Part of the enjoyment of fat biking is being dressed properly. Simply stated: You don’t want to freeze, and you don’t want to overheat. Same as other cold weather activities, the key is LAYERING. The body produces lots of heat. The only chance we have to regulate body temperature and avoid overheating (biggest problem for beginners), is to layer properly.
RULE OF THUMB:
- You should be slightly cold when you start your ride. If you’re warm and toasty, you’ll definitely overheat the moment you start pedaling. That being said, you shouldn’t be shivering and going numb either. There is no “perfect” way to dress. It’s different for everybody and will require experimenting. Listen to your body. It will let you know when to add or shed a layer. Below is a guideline to get you going.
- A next to skin, moisture wicking layer is critical. It needs to get the sweat off your body and dry quickly. Oftentimes referred to as a “sweat transferring baselayer”. Merino wool or synthetics are great baselayers. In Mammoth, a lightweight baselayer is usually enough, although there are “thermal baselayers” that can be worn in the coldest conditions. Don’t wear cotton as a baselayer!! You’ll stay wet and clammy which equates to COLD!
- For your bottom half- cycling leg warmers, full-length chamois or bibs are fine. If you don’t have cycling clothing, you’ll be fine with synthetic long underwear, aka “long johns” (again, not cotton). Even if your legs feel fine without a baselayer, we recommend knee warmers to keep the fluid warm and your joints nice and lubricated for pedaling.
- Wearing a chamois will help with saddle comfort, especially on longer rides. If you don’t have any, it’s not the end of the world.
- This layer is going to insulate the heat that your body creates, keeping your core warm. Suitable mid-layers are cycling jerseys, fleeces, light sweaters, etc. Your legs are working and generating heat, so a bottom mid-layer is not usually needed.
- Many people like to shed the “mid-layer” first when they start to overheat, leaving their “shell” on over their baselayer – but it’s all personal preference.
- Jackets made of a “soft shell” material breathe well, and offer some water and wind resistance. These work great for fat biking. If you don’t have one, go with a “hard shell”. They are usually wind and waterproof, but don’t breathe as well, so your sweat won’t evacuate as well. A ski jacket is also suitable – remember to use your pit zips if you get hot.
- For your bottom half, you could wear soft shell pants, like those for nordic skiing. Or else, just having cycling leg warmers or full-length bibs is probably enough considering the heat your legs generate. If all you have is ski pants, those will work too. If your pants are baggy, remember to use a strap on your ankles to keep them from rubbing/ getting caught in the chainring. If it’s 30-40 degrees or higher, and you’re wearing ski pants, skip the long johns. Just wear regular underwear or a chamois. Ski pants don’t breathe well, and your legs will get wet and clammy.
- If you’re using platform pedals, any sort of winter boot is a great choice. Waterproof and breathable is nice. Hiking boots, nordic ski boots, or similar, are recommended. If you’re using clipless pedals, winter cycling boots like the Lake MXZ303 or 45NRTH Wolvhammer are ideal. Otherwise, putting winter booties over your cycling shoes will help keep your toes from freezing, but if you have to walk at all in deep snow, you might get snow in your shoes – not pleasant.
- As far as socks go, a typical “ski sock” works great. Wool, or synthetic wool will keep your feet warm, help wick moisture, and keep the stink factor at bay. If it’s not too cold out, or you have really warm winter cycling boots (like the ones mentioned above), a thin bike sock should be enough.
- We recommend helmets. A bike helmet or ski/snowboard helmet is fine. Ski/snowboard helmets tend not to breathe as well as a vented cycling helmet.
- A light stocking cap is a good idea for the head (especially if using a vented cycling helmet). It’s easy to take off and stick in a pocket if you’re too hot. If it’s really cold or windy a balaclava can be a great choice. Even if it’s not cold when you start, it’s a good idea to keep some head/face protection handy if the weather changes suddenly.
- Mid-weight, full-finger gloves should keep your fingers warm. Something like “Spring gloves” for skiers/boarders. Nordic skiing gloves work well also. If it’s below 20, consider specific Winter cycling gloves. Thicker ski gloves get too bulky to operate brakes, shifters, etc.
- Eye protection is a must. Sunglasses are fine if it’s not too cold- one’s with a lot of coverage are best. If very cold and/or windy/snowy – go with ski helmet/goggles combo.
- Don’t forget sunblock and lip balm
- Hydration – wear a camelbak or bring a water bottle. If you’re worried about water freezing, put your camelback between your mid-layer and shell. Rule of thumb, drink 24 0z water per hour. That’s one regular sized bottle per hour. Force yourself to drink – when it’s cold, you don’t feel thirsty.
- Nutrition – bring clif bars, gels, PB&J, banana, etc – whatever your preference is, but keep your body fueled.
- If traveling alone, make sure someone knows where you are riding and what time you should be back.
- Have at least a minimal tool kit and spare tube with you.
Hope this helps a little – now go have FUN!!!
Please shoot us an email if you have any questions.