Surviving Wisconsin Winters, Part 2: Dry, Cracked Skin on Hands



Ever get that dry cracked skin on your knuckles or at the side-edges of a fingertip? I can’t tell you how many different hand creams I’ve tried to prevent it in these Wisconsin winters. It’s a real problem. It’s not only the physical discomfort. It’s the anxiety of being out and about in the world with what are essentially open wounds. (Entrepreneurs shake a lot of hands!)

I’ve had to pull out the big guns. I’ve tried a couple of expensive, specialty products and some not so specialty home remedies. Turns out the best of the lot is also the cheapest. Namely, lip balm.

Lip_Balm_Beeswax_nocap (1).jpg

Chapstick, Burt’s Bees, Kiehl’s Facial Fuel, etc. — give any of them 36 hours with your cracked-skin convalescence, and they’ll put you on the road to epidermal ease. (Make sure you wash your hands before applying, or risk an infection.)

Also important, put away the liquid hand soaps ’til Springtime, especially the antibacterial ones. Get yourself a gentle bar soap with a lower pH.

Ethical Wool?



I’ve recently blogged about my newfound love of woolen activewear (the flipside of which is my move away from synthetic fabrics). Here’s an update to that post.

As a winter cyclist I’m amazed at the high-performance qualities of wool. But my attention has been drawn to the question of wool as an ethical product. Can one choose wool ethically?

Yes. Or at least wool can be relatively ethical, compared with the wool fiber industry of only a few years ago. Back then it was impossible for apparel manufacturers to fully trace the supply chain of raw wool. In other words, even if manufacturers wanted to offer garments made of ethical wool, the info did not exist for them to avoid “mulesed” wool. Mulesing is the horribly inhumane animal farming practice defined here.

Nowadays an industry initiative called Zque guarantees the supply of certified, non-mulesed wool. Patagonia, Ibex, and Smartwool now use Zque suppliers, exclusively. The manufacturer Icebreaker Merino has mounted a similar effort called BaaCode.

None of this completely resolves the question of wool as an ethical choice. There’s still the issue of animal cruelty in shearing operations, not to mention the bigger question mark of humane animal treatment in mass production, in general. But it is progress.

[Image credit: Pixabay]

Gore-Tex vs. eVent: Two Waterproof/Breathable Cycling Jackets Go Head-to-Head

Health, Writing

showers pass Elite 2-0

What I’m interested for this post is the waterproof/breathable (WP/BR) fabrics of two different jackets I own: Gore-Tex vs. eVent.

I’m actually not going to review the jackets, per se.  What I will do is save you all from the fatal mistake I’ve made, an honest mistake that has ruined one of these two jackets.

Pictured above is my Showers Pass Elite 2.0 jacket, $250 retail.  At the bottom you’ll find my Patagonia Super Alpine mountaineering jacket, $600 retail.  Very different market segments, I know.  The WP/BR laminate in the Patagonia is the high-end Gore-Tex Pro Shell, while that of the red, Showers Pass jacket is an unspecified, entry-level product from eVent.  So, not apples and apples.  I can’t offer up the definitive Gore-Tex vs. eVent head-to-head competition.

Or can I?

Both Gore-Tex and eVent fabrics are laminates, both using an active layer made of PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). The best known PTFE product is Teflon. The PTFE used in WP/BR fabrics is manufactured by stretching a PTFE solid to be a very thin, microporous membrane. The micropores are what make the membrane at once breathable yet waterproof. The micropores are too small to let in liquid water, such as rain or melted snow, yet large enough to allow moisture vapor to pass through, such as perspiration evaporating from your skin or baselayers.

The PTFE membrane must be protected from contamination. Contaminants such as skin oils and dirt will permanently clog unprotected micropores.  Just how to protect the PTFE layer is where Gore-Tex and eVent part ways.

  • Gore-Tex covers the PTFE membrane with a protective film of polyurethane (PU) on the interior side of the jacket.
  • Rather than covering the whole PTFE membrane, eVent uses a proprietary method to somehow coat the interior of each micropore with an oil/dirt resistant chemical.

Wet System vs.  Dry System

Gore-Tex is the so-called “wet system”: it vents perspiration only after vapor has collected as liquid on the inner surface of the jacket. As liquid, the moisture necessarily seeps through the PU film by basic diffusion, from the area of higher pressure (inside the jacket) to the area of lower pressure (the outside air). This diffusion forces the liquid water through the PTFE layer. So for Gore-Tex, venting is a two-step process: body moisture (vapor) must first condense on the inner surface. Only then can it diffuse through the membrane.

On the other hand, eVent is the “dry system”: sweat vapor vents “directly” through the membrane. It need not collect as liquid, first.  In that sense, eVent is the “more breathable” of the two products.  The two-step process of Gore-Tex venting definitely takes more time.

The problem with eVent—and this is essentially why I’m writing this post—is that its micropores are still vulnerable to contamination by skin oils and dirt. Yes, the micropores are treated with an oil- and dirt-resistant chemical. But get it dirty enough– i.e., clog the pores really badly—and the PTFE loses its breathability. Permanently.

Thus, eVent garments require laundering way more often than you’d think. We’re talking cycling garments, so, “regularly” means laundering after heavy use.  Read: every, or every other, hard ride. If you ride through the winter, this means washing the jacket two or three times a week.

Washing it often isn’t a terrible hassle. But as everyone knows, washing machines are hard on clothes. So we’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Care for this jacket properly, and shorten its lifespan. Or, launder it less, and risk clogging the micropores.

In my ignorance, I managed to do both types of damage. First, I simply didn’t know of the need for regular laundering. I treated my Showers Pass jacket like a jacket. I washed it about once every four weeks. Micropores? Pretty damn, well clogged. Breathability went to near zero. When I learned of my mistake, I began washing the jacket weekly. Just one Wisconsin cold season meant laundering the jacket probably twenty times. Some of the breathability returned (though, mostly not). All the washing totally destroyed the DWR coating on the jacket exterior. Now the jacket no longer sheds water. Rain and snow don’t get through to the inside, blocked by the PTFE layer. But they do saturate the outer fabric of the jacket, sapping warmth.


I love my Patagonia jacket, while my Showers Pass jacket makes me sad. The Showers Pass jacket no longer performs. I’m pretty angry that the care tag didn’t alert me to the need for special care. I only learned of it on the web, after the damage was done. I wonder what percentage of eVent users know they should wash an eVent jacket as if it’s a sweatshirt? I also wonder, if laundered as often as necessary, will an eVent jacket survive even a single season?

On the other hand, I’ll be wearing my Patagonia jacket for years to come. It seems completely unfazed by three winters of serious abuse. And Gore-Tex requires no special care. So I won’t be laundering it to death.

layers vert

Surviving Wisconsin Winters, Part 1: High Performance Business Casual?

Entrepreneurship, Health


High performance work clothing? Does such a thing exist? And I don’t mean flame retardant electrician’s pants or stretchy business-bombshell blazers.

Answer:  Levi’s 511 Corduroys.

Although wool is my new favorite fabric for activewear, there are two applications for which synthetics still rule:  rain gear and winter work/weekend attire. I’ve already written a post on rain gear. As far as business casual goes, Levi’s 511 Cords are a surprising fabric that can double for winter cycling.

Especially good for winter bicycle commuting, their 66%/33% blend of cotton/elastane creates surprisingly efficient wicking of perspiration. Then, when the moisture is drawn up into the corduroy, the corded channels evaporate it to the outside air. Think radiator fins on an air-conditioning unit — the greater surface area vents moisture fast. That makes these pants high-performance street clothes. (Just FYI, the tag says “polyester.” But I verified it to be elastane.)

[UPDATE 10/23/2016:  See bottom for the bad news about more recent specimens of these cords.]

Jeans used to be my mainstay winter-biking pants. It’s only denim, so I didn’t stress out when the cuffs got crusted with salt or blackened with road slush. But getting sweaty in jeans meant the denim staying damp for hours, afterward, a.k.a., cold and clammy. By contrast, Levis cords dry out in minutes.

My ideal setup is to wear a wool base layer beneath the Levis cords. The wool breathes really well, too, moving perspiration to the corduroy, which then evaporates the moisture quickly. The wool also acts as a barrier to odor causing bacteria, allowing me to wear the same pair of cords for three-plus days between washings. How’s that for high performance?

[Image credit: Wikimedia]

[UPDATE 10/23/2016:  Sadly, I’ve just bought a new pair of these cords. Levi’s has changed the fabric, reducing the elastane content to a mere 2%. That’s 98% cotton and 2% elastane. I don’t know how long ago they changed up. Too bad. I predict this new pair won’t vent anywhere near as well as my three old, now threadbare pairs bought back in 2012. Curse you, Levi’s!]

Eww: the Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Bar

Food and Drink, Health

strawberry shortcake

Although I enjoy the cattiness of a scathing New Yorker film review, I myself take no pleasure in calling out bad products on my blog. I generally skip yucky beers or boring sitcoms, choosing to write about things I want to share with others. (My review of cycling rain jackets is a rare exception.) Chalk it up to temperament, I guess.

In this case I’m compelled to warn others away from this quote-unquote “ice cream” bar.

Either the quality of this product has eroded over the past 38 years, or my taste sure has changed since I was eight years old. (It’s probably not an either/or scenario!) Walking home from our neighborhood beer bar last night, I had the munchies and bought one of these babies in a corner store. “Cake-coated vanilla ice cream, with a strawberry flavored center.” That’s how Good Humor describes it on their site. That, and a prolix list of mostly chemical ingredients. The nutrition app Fooducate describes it differently:

“D+ much worse than average.”

good humor Strawberry shortcake D+

That’s about right.

At eight years old, however, I was addicted to them. The Strawberry Shortcake bar led me down the path to my first real scolding from my parents. That summer my family had just joined a country club, whose swimming pool snack bar inexplicably allowed second graders to sign the tab for hot dogs, sodas, and ice cream on a stick.

For four weeks, before my parents would get the first monthly snack bar bill, I ate five or six of them a day. Often, more. The snack bar was like a narcotics sting operation, with a detective undercover behind the counter in an apron and hair net, enticing addicts to come and get it. Technically that would be entrapment–inducing my brother and me into downing hundreds of dollars’ worth of sugary things we wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

The mid-1970s was a hard time for the fifty-year-old Good Humor brand, what with upstart competitors like Mister Softee and the health food craze that spawned frozen yogurt. Could country club snack bars have been a ploy to boost Good Humor sales? The company certainly could no longer ride the coattails of their genius, mid-century, sleeper PR campaigns. Ever heard the urban legend of the hero Good Humor man who rushed a pregnant woman to the hospital in his jingly ice cream truck? I sure had.

At the end of the month when the jig was up, my parents gave me a strong talking to, disappointed I didn’t have better sense. But could I be blamed? Was it not an insane setup:  that hundreds of dollars’ worth of ice cream could be purchased and consumed in a single month by an eight-year-old and his little brother?

[image credit:  Nestle (]

Commuter Bikes and the Trek Soho Deluxe


trek soho deluxe

My friend Tony asked if I’d have a look at this bike.  Tony lives in DC and commutes by bike, escorting his wonderful daughter to school every morning, all by DC bike share.  He’s become a bike-share-system savant — the hackles on his neck rise the closer he gets to the thirty-minute bike-share quota.  But his daughter is graduating to middle school this year, where there isn’t a convenient bike-share station to switch bikes.

So Tony needs to buy a new bike.  His commuting needs neatly mark out the boundaries of the no-maintenance bicycle market — namely, internal gear hubs (IGH) and carbon belt-drives.  So it’s no surprise he’s put his finger on the Trek Soho Deluxe.

In researching this bike, I’ve done my usual eval, all the while not realizing the model has been discontinued.  So I’ve also done a quick and dirty search for “city bike,” “belt drive,” and “disc brakes.”  That’s turned up a decent list of some drool-worthy machines for 2014-15.

My evaluation of the discontinued Soho Deluxe is still relevant, though.  Not only are the components of bikes in this narrow market segment very similar.  There are probably a number of Soho Deluxe’s still in showrooms in every major city, and at closeout prices, to boot.  So I’ll just include that here, while adding the list of current-model bikes at the end.


1) If you find a “new” model, it’ll likely be a great deal, with “closeout” pricing.  (The model was discontinued for 2014.)  But what year is the specimen you’ve found, 2012 or 2013?

