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What to Wear Cycling at 15º - 25ºF

Posted by David on 11/13/18
Last modified: 01/13/23


Editor’s Note: Heading out at 15ºF (-9°C) can often be scary, but with a little knowledge, the right gear, and a few comfort foods to keep you fueled, it just might become your favorite time to ride. This week, David presents his gear:

Keeping Your Hands And Feet Warm While Cycling When It’s Below Freezing

Hands and feet are often the first body parts to get cold on a ride. Luckily, 45NRTH makes a variety of options to keep them warm and comfortable no matter the temperature or level of exertion. At this temp range, the Sturmfist 5 gloves are the go-to to keep my hands warm and dry. The merino liner wicks moisture, so even if I sweat, my hands stay warm. They provide a good amount of dexterity, too, which is great for controlling the bike and for when I stop for a few photos with my Fuji camera.

The Wolvhammer boot was one of the first projects I worked on as Brand Manager at 45NRTH. These boots have gone through a few revisions since the original launch in 2012, but the warmth has stayed consistent and should be considered when deciding what to wear cycling at 15 - 25ºF (-9° to -4°C). This year’s boots are the best yet. I never have to think about my feet getting cold while wearing them.

At this temp range, the knee-high socks offer the perfect amount of warmth without taking up too much space in the boots. The knee-high length adds a little insulation on the calves, too, which keeps blood warm as it flows to the feet.

Ventilation Is Key to Cycling When It’s Below Freezing

At these temps, layering with adjustable ventilation systems is key. The Naughtvind pants and jacket are the perfect combination for on and off bike comfort. While riding, the thigh and pit vents are usually open to allow for air flow and keep the body temp regulated.

Sweating at these temps can lead to getting cold later in the ride as the sun sets and the temps drop. Having the flexibility to open your vents while riding, then closing them when you stop to take pictures or eat a mid-ride snack makes all the difference in comfort throughout the ride.

Beneath the jacket, 1 or 2 lightweight wool base layers wick moisture to keep sweat off the skin while also preventing overheating. The 45NRTH Wool Tee is light enough to not overheat but provides just enough warmth to keep you comfortable at these temps. When the temps dip closer to the 15ºF (-9°C) mark, adding an additional lightweight layer, like the Smart Wool 150g long sleeve, adds a little more warmth, even if you sweat a little.

To top it off, combine the Stovepipe hat with the Blowtorch neck gaiter for great versatility while monitoring heat retention. The blowtorch is a super-versatile piece that can be used to keep your ears and face warm. You can also wear it around your neck to keep cold drafts from going down your jacket. Throw on some Oakley Radar EVs to keep the cold wind out of your eyes and you’re ready to ride!

Other Items to Bring With You While Cycling When It’s Below Freezing

In addition to my kit, I tend to carry a few other items on rides at these temps. Here’s a quick look at what’s in my bag:

  • Food for calories
  • Miscellaneous tools for the journey
  • More food to keep me warm

Big Chet’s Spicy Fennel Sausage by Red Table

My friend Mike Phillips started Red Table Meat’s 4 years ago in our hometown of Minneapolis. The spicy version of his cured salami collection has become my favorite for mid-ride snacks. The spiciness hits the spot on a cold afternoon and pairs perfectly with a super soft slice of brie cheese. This specific combination is a tasty, calorie-rich snack that bridges the gap between lunch and dinner during a cold afternoon ride.

Justin’s Almond Butter

Peanut butter sandwiches were a staple of mine as a teenager, so the Justin’s Almond Butter product immediately resonated with me. I don’t like sugar-filled energy foods while riding, so I prefer the compact, shot-sized almond butter to provide an energy boost and supplement of protein. They also happen to be tastier than most fast-energy foods on the market.

Opinel Knife

These can be easily found in the USA now, but I bought mine while traveling through Belgium so I could cut up baguettes, meat and cheese on-the-go. The high carbon steel blade keeps the knife sharp, and the wood handle is not only stylish, but light. The barrel around the blade attachment is convenient to use with gloves for when you need to secure the blade in place while open. Everything about this knife is perfect and awesome for winter fat biking and camping activities.

Nut Roll

This is a Midwest classic from my 1990s road racing days. Growing up in the woods of Northern Wisconsin, Power Bars were difficult to find and Clif Bar didn’t exist yet. Every gas station and convenience store had Pearson’s Salted Nut Rolls for sale in the standard and king size offerings.

These are perfect for fat biking in so many ways. They are packable and hold a long shelf life for when you forget them in your frame bag (c’mon, we all do it). The packaging allows you to partially eat them, and then stow them away (possibly forgetting them in your frame bag). They also pack a solid serving of protein, sugar and salt. This combination will snap you out of a mid-ride bonk, while also encouraging you to keep drinking fluids because of the salt. When I run out of Justin’s Almond Butter, these are always at the bottom of my bag for emergency calories.

Cycling when it’s below freezing for the first time can be a huge learning experience. Start with David’s suggestions and find what works best for you, except for the snack options — those are spot on. Riding in cooler or warmer temps? Check out our other clothing guides below so you’re properly dressed for your next ride: