Wicking Layers are really worth it when it’s cold

One of the drawbacks of being a stick-insect-type cyclist, is that the as the temperature dips, you really notice your lack of insulation. I’m not going to complain too much about it. After all, I don’t think there are too many cyclists who would ask for a few kgs of fat, just so they feel a bit warmer in the middle of the winter.

michelin man bicycle

But, it does mean that when the temperature dips close to zero, I leave the house, feeling a little bit like the Michelin man. Last Saturday I counted a record ten layers of thermal under-vest, thermal jackets, and a few random summer cycle jerseys thrown in just for good measure.

The crazy thing is I don’t really have a good thermal jacket. I have a thin thermal fleece from Impsport, but it doesn’t counteract much of the cold. Instead, I go for the layered approach, putting on tightest fitting first and finishing with those with have stretched over the years.

A drawback of all this layered approach is that it feels really tight around the arm pits and shoulders – all those 10 layers (plus 2 bib tights) start to make movement a little uncomfortable.

Because of this, I thought I was being really clever by taking an old T-shirt and cutting off the arms (like picture below).
T Shirt no arms

But, I found this T-Shirt really does have a drawback – it holds onto sweat like anything. At the start of a five hour ride on Saturday (5 degrees), I got very sweaty after 30 minutes. I noticed there was a lot of sweat trapped in my clothes.  It felt uncomfortable all the way to Stow on the Wold. When I turned home away from the headwind, it felt better. But, it’s not nice having a feel of cold sweat trapped under your clothes.

When I got home, I noticed all those expensive wicking layers, were relatively dry. But, this old T-shirt was as wet as the insides of my water bottle.

Cheap and cheerful isn’t always good. Now I have to just bring myself to cut arms off some expensive wicking layers or buy a proper thermal jacket.

Well, after that rather unpleasant experience of feeling wet and cold, I spent a lot of the rider repeating the mantra ‘merino wool underlayer’ They say hungry people fantasise about food. A wet and cold cyclist can’t help but think of the magical properties of merino wool.

(note to any relatives who might read this blog and are wondering what to get my for Christmas. These dhb merino wool underlayers would make a super Christmas present (size L or M)   – Really any cyclist wouldn’t mind another good thermal under-layer.

The cheap and cheerful cut down t-shirt is in the bin. It did more harm than good.

November Record

November was a kind of personal record for biggest monthly mileage total ever.  It feels a bit strange doing so much cycling at this time of the year, which is probably the ideal time to take a break. There’s no real immediate target of the cycling, just something to do as much as anything.



439 km for week ending Dec 1st, including a few hours on the rollers.


2 Responses to Wicking Layers are really worth it when it’s cold

  1. Paul Jakma December 7, 2012 at 1:18 am #

    One word: wool


  1. What to Wear? – The Voice of Experience - December 19, 2012

    [...] I get that this has to be approached with layering in mind, but honestly I have zero experience with this. Just when I think I have an idea of what I need to get/wear, I read something like this: Wicking layers are really worth it when it's cold [...]

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