Consider the following:

a) Normally a year or two sitting in a showroom makes no difference.  But with internal gearing, lubrication can leak out or settle in ways detrimental to the parts.  So if you find a 2012 Soho Deluxe, ask if the bike shop will re-lube the hub upon purchase.  Sheldon Brown discusses lubrication issues, here:

b) Internal gearing has come a long way in recent years, and the different iterations of the Nexus 8-spd. hub are no exception.  I don’t have the specifics on whether or not the 2013 is significantly better than the 2012.  Might be something to research further.

c) Similarly, the newer Gates belt drives are reported to be much better than older versions.  I’m not sure what the timeline is, so that’s something to look into, as well.

2) No quick release rear wheel.

a) Much more difficult to change a flat on the fly.  Here’s a somewhat daunting tutorial.

b) I’d recommend upgrading to a flat-resistant tire, at least on the rear.  (May as well do both.)  Ask dealer for if you can trade out the tires for some credit towards the purchase.  Kevlar is good (though more expensive).   I haven’t had a flat on Kevlar tires in 4 years, riding 300 days/year.

3) Test drive it:  how’s the lowest gear on your local terrain?

a) Find a decently steep hill.  My wife rides internal gearing, the Shimano Alfine 8-speed hub, and here on the modest yet significant hills of Madison, Wisconsin, her lowest gear is perfectly doable.

b) Note:  one mustn’t shift internal gearing under load.  That’s something the LBS might forget to tell you.  This is certainly not a deal-breaker.  It just takes some dexterity to let up the force when shifting.  Definitely don’t want to stand up pedaling when shifting an IGH.  Some user reviews claim the NuVinci N360 hub is the exception to this rule.  (See the Novara Gotham, below.)

4) Misc. questions:  Rack mounts, front and rear?

One reviewer called the Soho Deluxe a “thief magnet” because it has a “flashy appearance.”  I think it’s the opposite.  It’s got a low-key, even stealthy, paint job.  Plus, theoretically, it may be even less likely to be stolen, for the fact of the belt-drive.  Rational bike thieves avoid specialty bikes because pawn shops may balk at buying such easily identifiable items.


The market for low-maintenance commuter bikes (belt drive, internal gearing) seems to be shrinking in the middle ($1000 – $1400), while growing at the lower end ($600-900) and higher end ($1500 – $2500).  Back in 2012-13 there were many more models in the middle price range.  I had to really hunt for these:

Raleigh Misceo 4.0 2013

Great closeout deals

— Alfine hub (an upgrade over the Nexus hub of the Soho Deluxe)

$1100 closeout

Raleigh City Sport DLX


Breezer Beltway 8


Novara Gotham


— NuVinci N360 hub

Scott SUB 10


Focus Planet 2.0

$1400 (not widely avail. in US)–inc-belt-drive

New Panniers Even Better Than I Thought




I’ve actually been using this pair of panniers for almost a year.  I got caught in a downpour last night, which was fine since the bags are waterproof to their interior volumes.  However, the zippers are not water resistant.  The zippered pockets can get pretty damp in heavy rain.  So I’ve never kept anything water sensitive in the pockets.

Until now.

Last night after that torrent of rain, I discovered a hidden feature of the bags:  each bag has a rain “poncho” to cover itself when needed.

2-IMG_3533See that bulge towards the bottom?  That’s the poncho tucked away in a zipper pocket of its own.

3-IMG_3534Not only does the poncho keep the zippered pockets dry.  It also keeps the outer fabric of the bag from getting soaked.


5-IMG_3536These bags are the Bontrager Interchange Urban Commuter Panniers. They’re sold as a set of two, $179. (Bontrager has been one of Trek’s component & accessory divisions since 1995.)   Each bag contains the volume of a paper grocery sack.

Easton Bell Sports: Now That’s Customer Service

Entrepreneurship, Health

Easton Bell $0.00 highlighted

Just wanted to send out some well-deserved praise for a company with excellent customer service.

Last December I damaged my Giro snowboard helmet.  I bent the metal snap of the goggle strap on the rear of the helmet.  (I mean the strap at the rear that clamps down over the strap of ski goggles).  After unsnapping the strap to remove my goggles, I found I could no longer close the snap.

I use this snowboard helmet for winter cycling.  As I don’t have a car, I need it on a daily basis.  This was an especially cold winter here in Madison.  I generally switch from wraparound glasses to ski goggles below 15°F.  While I don’t use goggles everyday, this is Wisconsin!

