This is what dressing for success for a 1.5 hour recreational ride at 15 degrees looks like (I have no idea who’s ugly toes those are ;-)).
Continuing with the Getting Around Using pedals theme. I really hate the term “weather wimp” some people just don’t like being cold. However, there do seem to be a number “cold curious” people out there and living somewhere where the winters are long and cold I think looking at “cold positive” attire is warranted. And, of course, once you get the clothes right your not cold anyway.
Just a quick note to start things off, wearing layers and clothing that wicks moisture is key here. There are lots of good options here and tons of info on the web about this, so I’m not going to rehash it here.
Starting on the left. Lightly insulated cycling boots and wool ski socks to keep the feet warm. Those boots are actually made for temps that are a little warmer than 15 degrees, but they’re fine for an hour or two of riding where there are plenty of places that you can stop for a warm-up if you do get too cold. If I was going out in the boonies I would have worn insulated hiking boots instead. Cross-country ski boots aren’t ideal for riding, but they’ll work in a pinch.
On the lower half I’ve got wool bib-knickers (about the same warmth as medium weight long underwear) that overlap with my ski socks and a fairly windproof wool stretch tight over the knickers. On this afternoon’s ride that was perfect, neither to hot or too cold and since I was wearing wool with some breathability to it I didn’t get sweaty.
Moving up I had a lightweight long underwear top with a hoodie, which I wore under the bib-knickers. I love these “hoodie shirts” they help block the wind from getting next to your neck, which will cool you really fast, without being bulky. Hoodie shirts are also great as depending on how cold you are you can wear the hood under a hat, just your hat, or just your hoodie A heavy-ish weight bike jersey goes over the top of the hoodie shirt and bib-knickers. The jacket I was wearing is bike specific, but any of the lighter weight quilted jackets that outdoor clothing companies are making would work just fine. Over the top of it all goes a windproof shell. Like everything else that shell, which doesn’t appear to be made any more (drat!), is a bike specific jacket that works just fine for other things, but you could do it the other way around as well. On the faster and cooler sections of the ride my torso would get a little chilled, but it’s just a little chill not like your getting hypothermia or anything and after a couple minutes I’d be working harder, getting warmer, and starting to unzip my shell to cool off a bit. This set up worked really well.
On my head I went for a lightweight wool beanie with my hoodie under it and a bike helmet on top of everything. At first I thought I might have gone too light on my hat choice, but my head heated up in a couple of minutes and was fine for the rest of the ride.
For my hands I went with a windproof and lightly insulated pair of gloves with liners underneath them. These were just barely warm enough, if it was a longer ride or had gotten colder I would have needed a warmer glove. But, it’s not like I would have lost a finger to the cold or anything, I would just have had hands that were a little cold. And, again, I was riding in the city with all sorts of places to warm up and get a bite to eat if had started to get too cold.
The key here is heat management. You never want to be so cold that the cold is a problem or really miserable, but you don’t want to get so warm on the climbs and places where you’re working hard and start to “sweat out.”