Comfort

So the weather is on a cooling trend. It was 27 degrees when I left home this morning at 6:45 headed downtown for coffee and a bagel. That’s not even close to too cold to ride a bicycle. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced too cold in Springfield (seeing as how it’s a matter of dealing with the cold rather than worrying about it). I think 16 degrees is the coldest I’ve dealt with here (reminder: I don’t ride in ice or snow because I’m too lazy to buy or make studded snow tires — so I walk instead).

The keys to staying warm for me are my head and hands. I wear a fleece ear-cover thingy under my helmet (which I wear most of the time in the fall and winter because one of my risk criteria — darkness — is nearly always in play as is criteria #4). I also have a fleece skull cap when it gets into the teens. Both are adequate for the short distances I ride (usually no more than 20 minutes to most destinations in the urban core).

I prefer leather gloves with Thinsulate. You can buy these at most hardware stores.

And nothing beats leather, IMO, as a wind-breaker. My leather jacket also has Thinsulte, so, yeah, I stay nice and toasty. I generally use a scarf, too, in the early part of the winter before I become more acclimated to the cold. By February, a 27-degree morning will hardly be worth a moment’s notice :-)

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Comments 14

  1. Tom Armstrong wrote:

    Nice. My bike commute for a while was about an hour each way. Minimum temperature was 10 or so Fahrenheit. The ride was such that I could justify wearing cycling-dedicated thin layers. Interestingly, I could get away with a winter cycling jersey and a wind shell from 10-30F, although the glove/hat/footwear choices would vary a little in that range.

    I find that keeping my arms and legs warmer helps me keep my hands and feet warmer. My hypothesis is that my feet don’t generate a lot of heat relative to their mass, so are dependent on warm blood for at least part of their comfort.

    Posted 13 Nov 2012 at 12:49 pm
  2. Andy Cline wrote:

    Tom… Wow. Glad I live closer to my work ;-) but, yeah, you’ve got the right formula for such conditions. Thanks for sharing!

    Posted 13 Nov 2012 at 3:07 pm
  3. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    Since September, I now commute just over 6 miles a day (I say it’s 7, but my speedometer disagrees with me), so I’m looking at the upcoming winter with a bit more concern than I have in a few years, given that my most recent commutes were a bit shorter.

    So I’ve bought myself a neck warmer and a multi-sport ski helmet with the insulated insert and the built-in ear warmers. That should stop the old ears from freezing.

    When I was on my European tours, I found that my entire body would get warm after about half an hour even in the coldest conditions, due to the exercise, but when each of my trips during my current commute takes at most 20 minutes, I never quite get to the warming up point.

    My biggest problem is my hands – I can never seem to keep them warm on a short commute. Everything else is bearable, but my hands just freeze no matter what I do. I’ve bought tons of gloves, I’ve tried layering gloves on top of one another, but nothing seems to keep them even close to comfortable. I’ve even bought $100 gloves, but the best gloves I ever bought were, you guessed it, a pair of cheap leather + thinsulate gloves.

    Part of the problem is that I have long fingers, so the ends of my fingers are always straining against the finger ends of the gloves, reducing the insulation right where the blood flow gets coldest.

    Still, I don’t see myself chickening out this winter. It’s not as if Maryland gets all that cold compared to some of the places and temperatures I’ve cycled in. And since I don’t own a car, it’s not as if I have that as an option.

    As for snow tires, I’ve never felt a need for them, and I’ve cycled in some fairly thick snow and on some nasty ice. I reckon I must have developed a pretty keen sense of balance over the years so that the ice doesn’t really faze me. Anyway, the motorists around here are wimps, so if we get more than an inch of snow, they shut down the schools, so no commute for me.

    Posted 13 Nov 2012 at 3:17 pm
  4. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Hmm. So I can get double duty out of the motorcycle leather jacket! Although my old Stony Brook University cold weather bike racing jacket still does the trick under most any conditions, esp. if combined with a Protogs turtleneck and light thermal undershirt.

    For me, its hands and feet. I can get thick woolen socks under my trail SPD shoes, so that works for my 5 mile commute and temperatures down to about 10-15 deg. F.