So, I emailed Giro, asking where I could buy the replacement parts.  I wasn’t optimistic.  In this age of disposable products and terrible customer service (I’m looking at you, AT&T, major airlines, Chase Bank, etc.), I half-expected to be told there are no replacement parts, if I were to be answered, at all.

They actually got back to me the very next day.  It was Customer Service Rep Amber Thomas, from Easton-Bell Sports, the parent company of Giro.  She said she would put the replacement strap in the mail, and I should receive it by the end of the week.  Sure enough, the strap arrived two days later.  I was thrilled to be able to use my goggles the rest of the season, without having to buy a brand new helmet.

(For those of you who say you don’t need the helmet strap to use goggles:  while running errands around town on my bike, I’m constantly removing my goggles and putting them back on.  This is much, much simpler to do with your helmet’s goggle strap latched to your goggles, as if the goggles were an integrated part of your helmet.)

When I wrote Amber back expressing my gratitude, she replied, “We just want you to have a fully functioning helmet.”

What you’re looking at in the image above is the packing list that arrived with the replacement parts.  Notice the figures listed in the “price” columns.  That’s right, “$0.00”

But, wait.  There’s more.

Several years back, I had a great little micro-light for the top of my skating helmet.  This was back in Houston, where the heat and humidity made Rollerblading at night the natural choice.  You need a light to skate at night, obviously.  Some of you may know this micro-light I’m referring to, called The Flea, by Blackburn.  They still make the Flea, but back then the Flea charged off of any battery via a little charging device.  My charger had a wire break loose.  I emailed Blackburn about it.  Same as with my helmet, Easton-Bell Sports, the parent company of Blackburn, sent me a replacement charger at no cost.

We’re talking a company with nearly $1 billion in annual revenue.  So how do they succeed while giving away equipment at no charge?  By making lifelong customers like me.  That’s how.

Just FYI, after selling one of its several manufacturing divisions, the company has recently rebranded itself as BRG Sports.

Beer Roundup #7: Three Midwest English Barleywines

Food and Drink, Health

Whole Hog BW

To Buy or Not to Buy?
1 = horrible
2 = bad
3 = average
3.5 = good (many better beers out there; won’t buy this again)
4 = very good
4.5 = great
5 = rare best 

A Note on the Style:  English Barleywine

I prefer the malty “English” style barleywine over the hoppy “American” style.  All barleywines have a stiff malt backbone and generous sweetness, but the hop-forward American-style is often so bitter as to be indistinguishable from a high-alcohol double IPA.  Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are double IPA’s; I love me a double IPA when it’s got intense sweetness to offset the high IBU, like Bell’s Hopslam, Dogfish Head 120 Minute, or Founders Devil Dancer.

Despite my preference for the maltier English barleywine, it’s curious that I’ve found way more good American barley wines than English ones.  

How to explain this?  Is the English style BW less common in the US?  Not really.  Nearly every brewery that produces American barleywines also produces English ones.  The more likely explanation:  brewing a good English barleywine is more of a challenge because it doesn’t have the pronounced hops to balance the jacked-up sweetness.  Hence, many are sickeningly sweet, like Anchor Old Foghorn or Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot.

But all three specimens below are really good.

Stevens Point Barley Wine Style Ale (Whole Hog Series), Stevens Point Brewery

Rating:  4.44 / 5

12 oz. bottle (4-pk)  10.2% abv, 73 IBU.

From a very reasonably priced 4-pack ($7), the first sip has me totally psyched.

It’s not a great looking pour into a tulip glass, with barely a half-finger of white head atop the opaque, red-tinged, brown murk. Sticky lacing, with legs.

Very little in the aroma, probably just too cold. But bready, mildly floral, and of course malty in the nose, plus a grape-like, mildly acid wine character. Even after it warms, the nose remains reserved.

But in the mouth, now this is a provocative surprise. Stevens Point Brewery, for those of you not from Wisconsin, is an old-time adjunct-lager outfit, one of the oldest breweries in the US. My Midwest beer friends rarely say anything nice about SPB, so I wasn’t expecting a lot from this brew. But this is right up my alley. It’s a complex sweetness, like that of my two favorite English BW’s,  JW Lees Harvest Ale and Midnight Sun Arctic Devil. The grainy biscuit flavor is what backstops the sugar-sweetness, not any bitterness. Some will call this cloying. I love it. The sweetness rounds out with an estery, mossy oak. The butter/caramel is of the burnt variety. There’s milk and coconut, too.

