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guide
sub-zero survivalism
 

words by Hagen Bender

header photo by Anna Semerow

The calm inside, the white outside and the right garms in between.

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Additional photography by Anna Semerow, Martin Henrysson, Reuben Hansman & Hagen Bender


Most cyclists frown upon riding through the cold season, judging by how seldom I encounter other riders when I’m out these days. For me, getting on the bike in winter has always been a no-brainer and is more a matter of preparation.

I got hooked on cycling in autumn so why would I stop a few weeks later only because the temperatures dropped? My mindset hasn’t changed since — what has changed is my experience and how I find the right balance between freezing and sweating.

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keep it slow
When the daylight drops to its annual minimum, performance inevitably follows. Accepting this natural cycle wasn’t easy in the beginning but I now roll with the slowness.

Literally. The keep-it-easy attitude is the key for staying warm and dry because it prevents sweating too much, which will eventually soak the clothes and cause the dreaded freezing. Another benefit of going slow in winter is building the endurance base that is so vital for kicking ass when sun and warmth return.

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layer up
Layered clothing is far from innovative, it’s so effective that it’s just common sense. My standard dressing-up procedure starts with a woolen base layer, or several for when temperatures drop well below zero.

Natural fibers wick away moisture most effectively and even seem to remain relatively warm when soaking wet. Rapha’s Pro Team jacket takes the forefront with windproof fabric in the front and highly breathable material on the sides and back. The pockets leave more than enough space for riding essentials, which would be mainly extra gear on my back. I never leave home without a rain jacket, which comes in as a last-resort thermal shield because of its low breathability.

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featured products: legs
After unboxing the Pro Team Winter Tights, they struck me as very technical and well tailored. What counts though is their performance and that’s where they deliver, unsurprisingly. The tights are incredibly comfortable to wear and honestly fit like a second skin. DWR (durable water repellent) panels on the quads and in the front protect against cold and wet, whereas the frontal bit appears to be particularly valuable for your jewels when rain drips off your belly.

Even in sub-zero conditions I still feel comfortably warm and the frontal fabric deflects the now crystalline precipitation. Only when it gets really arctic up here in Sweden, I bring it all on and wear some extra short bibs and Deep Winter Socks or similar.

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feet
Luckily I am blessed with good circulation in my extremities but that causes some odd struggles like overheating and sweating. The Rapha Overshoes are made of a thin neoprene that can wick away this moisture pretty well so they keep my feet warm and dry down to -5°C.

For anything below that, knee-high socks and woolen inlays do the trick for me but I’ve also seen people wearing two pairs of overshoes! Anyway, what would winter riding be without some episodes of freezing toes and wiggling to get them warm again?

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head & co.
At first, the Pro Team Winter Hat seemed to be quite small on my rather large head. It felt a little restrictive and didn’t fully cover my ears. I must have widened the hat because it feels comfortable now and the ear bits keep in place when tucked over my collar. However, additional sizes would be a huge upgrade.

As for the neck, the Winter Collar is probably my most essential accessory. As much as my hands and feet tend to stay warm, I easily get cold above my neck so I keep half my face wrapped up before the temperature drops to anywhere near freezing. The collar’s merino seems to be too thin at first glance, but warms me nevertheless — it must be some woolen magic working here…

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hands
The Softshell Gloves have the Pro Team-typical tight but non-constricting fit, which means that shifting, breaking and grip feel super direct. They are comfortable to wear but when the fabric gets wet, my hands chill down really quickly. This means unfortunately they are also not sweatproof and my fingers got numb in hard sessions.

All in all, surviving the Nordic winter on the bike is finding the sweet spot between riding easily and the correct n+1 layers of clothes to keep me warm and dry. Performance-oriented gear is just one, but important, cog in the stay-in-the-comfort-zone wheel and it made a big difference for me. If any season, it’s definitely the cold time of the year where any investment in a good jacket and bibs pays off.

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Thanks to Rapha for providing the reviewed clothes.

worth sharing?

Name: Hagen Bender
Age: 28
Lives in: Stockholm, Sweden
Profession: PhD Student
Bikes: Canyon Aeroad, Canyon Inflite AL
Cameras: cell phone (HTC M8)
Best place cycle: Any narrow road with little traffic.
Follow on Velonode@hhaaggeenn
www: climbingdiaspora
Instagram: @hhaaggeenn

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