    Gloves have been a nightmare. I’ve used thick ski gloves (windproof plus thinsulate) left over from when I lived in the East Coast but they make delicate shifting and braking maneuvers difficult. A pair of windproof mittens seems to work best, coupled with bar-con shifters that are easier to work with mittens on.

    I’ve seen some small farings (http://www.zzipper.com/), and some baglike things one can put over one’s handlebars and gloves. My solution this year will be to scrounge some empty one gallon bleach jugs and cut them so they act as small hand farings and ziptie them onto the bike to keep the wind off the hands.

    Posted 13 Nov 2012 at 3:55 pm
  5. Tom Armstrong wrote:

    I have a friend who did some sales for Bar Mitts (http://barmitts.com/). If you have a local bike shop that buys from QBP, they can get some of the Bar Mitts product line (Bar Mitts also sells stuff online, but I know that many like dealing with local merchants–I sure do). One benefit of these (from what users have told me) is that one can wear thinner gloves and still get wind protection.

    Hope this helps some of you.

    Posted 13 Nov 2012 at 5:04 pm
  6. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Bar Mitts! Thanks, Tom. That’s what I was trying to remember.

    Posted 13 Nov 2012 at 5:47 pm
  7. Steve A wrote:

    Ian – ski mittens. When nothing else will work.

    Posted 13 Nov 2012 at 6:37 pm
  8. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    Yeah, I’ve tried ski mittens, but I tend to keep two fingers on the brakes a lot of the time, so mittens don’t work for that. I also tried a pair of those Giro ’100 Proof’ lobster gloves, but they were completely useless in very cold weather.

    Posted 13 Nov 2012 at 8:35 pm
  9. Khal Spencer wrote:

    My lobster gloves work to about 20 deg F and then I get cold again. They are a good compromise to warmth vs. control. It was 28 deg F this morning when I pushed off from the house and my hands were toasty on the other end.

    Posted 14 Nov 2012 at 10:03 am
  10. Anthony Carter wrote:

    I still refrain from biking in rain or snow, but no [SW Missouri] temperature is too cold for me anymore. Beanie, wind-proof coat over a long-sleeve shirt, jeans over long underwear, wool socks, and leather gloves keep me toasty on the coldest days. I also wear a scarf over my face (sans eyes) if it’s a biting kind of cold.

    Posted 15 Nov 2012 at 10:12 am
  11. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    I made a concerted effort during the last 12 months to get a full set of wool clothing for cold weather cycling. So far this winter (well, I guess it’s not technically winter yet, but…) it seems to be working. This morning I went out in the mid 30s fahrenheit with ‘Minus33′ wool long underwear, wool socks, cotton jeans, cable knit merino wool sweater, thinsulate gloves and a light insulated windproof shell jacket and by the time I reached my daughter’s school I had to take the jacket off because I was too hot. I cycled home without the jacket and while it was chilly, it was that nice comfy chilly that lets you get rid of excess heat.

    Posted 15 Nov 2012 at 10:59 am
  12. Andy Cline wrote:

    Anthony… For rain, all you need is good gear. I wear what bass fishermen wear.

    Posted 16 Nov 2012 at 12:23 pm
  13. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    For rain, I like the yellow poncho that’s sold on eBay:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/BIKE-RAIN-PONCHO-Yellow-Waterproof-Bicycle-Gear-Jacket-/170685788160?pt=Cycling_Parts_Accessories&hash=item27bdaa7000

    It’s heavy and it smells a bit of chemicals until you give it a good airing-out, but it works well – no getting sweaty and no need for rain trousers. Also, unlike a lot of so-called bicycle ponchos, it’s short in the arm, so you can signal properly without the poncho getting caught and stopping you from raising your arm.

    Posted 16 Nov 2012 at 7:58 pm
  14. Rodney wrote:

    I made my own bike pogies for winter riding. I am able to use my summer half finger gloves and still keep warm hands. A slight chill on the hands came from times of signalling lane changes, turns, etc.

    I preferred cycling specific attire on my seven mile commute. Microfleece ear bands kept ears warm, balaclava for the colder and windy days, arm/leg warmers, and under armor style base layer with long sleeve poly jersey. For wind protection, I used my rain suit for the cold/windy days as well. Enjoyable down to 25 degrees for me.

    It is what works best for you that counts!

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 1:29 am