MOUNTAIN BIKE LAYERING GUIDE
- Advice from SV Partner & Cycling Aficionado, Chris Reed -
As the temperatures drop and the days become shorter, we often favor the knobby tires and tacky trails over the slick and slippery roads. But choosing the right gear to deal with all of our Marin micro-climates can be more challenging for the dirt than it can be for the road.
Steep climbs found on the trials around here can make it easy to overheat when you’re dressed warmly, and exposed descents can leave you cold to the core if you’re not covered correctly. Choosing the right layers can make it a much more enjoyable day (or night) on the trails.
Starting from the feet up…..
A proper wool sock is essential in keeping your feet warm. My favorite is the Varisty sock from Kitsbow. They are the perfect thickness and have held up well to lots to lots of riding in cold and wet conditions. I have yet to find a great shoe cover for dirt riding, so I designate my oldest pair each season to the dirt if I need the extra warmth and protection there.
Kitsbow shorts are the only overshort I have found that I actually enjoy riding in. The slimmer cut keeps them from getting caught on the saddle and the amazing choice of fabrics and construction keep them from interfering with pedaling motions. They are the perfect layer to pull over your favorite bib shorts to keep the cold off and to keep you looking good. I will generally wear the Ventilated short during the summer and switch to the Haskell Short as it gets a bit colder. Make sure you get them about a ½ size small as they will stretch a bit once you start riding.
The most difficult part of the layering process comes with keeping your core warm. I find that starting off just a little cold is usually a safe bet, unless I know the weather is going to get worse. Starting some kind of base layer is always a good bet. On cooler days I will select an ASSOS Fall weight base layer. On really cold days, I might opt for a long sleeve base layer, but it’s rare that we have those conditions around here. On top of the base layer I like to run one of Kitsbow’s Ride Tees. They are constructed from Merino wool and Polyester, making them light, warm and breathable.
On top of the Ride Tee I will either wear a vest or a jacket. The Kitsbow Wind Vest is the perfect outer layer for a cool start when I know it’s going to warm up. It keeps the chill off the your core, and it’s easy to unzip and re-zip while riding to regulate body temperature. Plus it stows away nicely if you need to remove it. For colder days or for those who run a bit cooler, I could recommend the Kitsbow Wind Jacket.
One of my favorite pieces from Kitsbow is their Mixed Shell Jacket. It’s the perfect outer layer for this time of year and it is incredibly versatile. I will pair it with a base layer and jersey on cold days, or just a base layer if it isn't too chilly. It has great ventilation zips that are easy to open and close while riding, and do an amazing job regulating temperature. This jacket is also incredibly water resistant, so I will wear it if there is a chance for rain.
Arm and knee warmers are a great way to add some warmth to any ride. Kitbow’s versions are incredibly well constructed, and super abrasion resistant, and durable enough to last through many seasons of tough riding. Plus, their articulated cut helps keep them in place while you’re getting bounced around on the mountain bike.
While I occasionally see people riding without gloves on the mountain, my preference it to keep my hands covered. POC makes a great glove, called the Index Air, which is super light, but still provides good protection and a bit of warmth. And the silicone grippers provide great feel for braking and shifting, even when it’s cold and wet.
Keeping your head warm is another great way to make your cold weather rides more enjoyable. Kitsbow makes a great cap, called Obsessives Cycling Cap that provides just the right amount of warmth, but also helps keep the rain out of your eyes with it's stylish and useful brim.
While we all love finishing (and sometimes starting) our road rides at a local coffee shop, we seem to find ourselves finishing a lot of our mountain bike rides at a local beer stop. Sometimes it’s nice to ditch the wet and muddy gear for something comfortable and warm while you indulge on a pint or 2. I have found some of Kitsbow’s casual pieces to be the perfect match for this. Their Merino Mountain Hoodie or Alpha Snap Jacket are my favorites to change into when I’m off the bike, but I have to say that the Icon shirt is a bit of a local favorite as well.