Dress Like An Onion: The Art of Layering
The thing about the cold is that you can never tell how cold it is from looking out a kitchen window. You have to dress up, get out training and when you come back, you then know how cold it is.
– Sean Kelly
Apart from the obvious lesson in Rules #5 and #9, hidden within Sean’s sage advice lies a paradox: if we can never tell how cold it is until we’ve arrived home from our ride, then how are we to determine how much kit to wear?
The Kelly Paradox is the layering equivalent of the Goldilocks Principle, wherein we aim to be neither overdressed, causing us to overheat sweat excessively, nor underdressed, causing us to needlessly lose energy through shivering and to hate life at a conceptual level. By extension, it also implies that whatever choice you make, you will get it wrong.
The answer lies in the art of layering, wherein one deploys several layers of clothing that can be unzipped, shed, and added back as both the temperature and the engine room heat up and cool back down throughout a ride.
The first rule of kitting up is that we should expect to be chilly for the first ten or fifteen minutes, allowing for the body to warm up and start producing its own heat to counter the cool outside temperatures. But this may not account for changing temperatures throughout the ride, and therefor we will need to be prepared to alter the composition of the kit.
The second rule of kitting up is that unless it is mid-summer, you are likely to misjudge the weather, so you should be prepared to make adjustments en route. Please observe the following pointers when kitting up for your ride.
- Always wear a base layer, which should be made of wicking material and is designed to keep the skin of your torso dry. In colder weather, heavier wool base layers may be used as an insulation layer against the skin.
- Long Sleeve jerseys and full leggings are always encouraged at the café for pre-ride espressi unless it is genuinely warm and sunny, in which case one is encouraged to bask in the sun and admire you own guns, Boonen-style.
- Arm warmers are preferable to long sleeve jerseys unless the weather is sufficiently cool or the temp sufficiently moderate to ensure the long sleeve jersey will not be shed throughout the ride. Arm warmers may be slipped down to the wrists for further cooling. Under no circumstances, however, are the sleeves of a long sleeve jersey to be pulled up towards the elbows to regulate temperature.
- A gilet should be considered before a long sleeve jersey as it can be easily removed and stowed mid-ride. A gilet should be light and close-fitting like a jersey. When stowing, fold flat in thirds from top to bottom, then in half along the zipper. Slip this between your jersey and bibs rather than into a jersey pocket. This should be done for bonus Casually Deliberate points while riding hands-free.
- It is acceptable for any and all layers to be unzipped and allowed to flap in the wind, emphasizing how hard you are crushing it. Additional Casually Deliberate points are also available for zipping back up while riding hands-free, particularly when doing so while cresting a climb with fools suffering on your wheel.