The mild to moderate carbonation is a welcome cleanser and leavener of the oily-sticky feel.

I’ve gone back to Riley’s Wines and snatched up the last two 4-packs. One goes in the cellar, the other down my gullet!

Schell’s Barley Wine (Stag Series), August Schell Brewing

Rating:  4.46/5

On tap,  9.5% abv, 80 IBU.

I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, thinking of Schell as merely an adjunct-lager outfit. What an awesome surprise.

On tap at Mason Lounge (Madison).  In a snifter, a handsome pour, a clear coppery amber with a finger of white head and good retention and lacing.

The aroma is a bit reserved.  There’s a diacytel caramel, dried fruit, piney hops, and a bit of sharp ethanol.

Flavor in the mouth offers sweet caramel, stone fruit, a bit of citrus, and a floral hop bitterness on the back end.  Finishes sweet, with a hint of grassy hops.  Alcohol is hardly there.

Upland Winter Warmer, Upland Brewing

Rating:  4.05 / 5

On tap,  8.5% abv, 47 IBU.

Pours a hazy, ruddy copper, topped by a fluffy, two-finger head.

A seriously complex aroma, the sweet swirls with the hops.  The hops come as white grapefruit and a bit of must.  The lovely roasted caramel struggles to dominate and ultimately does.

In the mouth the malt/hop tension from the aroma comes down solidly on the side of the malt.  Simple syrup on the front end, sweet butter and bread in the middle, plus fig and cinnamon-raisin ice cream on the back of the tongue. Goes down with just a rumor of bitter hops.  

Feels like a much bigger beer than it is, chewy, even.

Not nearly as good as the other two in this review, but it gets points for availability, as it’s pretty common to find on tap in Midwest bars in the colder months.

Layering For Cold Weather: Technical Clothing Systems


layers vert

Body moisture:  it’s your worst enemy when dressing for winter cold. You can be wind-proofed and layered to excess. But if your layers aren’t venting that moisture, the minute your body stops radiating heat, the moisture trapped in your clothing will chill you like a Perdue chicken.

My first winter riding around Madison, I used to either underdress and regret having ever left the house, or I’d over dress, get damp with perspiration, and experience bone-chilling, near-hypothermic misery. Now, after three winters in Madison, I’ve got my layering systems down to a science. I’ve kept notes in increments of 1° or 2°F, from 40°  down to -1° F, both for cycling and walking.  (See below.)

I’ve also filled out my wardrobe of base layers, mid-layers, and technical garments. I prefer Patagonia’s synthetic products. They insulate and vent moisture as well as anything out there.  As a bonus, many of their products are made from recycled plastic bottles.

Just a few things to emphasize before presenting my layering systems.

I pay little attention to my legs. While I do wear a wool insulating layer under my jeans or cords, I leave my legs exposed enough to prevent them from perspiring.  Why?  Because I don’t own any high quality pants that are BOTH windproof AND breathable. Wearing lesser quality windproof pants, my legs get sweaty and damp–the last thing I want when it’s cold. Pants made from Gore-Tex Pro are very expensive. I do own a Gore-Tex Pro jacket ($600), as venting the body core and arms is much more important than the legs. Plus, I bike 95% of my trips around town (no car!), and on my bike my legs pretty much take care of themselves in the warmth department.

However, crotch warmth needs to be accounted for. (Duh!) In conditions of bitter cold (5° F, or lower), I’ll stuff a pair of glove liners down my crotch, and we’re good!

The head is easy. Above 20° F, I wear my aero-helmet with a headband and cycling glasses. Below 20° F, I stay warm in a snowboard helmet. I switch to ski goggles below 12° F  or when it’s windy. The key to snow-helmet comfort is a venting system, one which can be opened or closed on-the-fly. The head generates serious BTUs of heat, so when the air is in the upper-teens, or when pedaling hard, opening the vents keeps one from overheating.

