Those of us in the Upper Midwest have already had a few fairly cool morning bike rides. While it is very tempting to just “tough it out” in cool weather, you really ought to keep your knees covered. As Hughes and Kehlenbach explain in Distance Cycling, “The knee has poor circulation. If your knees get cold, blood won’t reach them and they may become injured. You can avoid this by wearing knee or leg warmers until temperatures exceed 60° F.” I try to put off wearing knee or leg warmers as long as possible, so I apply DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream on my legs before I ride and have been very happy with the results.
Embrocation creams contain vasodilators that warm up the skin and muscles. They also create a weather-proof barrier that protects your skin from the elements. For many of us, embrocation creams are the main reason we shave our legs (just don’t shave your legs on the same day you use an embrocation cream). About 15 minutes before you go out for a ride you massage this cream into the exposed areas of your legs. It will take several minutes before you feel the cream working, but once it does you will be able to ride for several hours in cool weather without having your legs cramp up from the cold. The DZ Nuts InHeat Embrocation Cream washes off easily with just soap and water, but you can still feel it a bit even after you are out of the shower.
Make sure you put this cream on your legs after you have put your cycling shorts on! If you put the cream on your legs first and then pull your cycling shorts up some of the cream will stick to your chamois. This cream has capsicum in it and if the capsicum comes in contact with your ‘nads you are going to experience a level of pain that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have never even dreamed about. DZ Nuts InHeat Embrocation Cream comes in three strengths (low, medium and high). The low heat cream is good for rides down to around 50 degrees. A six-ounce tube retails for around $20, but you can find it cheaper on Amazon.com. You should be able to get at least 15 rides out of a single tube.
If you would rather not use an embrocation cream you should get a pair of Gore Bike Wear Ozon Knee Warmers. These lightweight knee warmers will keep you comfortable when the temperature is in the 50′s and you can easily take them off when the temperature hits the 60′s.
The Gore Bike Wear Ozon Knee Warmers will wick moisture away from your skin and keep your knees warm at the same time. The elastic band at the top of the warmers does a good job of keeping them in place. There is another elastic band on the bottom edge of the warmers that is a bit looser, yet still keeps the fabric from moving around too much. Flat-lock seams prevent both hot spots and chafing. There is a reflective logo on the back of these warmers that will help motorists see you easier at night. In addition, there is a very small reflection circle at the top to identify the left and right warmer. The Gore Bike Wear Ozon Knee Warmers are available in four sizes (S,M,L,XL) and have a suggested list price of $50.
Another great option for cool weather cycling is the Pearl Izumi Attack Knickers—they extend down to mid-calf and keep your knees warm in cool weather. The Pearl Izumi Attack Knicker is extremely comfortable and the Select Transfer fabric quickly wicks moisture away from your skin. The chamois on this knicker is very comfortable, even on very long rides. There are also several reflective elements for low-light visibility and the silicone leg grippers on these knickers keep the pant legs from sliding up as you ride. The Pearl Izumi Men’s Attack Knicker is available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL) and retails for $85.
When the temperature drops down to below 50 degrees it’s time to put away the knee warmers and get out the Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights. For temperatures between 28 and 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) I don’t think you will find a better pair of cycling tights.
These tights are made with a very breathable wind-resistant fabric on the outside combined with a thin layer of thermal fleece on the inside. The fabric is about as close to magic as you will find—it wicks moisture away from the skin to keep you warm, dry and happy! While these pants are not rainproof they are definitely water-resistant. I often ride Metric Centuries (62 miles) in these tights during light rain without any trouble.
You can buy this tight either with or without a chamois. I would definitely buy one with Pearl Izumi’s Elite 3D Chamois since it is the same chamois that is in the Pearl Izumi Elite Cycling Shorts, which is what I ride in all summer. This chamois has 13mm of variable-density microfiber padding coupled with active carbon yarns to help reduce odors. This chamois was designed with Pressure Relief Technology (PRT) for riding comfort and improved blood flow and I think they ended up with a perfect design!
At the bottom of these tights you will find an 8-inch ankle zipper so the tights are very easy to put on (or take off). The zipper has a lockable tab to keep it closed. The tights also have silicone ankle grippers to keep the tights in place. You will also find reflective piping and logos on the legs to help motorists see you better at night.
The quality of these tights is superb! As for fit, I would say they are true to size. However, if you are on the border between two sizes I would definitely go with the larger size. Tight clothing in the winter is never a good idea. Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights retail for $125. If you enjoy riding when the temperature is between zero and 30 degrees (and who doesn’t?), I would suggest you buy a pair of Pearl Izumi AmFIB Cycling Tights.