Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Techie Tuesday: The Limits of Layering

I've come to really like chocolate. It has a rich, creamy, earthy taste, is a tremendous antioxidant, lowers your blood pressure, and makes pretty brain chemistry - but it's no substitute for sex. In the same way, there are many things to love about layering, but it's no substitute for warm, heavy clothing when you're out in the cold, and need it bad.

Reason enough to ride in the cold
Layering's strength is flexibility, and where temps and power changes are extreme, it's the dominate consideration. The drawback is bunching, overlapping layers at the waist, legs, arms, stowage for items peeled off, and total system protection levels. Arm and leg warmers you can fold up and stow in shells are perfect for early rides that start in the cold, or late day rides that finish in the cold - provided 2 layers and shells can provided enough protection.

It got down to 22 degrees here the other night, and riding the next day temps dropped from 52 to 40 in half an hour, with the bulk of the ride done at 38-40 degrees. That's well beyond a LS jersey, and arm and leg warmers with knee socks and shoe covers. Even with a BMI of 28, that's beyond 2 layers of vest shells too. It's also too cold for a micro-fleece balaclavas. Time to bring out the big guns!
Industrial strength head protection. The Barrier fabric around the face is not just wind-resistant, it's air-tight. You can't blow through it no matter how red-faced you're willing to get.
Barrier up front to prevent wind-induced brain-freeze, PRO thermal fabric behind for max insulation. Wear over clear glasses stems to keep the wind out from under the balaclava.
3 lenses in the box. Go with the clear. Great coverage, sheds winds well, and seals well against the PI headbands. Cleverly, the frame is cut away on the outside right above your pupils to keep from blocking your view when down in the drops (or aerobars)
Mountain Hardwear  Super Power 1/2 Zip Fleece. Polartec® PowerDry® XDye Fleece - 336 grams H-E-A-V-Y
Nice reflective details on the shoulders - shoulders that will keep yours warm
Marmot Powerstretch fleece is 200 weight powerstretch all the way through. Mine's labelled REI, and has neck fleece thick enough to keep yours from freezing. 227 grams. 
The PI Barrier Headband keeps your clear glasses in place without letting air under the PI Barrier Balaclava. Still better  if PI would put stem holes in their Balaclava, but as it is, the extra protection is a nice bonus to this work-around.

The Marmot Powerstretch fleece is a THICK base layer, and has a very thick collar.  No back pockets makes it much easier to tuck into tights, and a single base layer wicks much better than 2 thinner, unconnected layers. If it gets any colder, I'll have to spring for the Mountain Hardwear SuperPower fleece with glove-enveloping sleeves.

PI Barrier Convertible Vest providing wind protection, and enough venting to keep you dry inside.
If it had arrived in time, I would have worn my new PI Barrier Vest under the convertible one. The inner shell layer, zipped down 6-8 inches provides protection on the shoulders, while acting as a diffuser to vent without cold-spots.

High-Viz wind-proof, water-resistant
I ordered the vest a size larger, in part so I can stack the vests, and in part to leave room for my Columbia Ballistic II Fleece Jacket, which provides more insulation, and wind protection too.

Perfect outer layer, or middle layer with vest over it. leaving pit zips open to breathe. Mine's 6 yrs old and in perfect condition.
It seals out the wind, but with pit zips and a vest, you can still dump a lot of heat when climbing or if the day warms up. Hand pockets and another Napoleon pocket help store leg warmers and cell phones if the day warms up after an early start
PS:  It appears that Columbia has changed the pit zips to under-arm vents. Since the new under-arm venting would be entirely covered by a vest, the jacket is no longer a good layering piece. It is still a good outer layer, but be sure to buy a color with good visibility for use in that role.

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