-level fleece lining, this is the perfect cold weather jacket due to extra moisture protection layer, Shark® and Windtex® wind proof membrane, with micro fleece back and Super Roubaix® Carbon lateral stretch panels. Temp range is near 30deg on the low end. 


If it's in the 40s, we really love the new Assos iJ. shaq Uno Jacket which looks so good on the road, that is, it makes everyone look fast; it also offers the same highly functional qualities that Assos is known for.  The fit is tight, however, so it's only for the slender riders. 



And if it's variable conditions, in the high 40s to low 50s, I will likely wear a Capo or Rapha vest, depending on what best matches my bottom side. Rapha is stylish and functional but for this time of year, the Capo Padrone vest, with the two-way zipper is handy beyond belief. 

Finally, and most importantly, I grab a good pair of winter gloves (we probably have the best selection from Rapha, Capo & Assos than in any past year), the Rapha Winter collar (probably the most incredible piece in my entire accessory quiver, many times overlooked but worn by the entire Studio Velo Master squad), along with a pair of Rudy Project photo-chromtic sunglasses which work well in the changing light conditions.  Some times I wear overshoes, some times I wear overstocks.  But I always wear a good pair of wool socks!


One important addition:  if it is really cold and I am planning on doing a hard interval or two, particularly up hill, I bring an extra base layer for the top, undress quickly, and put a fresh, dry base layer on for the descent. This is a "pro" move that was taught to me years ago. It has truly saved my bacon.  It's not like anyone will be standing at the top of Tam handing out newspaper for guys and girls like us. 

So, get prepared for our weekly Sunday's ride, 8am at Studio Velo,  and feel free to ask us how to be better prepared for these winter conditions. 



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