It’s that time of year again folks.
North America is beginning to ice over, the days are getting darker and shorter, and the majority of eskaters are packing it in and getting tucked into their computer chairs, preparing to argue with each other on Reddit for the next 5 months.
(Yes, this is where I live and yes, I did ride that day)
This is also the time of year when the hardy among us get in some of the most intense, exciting, fun, and at times, serene rides of our lives. I am a staunch advocate for eskating in the winter time. There is something strangely satisfying about floating down the street on my EUC alongside banks of snow, while surrounded by Christmas lights, with the smell of a wood fire lingering in my helmet.
Of course, this is not possible with your run-of-the-mill outfit. The clothing required for winter riding must be as specialized, hardy and deliberate as the brave men and women who choose to ride in these conditions.
Seeing as this is my third winter commuting in New England snow, I figured it was about time that I begin to share some of the knowledge that I have gained over the past couple of seasons. It’s tough enough to ride along through the cold nights of winter, so let me try to make that journey a little less cold, and lonely, by sharing my experiences with winter gear so that you can learn from my mistakes and excel from my successes (and look at that sweet, sweet gear porn)
(Boston rider “Ghost” was happy to snap his winter load-out for our guide)
To kick-off the guide, I will start by talking about the core of every winter warrior’s arsenal, the jacket. But not to worry! In future weeks, we will go on to tackle the topics of gloves, shoes, pants, and head-wear.
(Rarely captured footage of the NYC eskate crew voguing)
I have seen winter eskaters in all manner of jackets, from the thin flexible Columbia fleece, to the giant Canada Goose Arctic Expedition parka.
For the purposes of this guide, I will try to call out the features that I find make the best eskate jacket, rather than the particular models of jacket that I recommend (though I will give some specific recommendations as well).
The Must-Have List:
The perfect eskate jacket should have the following features:
-Insulates you to keep warm (down is key here)
-Covers and seals at your neck
-Covers some of your upper leg
-Resists abrasion if (god forbid) you take a digger on some stone-cold asphalt
Since wearing a full-face helmet is one of the easiest ways to keep your head warm during cold weather riding, a hooded jacket is not necessary, and may even get in your way unnecessarily. I personally recommend looking to cold-weather motorcycle and snowmobiling jackets for eskate purposes. These jackets typically feature warm, wind-proof design with a tight fit around the neck, and occasionally have some armor built in as well.
Baby, are you down, down, down, down, down.
With regards to warmth, down is king. Pound-for-pound, down is warmer than synthetic material, which means that less can be used to keep you warm. This means a jacket filled with down will be warmer than if the same amount of synthetic insulation were used and allows you to be lighter and less bulky on your commute.
Some things to keep in mind:
-If your jacket features flaps on the side of the hood with buttons on them (such as in the above image), they will flap against the side of your helmet at speeds over 20 mph and drive you insane. Ask me how I know.
Some motorcycle jacket manufacturers *ahem* Revzilla *cough* insist on adding these, non-removable, “features” to their motorcycle jackets, so it is important to keep an eye out for these flaps when purchasing a jacket online or in-store.
-If your jacket has tight fitting or bulky cuffs, you may be unable to comfortably fit gauntlet-style gloves into/over them. Typically sizing up your jacket from what you normally buy will prevent this issue (and leave you some room for additional base layers.
-Days get shorter in the winter, so you may find yourself riding in darker conditions more often. Choosing a coat in a brighter color, or finding a model with reflective piping can be the difference between a driver seeing you on a dark roadway or not.
I have had particularly good luck with the following jackets:
The Fly Racing Snow Outpost Jacket
This jacket features a very warm, snow-mobile centric design that keeps wind out, particularly well at the neck, and features reflective piping and bright colors that will make you stand out like THE GODDAMN SUN when car headlights hit you. No, I am not exaggerating, this jacket makes you look like a part of an EDM festival at night, and remains quite visible during the day (at least in the bright orange color that I chose).
It also features reinforced seams as well as reinforced panels to prevent wear from (it’s like they made this for eskating) backpack straps, as well as on the elbows and forearms. This jacket also has one of the best collars for eskaters that I have had the pleasure of using. It comes up nice and high to meet the bottom of your helmet, and features insulation all the way to the edge of the collar. This ensures that your neck is toasty warm and that pesky, cold winter air has even less space to get in. I ride with this jacket into 10-20 degree fahrenheit conditions without issue.
When winter gets REALLY cold, I always find myself turning to this coat. With a temperature rating from -34° to -5° Fahrenheit, a 100% waterproof shell with seam-sealing, and 600 fill power down with a downproof quilted lining, this jacket is a godsend. The 100% nylon shell ensures that it will stand the test of time and abrasions that you might run into on the road. The ample pockets ensure that you have room for all of your eskate gizmos and gadgets (I hardly ever need to bring a backpack along with this jacket).
All of these features are great, but one of the best features of this jacket is its optional “Tall” cut. I HIGHLY recommend that you get this jacket in a “Tall”, unless you are fairly short, as it extends the bottom of the jacket to cover some of the user’s upper leg as well. One of the biggest problems with riding at-speed in the winter is wind-chill, and the part of your body that will feel this the most, from my experience, is the front of your thighs. Having a jacket that can cover up this key vulnerability is an invaluable tool for an eskater, and a feature that makes this jacket the core of my winter arsenal
Get a coat that:
- Is long/large enough to make room for layers and covers your waist
- Is abrasion resistant
- Blocks wind
- Is waterproof
- Has goose down for maximum warmth
- Covers your neck and seals tightly to prevent wind egress
- Has bright colors and/or reflectors for nighttime visibility
- Does not have the “hood flaps of doom”
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on winter commuter gear. Feel free to comment on this article with your favorite pieces of winter gear and I will make sure to include them in the guide.
Until next time, stay warm out there skaters!