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Layering 102: How To Dress for a Winter Riding Photo Shoot

Friday, December 11th, 2009 at 3:05 pm

One thing all year round cyclists wrestle with is how to dress for the less than ideal weather winter brings. How many layers do you need, should you wear a soft-shell or not or maybe how warm will leg warmers keep my legs? The true answer depends on the rider. But what if you needed to get some pictures of cold weather commuting? Well, I think we just found out, possibly at the detriment to some of our bodily appendages.

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A few days ago, our product designer rolled by my cubicle and told me he needed some cold weather commuting pics for an upcoming catalog. The weather looked like it would be sunny and cold for the next week so we started putting it together for Tuesday morning. The goal was to get frosty looking pictures that just looked cold, pictures that made you shiver when you saw them. What better place than down by a river we thought. The cold air wicking moisture off the river would coat the sides in a dense frost.

Plans were put in motion. We pulled two staff members as models (Jon the Norco team coordinator and Roy our product developer) got some gear together and arranged to meet our photographer down by a river at 7 am.  Many a Chris Farley, SNL joke was then thrown around about living in a van down by the river eating government cheese.  Once a few, rather poor, imitations were out of the way we loaded up the vehicles for the next day and went home.

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The next morning my alarm went off at 5:30 am and I was reluctant to pull away from the warm grasp my bed held on me. Dragging myself out of its clutches I readied myself not realizing how cold it was outside. When I awkwardly stumbled out of my door with two full back packs, I was punched square in the face by the chilling morning air. I ran across the street and hopped into Jon’s warm truck and we headed off. Luckily Jon brought the lifeblood of the cycling world, coffee and so we enjoyed a caffeine laden ride to the river.  When we arrived at the parking lot the temperature was nicely below freezing, frigid some would say, but we unloaded our bikes turned on the lights and pedaled along the dark gravel trails to get in place to capture the early morning light.

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As we pedaled along everyone took turns remarking on just how cold we all felt. Roy, who had pedaled 30km (19 miles) to meet us that morning, had been fine on the ride but was quickly cooling off now that we were cruising along the river banks. Jon and I, who had been in a warm truck drinking hot coffee, only a few moments earlier felt the cold right away. For the next three hours it would only get worse, to the point where Jon’ legs went into spasms when we got back to the truck, fun. But we got the shots and we probably learned a few things along the way.

Here are some things to keep in mind when dressing for a ride. We were all too cold to be standing around trying to get pictures but if we had been riding, which is the real worry for most people, we would have been fine. Here is what we know:

First: I stand by the fact that shoe covers are awesome, I love them and I’m not afraid to admit it. Second: Wear layers; start with a base layer, then a warmer mid layer and then something to cut the wind, for dry days soft shells are great, they are warm windproof and comfortable. If you want to read more on outerwear follow this link to an earlier article on dressing for bad weather. Third: Thin beanies that will fit under your helmet make a big difference and still look okay. Fourth: arm and leg warmers are also as awesome as shoe covers, I wrote about them in an earlier post. Finally: if you are going on a photo shoot in winter, I know the chances are slim but I thought I would add this anyway, bring a lot of warm clothing; down is awesome and packable and you’ll be happier than the people who didn’t.

I thought I would close this post with a few of the pictures we got.

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Read more: Layering 101: How To Dress for Winter Riding

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