One last thing to note. I avoid windproof insulation under my hardshell. Windproof fleece, such as Patagonia R4 or soft shells with a Gore-Tex layer, work really well as outerwear; they’re my go-to outer layers in milder weather (>30° F). But when worn as an insulating layer, they don’t breathe well.  The consequence:  trapped moisture close to the body.

Below, I’ve condensed my notes (layers for cycling), in increments of approximately 5°. The notes specify weather conditions, time of day, and the success/failure of the layers listed. What’s not specified is the type of cycling: running errands around town, i.e., bicycle trips of 15 to 25 minutes.

Message me or leave a comment if you want the full version (or if you’d like my notes for walking/hiking, instead).


“Cap” = Capilene (Patagonia)
“Cap 3 crew” = long sleeve crew-neck
“Alpine Jacket” = Patagonia Super Alpine Jacket
“Gore Softshell” = Gore Bike Windproof Softshell
“Hi-loft” = either Patagonia R3 jacket or North Face Radium jacket

35-deg, 11pm, 8mph wind
— perfectly layered, home from High Noon Saloon
Cap1 stretch SS
Cap1 stretch LS
wool LS crew
Cap4 Full Zip
Gore Bike softshell
Capilene scarf, took this off 1/2-way home
wool leggings + jeans
glacier gloves w/ med. liners
Keen hiking boots, Smartwool socks

29 – 30 deg, 12 pm, 9 mph wind
— a bit over-dressed to Co-op; the backpack added warmth
Note: started out the ride with good warmth built up
lighter wool leggings + cords
Capilene 2 LS (this should’ve been a Cap 1, and the Cap 4 could’ve
Cap 4 1/4-zip been Cap 3)
Alpine jacket (possibly could’ve been softshell)
med-weight balaclava (allowed you to leave jacket 1/2-zipped)
lobster gloves + best liners
Keen hiking boots, wool socks
aero helmet + headband, glasses

30 – 26 deg, 7 – 8 pm, 13 mph wind
— ears/jaws got cold on way home, to Co-op
Note: started out the ride with good warmth built up
lighter wool leggings + cords
Two-layer insulation
Capilene 1 SS (torso was perfect)
Cap 4 1/4-zip
Gore softshell
(would’ve been nice to have mid-weight balaclava for ride home at 26 deg)
lobster gloves + best liners
Keen hiking boots, wool socks
aero helmet + light-weight headband, glasses

25 deg, 5pm, 5 mph wind, 96% hum.
— just right to State Street, then to Co-op
— was a bit chilly when you had your Cap 4 part-way unzipped
lighter wool leggings + cords
cotton TCap 4 full-zip
Alpine Jacket
lobster gloves + best liners
Keen hiking boots, wool socks
aero helmet, headband

22 – 19 deg @ 3 – 5 pm, 13 mph wind
— to State St. (overheated on the way out!! Just right on way home.)
wool leggings + jeans
cotton SS
Smartwool top
North Face Hi-loft fleece
Alpine jacket
lobster gloves, windproof cyc. gloves
wool socks
Keen hiking boots
aero helmet w/ headband
Campy balaclava

17 – 20 deg, 7 – 8 pm, 14 mph wind
— to Co-op (maybe also to Trader Joe’s)
wool leggings + cords
Silk weight Cap SS
Cap2 crew [should’ve deleted this]
Cap4 Full Zip
Alpine hardshell
lobster gloves w/ liners (hands totally fine!)
snowboard helmet (Note: no headband — just tightened chin strap)
Keen hiking boots, Smartwool socks [toes a bit cold when riding hard]
(carried in bag: Capilene scarf, 2nd pr. glove liners, balaclava)

30 – 16 deg, 5 – 8 pm, 9 mph wind
— to Mason Lounge
lighter wool leggings + cords
Cap 1 SS
Cap 2 1/4-zip[carried Cap 4 full-zip for ride home]
Alpine jacket
med-weight balaclava
lobster gloves + best liners
Keen hiking boots, wool socks, light wool socks
snowboard helmet + glasses

