Although some might laugh at the proposition, it DOES get cold in Alabama in the winter. Not Minnesota or Iowa cold, but we definitely have some chilly months in the year. The only thing bike riders around here bitch about more than the heat is the cold. Maybe it is because we don't have enough of it to actually know what to do when it arrives.
My friend Scott recently did a post on his website about his cold weather gear for the Tour Divide that you can check out here: Bears, bears, and some clothing stuff.
I was inspired to write down part of my own setup after talking to Pete about what he needed to get setup with to ride through the winter as he gets ready for Trans Iowa.
I am going to go from the top down with this because that is what popped in my head first.
Any helmet that has room underneath for a hat or balaclava. Being warm is pointless if you can't get a helmet on.
Gore Windstopper hat below 40F and a Smartwool neck gaiter goes on in the low 30s
Smith Pivlock glasses have broad coverage. Protect your eyes in the cold, it can do really odd things to your vision.
Bici Coop Racing kit for starters. Gotta represent, brah.
Defeet SS Wool base and Swiftwick arm warmers go on under 60F.
Twin Six wind vest with mesh back under 55F.
Montane windshirt goes on at 40F when the arms start getting cold. This is good down to about 25F!
Patagonia Nanopuff as emergency insulation, I've never been cold enough to ride in it but its nice to have.
Patagonia Torrentshell hooded rain jacket for full on storms. The windshirt has a DWR coating that can handle showers but the real deal is nice if the weather totally goes to shit.
Meh, hands are tough. I can use normal long fingered gloves down to 50F.
Outdoor Research Vert gloves go on after that, these are thin softshell gloves that are warm down to 35F.
I have some MLD Event rain mitts that can go on if it storms or gets super cold BUT have not used them much yet. Bringing two pairs of gloves is actually a really good system as you always have a dry pair to put on!
This part is easy. Start off with bib shorts.
Knee warmers go on at 60F. I have some Pearls that are decent but want some wool ones.
Tights or Rivendell knickers below 40F. I have been down to 20F like this without issue.
Patagonia Torrentshell rain pants chopped to knickers if it comes a big ol' storm.
The worst part of all. Feet are nothing more than dumb hands, especially when it comes to staying warm and dry. I wear wool socks all year round. If I am racing in the cold I just wear normal shoes and let my feet stay wet and cold, it doesn't bother me much. For other riding I have a kickass pair of Shimano MW81 winter boots. If it is below 35F I use a wool sock plus GoLite nylon VBL sock to prevent sweat from soaking the insulation of the boot. Pretty simple.
All of this has worked really well and is still warm enough if it gets wet, which it will, from sweat or rain. There is no such thing as a "breathable waterproof" anything for exercising so don't obsess over finding it. Find things that are warm when damp. The things described above have a very flexible temp range. I have pondered getting one of Gore's Windstopper jackets and tons of people like them but I feel like I have more control over ventilation and whatnot with the windshirt setup. A typical layering setup is described as base, insulation, then some sort of shell. I feel like this is poor advice if you are working hard on a bike. You just end up sweating through all the precious stay warm stuff and BOOM, you're cold again.
Jeez, that was way longer than I expected. Kudos to anyone that read through all that!