If you live in the northers hemisphere like I do, you know that winter and spring riding can be an adventure. You really never know what you are going to encounter out on the roads. I have ridden in rain, snow, hail, temperatures below 25*, gravel, and even crashed on my share of ice. Every year I have gotten a little better at dressing for the weather, and now feel like I have finally figured out a comfortable setup for winter riding. I will say it took a lot of freezing rides to get things figured out :).
This is something new I tried this year, but it is probably my new favorite cycling tool hand down! Yes fenders make your sweet road or TT bike look a little goofy, but their ability to keep the water off you can't be matched. I love my fenders! I use a fender that is a quick on off setup. If I am heading out the door and it looks like it is going to rain, it only takes me 2 min to put my fenders on my bike. Most of the time I find myself simply leaving them on. Besides keeping you dry they also help keep dirt off of your clothes and the back of your bike. Currently I use the SkS race blade fender.
This is something that has taken me a while. But I now think I have finally found a solution that works for me. I wear a combination of 3 things on my feet in the winter. The first is a wool sock. Wool wicks moisture but it also has the ability to hold some heat even when wet. As far as keeping your feet dry, I have tried everything. I have even tried wrapping my feet in plastic bags before putting booties over them and somehow water still seems to get in(sometimes it is from sweating, and soaking your feet from the inside out). What I have finally found that works is wearing two sets of booties. Yes it sounds a bit odd, but this is what I do. First I slip on a Neoprene bootie that is very thick and holds heat. Then on top of that I pull on another bootie that is waterproof, windproof and breathable. The second bootie is not thick but it helps block the wind and water out. So far the longest i have gone is 2.5 hours in the pouring rain this year, but for those 2.5 hours my feet stayed warm and did not get wet. Any thick neoprene bootie works. The waterproof one that I use is the Pearl Izumi Pro Barrier WXB, and I am very happy with it.
Covering your core
This for me was the most expensive part of winter riding. I always wondered if the more expensive jackets performed better in harsh conditions. I never wanted to spend a ton of money in the past so I would always buy one of those neon yellow jackets and just put lots of layers on underneath. This year I finally Bought a nicer cycling Jacket and it was worth every penny I spent on it. Even in temperatures below 30* it preforms great. It is waterproof, windproof, and still breathes. When I am climbing I zip it down about a third to let some heat out. On flats and downhills I zipp it completely up to hold in the heat. Underneath this jacket I wear a very thin long sleeve moisture wicking shirt, then a little bit thicker layer (depending on how cold it is, usually less than 30*). with my fenders being first, this is my second favorite winter riding tool. The Jacket I use is the Pearl Izumi Pro Softshell JKT.
They are big and goofy looking, but they keep your hands toasty warm and dry. If it is 43* or below I won't ride without my lobster gloves. If it gets above this temperature I wear my all time favorite running glove from manzella the hatchback.
This really can be any thin beanie. You just need to make sure it is thin enough to fit underneath your helmet. My favorite one to wear is a red beanie that I received at the onion man triathlon many years ago. Wearing something on your head helps a ton! Without it I notice my head gets cold fairly quickly.
Covering your legs
As long as my feet are warm, my legs never really bother me. It is probably because this is the part of your body that is working the hardest, and generating heat. I rotate between a pair of fleece lined bib tights and some pearl izumi cycling pants that pull over your bib shorts. Both work great and both keep me warm. Tights that are cycling specific do work a little better than running tights because they are designed to block out more wind.
When the Snow Piles up
Sometimes mother nature has other plans and no matter how hard to try a ride is just not going to happen. I have gotten better about riding my trainer this year. One thing that has made a world of difference for me, is watching something that motivates me. Me neighbor loaned me the 2007 tour on DVD and it has been awesome. My rule is I can't get off the trainer until they finish their stage. No matter how much I am suffering I watch the video and realize how much I need to pick it up. Nothing like watching the best in the world to motivate you to stick with it.
Yes I wear a lot of pearl Izumi stuff, but I am not sponsored by them. I buy all the stuff. Really other brands make very comparable products that work just as well. I am just telling you specifically what I wear :).