14 deg, 6 pm, 9 mph wind
— to State St. then to Absolutely Art
— torso was too warm; removing the Cap 2 crew was good;
wool leggings + cords
Cap 1 stretch SS (this should’ve been LS, and no Cap 2 layer)
Cap 2 crew [took this off!!]
Cap 4 Full Zip
Alpine hardshell
ski gloves w/ windproof cyc. gloves + liners (hands good until very end)
snowboard helmet
Campy balaclava
Keen hiking boots, Smartwool socks + wool footies
— (feet good until way home from Jenifer St. Mkt.)
(carried in bag: Capilene scarf, 2nd pr. glove liners)

14 – 11 deg, 2 – 4 pm, 4 mph wind
— to Manona Terrace then to Jennifer St. Mkt.
— torso a bit too warm to Manona Terrace; legs/feet/hands perfect
— hands & feet freezing on way home from Jenifer St. Mkt.(probably b/c boots & gloves were a bit damp inside
— should’ve taken gloves off when browsing in stores)
wool leggings + cords
Cap 1 stretch SS
Cap 3 crew
Cap 4 Full Zip
Alpine hardshell
lobster gloves w/ windproof cyc. gloves (should’ve added liners later) snowboard helmet
Keen hiking boots, wool-blend socks (that’s all you had clean)
(carried in bag: Capilene scarf, 2nd pr. glove liners)

10 – 9 deg., 12-1p, 9 mph wind
— too warm!
lighter wool leggings + jeans
Cap 1 stretch SS
Cap 3 crew [had to remove this; should’ve been Cap 1 LS, could’ve rolled sleeves]
Cap 4 Full Zip
Alpine Jacket
heavier balaclava (Gore)
lobster gloves w/ best liners & light liners
Keen insulated boots, wool socks
snowboard helmet
Anon goggles

6 deg., 3p, 7 mph wind
— just right!
— to Co-op
Cap 1 stretch SS
Cap 2 quarter-zip
Hi-loft Full Zip (North Face)
Alpine Jacket
heavier balaclava (Gore)
lobster gloves w/ best liners and windproof cyc. gloves
Keen insulated boots, wool socks
snowboard helmet
Anon goggles

5 deg., 7p, 5 mph wind
— over-warm (had excess body-warmth built up + backpack, espec. on way home when backpack was heavy)
— to Co-op
>>>Next time, whenever you’ve got excess body-warmth built up, downgrade the Hi-loft layer to Cap 4
wool leggings + cords
silkweight Cap SS [could’ve deleted this b/c of the backpack]
Cap 3 quarter-zip
Hi-loft Full Zip (North Face) [Or, this could’ve been Cap 4
Alpine Jacket
— unzipped 1/4
— body a little too warm b/c of the backpack
heavier balaclava (Gore)
ski gloves w/ best liners and light liners
— hands were fine
Keen hiking boots, wool socks, lightweight wool socks
— feet perfectly fine
snowboard helmet (no headband)
Anon goggles

15 – 4 deg., 5p – 11p, 5 mph wind
— just right
— to Square to get bus to Greg’s; ride home from Greg’s
two silkweight Cap SS
Cap 4 full-zip
Hi-loft Full Zip (North Face)
Alpine Jacket
[most everything was comfortable, except my crotch!! Nearly frost bit. Should’ve stuffed lightweight glove liners down there.]
heavier balaclava (Gore)
lobster gloves w/ best liners and windproof cyc. gloves
— hands were fine (surprisingly! You were riding pretty hard the whole way home)
Keen insulated boots, heaviest wool socks
— feet perfectly fine
snowboard helmet (no headband)
Anon goggles

1 – 4 deg., 1 – 2p, 13 mph wind
— just right to doctors appt.
Cap 1 SSCap 1 LS (a bit too warm; rolled up sleeves on way home and was perfect)
Cap 4 full-zip
Hi-loft Full Zip (North Face)
Alpine Jacketcrotch: glove liners!!
heavier balaclava (Gore)
lobster gloves w/ best liners and windproof cyc. gloves
— hands were fine!
Keen insulated boots, wool socks
— feet perfectly fine
snowboard helmet
Anon goggles

-1 deg., 7p, 12 mph wind
— to Old Fashioned
lighter wool leggings + cords
Cap 1 stretch SS
Cap 3 1/4 zip
Hi-loft Full Zip (North Face)
Alpine Jacket
heavier balaclava (Gore)
lobster gloves w/ two pr. liners
Keen insulated boots, heavy duty wool socks
snowboard helmet (no headband)
Anon goggles