Jeremy Powers knows a little something about riding in the cold. As one of America’s top cyclocross racers, the Team Rapha-Focus rider earns his paycheck battling competitors — and the elements.
Whether duking it out on the mean streets of the European ’cross circuit, trading blows in the U.S., or training at home in western Massachusetts, Powers is constantly looking for the right balance between staying warm and staying comfortable, efficient and dry.
RoadBikeReview.com caught up with the 2012 U.S. national cyclocross champion to find out what tricks and tips he uses to stave off old man winter.
“I like to have clothing that can adjust to the temperature,” explains Powers, who on the lead-up to 2013 ’cross nationals in Wisconsin spent 10 straight days riding in sub-30-degree temperatures. “So it needs to have range. That means lots of zippers. Rapha has a classic softshell that has zippers in the chest and underneath armpits, so you can tighten it up to ride in 30 degrees. But if you leave and its 30 but then the temp goes up to 40, you can open it up.”
Neck Warmers and Head Gear
Powers is also a big fan of neck warmers. “I always wear one,” he says. “That helps keep heat trapped in. If your chest, core and neck are warm you will be able to take in air and warm it up quicker. So I will use a turtleneck base layer or just a neck warmer. I also have a hat with ear coverage, and it might sound funny, but I like tall glasses that protect your face more. I try to cover up as much as I can with the lenses. Oakley makes an awesome tall Radar.”
For gloves, Powers often opts for two sets. “If you start to get really sweaty on your ride your gloves will get wet and eventually your hands will get cold because the wind is now hitting that perspiration,” he explains. “So I carry that second set so I can switch them out midway through the ride. That helps a lot.”
Powers uses a layers approach for his feet. “With shoe covers I use a regular shoe cover, but in the front of it I usually insert one of those thermal hand warmer you buy at ski shops,” he says. “So on really cold days, the hand warmer goes directly on top of the shoe, then the cotton shoe cover, and then a neoprene bootie. That keeps the wind out and the cotton cover keeps the heat warmer nice and snug against the front of my foot.”
When it comes to fabrics, Powers is a wool man all the way. “Obviously I am influenced by what I am riding right now, but Rapha makes this merino wool turtleneck base layer that is truly a great piece,” he says. “If you can own one piece of cold weather gear, even if you don’t want to mention it in this article, I cant recommend it enough. It’s amazing.”
Powers also loves a good set of thick bib tights that have some wind protection on the knees. “If your knees get cold you’re screwed,” he explains. “On a four-hour ride, cold knees are a nightmare. So anything with reinforced knee coverage is great. I have been wearing the winter tights from Rapha that have wind-protection on the front thigh areas and on knees and shins. On the back it is just regular fleece lined Lycra. It’s really warm.”
Finally when it comes to race day, Powers advises that your number one goal is to not get cold on the start line before the race. “That means you need to get really warmed up before that, and then bundle up like crazy while you’re waiting to start your race,” he says. “Then you just pull your jacket off right before the start of the race.”
“If you get cold it takes a significant amount of time to get warmed back up. Think about when you stop for a coffee on a cold day’s ride its hard to get warmed back up. So I stay really bundled up.”
“I also always err on the side of being too warm versus being too cold. During your race, you can always unzip, you can ditch gloves, you have some options when you’re racing. But if you are too cold you are screwed. It’s tough to put on a pair of gloves in the middle of a cross race.”