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I was riding all day on Sunday in temperatures that peaked a few degrees above freezing, but dry apart from the odd snow or hail shower.

It was cold enough to need layers. As I tried not to hang around outdoors, my top half was fine with just a short-sleeve jersey under bib tights and a long-sleeve jersey over, plus a buff round my neck, double gloves and home made wrist/forearm warmers. My legs and feet were fine too - 2 thin pairs of socks and pedalling effort. I didn't even need my shoe covers on.

But in between was an issue. I didn't want anything under the good chamois of the bib tights, I didn't want two layers of gel padding, but I wanted more insulation than just the bib tights. So I went for foam-padded shorts (the foam compresses quite quickly) over the tights. From an insulation point of view they were ideal - when they were in place, which was rarely. Every time I got going they caught on the saddle, and even just pedalling along seated they crept down. I think the problem is partly that cheap shorts don't grip, and expensive ones are normally gel. Loose-fitting stuff tends to get caught up and form lumps that rub, and it's nice to avoid the drag.

What are some tried and tested ways of layering for all-day rides in these temperatures? We've got a few questions on layers for cold commuting, but 12 hours door-to-door/200km is a bit different, and I expect the solutions will be, partly because of the need for something that works against the saddle. I regard minimising sweating as important; even decent wicking clothing gets cold fast if you're in the wind and damp with sweat.

  • If its cold enough, I wear long legwarmers which overlap my socks at the bottom and shorts cuff at the top. Over that I wear normal trousers. If its wet/raining I'll wear waterproof overtrousers on top again. In the future I'll by insulated waterproof trousers and forgo the normal trousers. Plus we have hot showers at work. – Criggie Feb 14 '18 at 23:31
  • Another option is to shield from the foreward wind only but keep warm by pushing harder. – Criggie Feb 14 '18 at 23:32
  • Unrelated, can you tell me more about your wrist/forearm warmers? Probably better on Bicycles Chat – Criggie Feb 14 '18 at 23:33
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    @Criggie pushing harder was part of the plan, but from 30km to 130km there were over 100 riders on narrow lanes and I happened to start at the back. I find normal gear over bike tights fine for commuting but it tends to find somewhere to rub even through the tights after a few hours. I've described my wrist warmers on chat, and I'll try to sort some pictures – Chris H Feb 15 '18 at 7:08
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For the kind of riding you describe, the best choice are windproof tights. You should look for the kind that has windproof membrane in the front, breathable fabric in the back and most importantly no padding. Underneath them you wear shorts or bib tights with chamois.

These are available from many cycling-specific brands, but the ones intended for nordic skiing work too.

If the membrane gets too warm, the next thing are winter running tights made of brushed lycra. Running-specific because they come without padding.

  • Running and skiing gear sounds good for avoiding padding. Cheaper too.I've ended up with a fair bit of poorly-padded stuff from buying cycling gear for shorter rides. – Chris H Feb 14 '18 at 22:12
  • +1 for running tights. I use them during nearly all the winter (except when it's too cold, like -10C). But you may have to put some shorts or similar since running tights lack any pockets – k102 Feb 15 '18 at 15:18
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    So do any bike-specific tights. On long rides you don't want anything attached to your legs anyway, that's what jersey pockets and saddle bags are for. – ojs Feb 15 '18 at 17:34

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