Drive My Bike

Bike Commuting In Cooler Weather

The backyard thermometer indicated it was 52 degrees (F) this morning when I was checking my tires and getting ready to leave, which makes this the coldest morning I’ve experienced so far in my bike commuting adventure.


I have a lightweight, breathable windbreaker that I’ve been carrying around in my pannier, and today was the first day that I actually chose to wear it. Even though I chose to unzip it after I got warmed up, I was glad that I had it on for the first couple of miles. I wear fingerless biking gloves, and with this morning’s cold I also noticed that my fingers were starting to go a bit numb. All of this got me thinking… what am I going to wear when it starts to get REALLY cold? We get lots of snow here in Utah, and it’s great for snowboarding and skiing, but the idea of riding my bike in that kind of weather is something that is completely new to me. I’ve read some other blogs out there, and folks like Warren T make it sound like they actually enjoy winter riding. I’m looking forward to the adventure, but I want to make sure that I’m warm and safe. Just like when I snowboard, I know that the right outerwear makes the difference between a great experience and a miserable experience.

So… I ask you, my readers… do you ride in the winter weather? If so, what do you wear?

UPDATE: I just found a great article with some very practical winter riding tips… The Gear Junkie: Winter Bike Commuting, 10 Tips to Ride Safe… thanks Gear Junkie!

UPDATE: Read about my 40 degree commuting here and my 30 degree commuting here


7 Comments so far
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You can ride and be comfortable in cold/wet weather. It took me some trial and error before I found what works for me.

My main concern was keeping warm and dry with my hands and feet being a priority. I use Showers Pass rain gear, Lake winter cycling shoes, and full finger winter cycling gloves. I also have thin liners for my gloves and Under Armour base layer clothing. That is pretty much the main pieces I use in the winter.

It is easy to over dress, so I always want to feel a little cold when I start out. It does not take long to start warming up.

Comment by Bob

I actually enjoy riding when the weather turns cold, it’s…refreshing. I too use Under Armor Cold Gear tights, multiple layers on top, an REI/Novara Jacket, a thin fleece beanie – or fleece balaclava when it’s really cold and winter-weight gloves. As I live and ride in Oregon, fenders are a must. Depending on the severity of the rain I will rock some rain pants too, but they tend to get too warm.

Last winter went well, but I learned the maxim: if you’re warm when you start, you have too much on. I try to go where I’m kind of cold for about the first 5 minutes, that tends to be the sweet spot for me.

Good luck and enjoy!

Comment by Wanderer

Thanks for the ideas guys. I’m looking forward to trying the cold weather commuting. (My wife thinks I’m crazy)

Comment by Scott

I noticed that with the cooler fall weather makes it a little darker, so I just purchased a rear and front light so I can be seen a little better. Right now the mornings are crisp — I ride in the morning with a full glove that keeps warm to about 50 degrees. I ride home in the afternoon with fingerless cause it is warmer. I also have a windbreaker that I put on in the morning that seems to keep my body warm. My problem lately is my sunglasses fogging up when I stop at the stoplight. The fogging goes away when I start up again. Also, my ears get freezerburn from the “windshear” -heh. I am looking into either earmitts, or a skull cap that I hope will help. Since I am such a winter wimp, I was planning on stopping the commuting ride around November. I know a Utah commuter veteran of 8 years who hangs up the bike in November and takes winter spinning classes to stay in shape. I am considering the same. Any suggestions?

Comment by LP

Winter cycling can be a blast, if you are well prepared. I wear:

1) Gloves (obviously). Depending on the temp, I have some pretty nice fleece-lined winter cycling gloves or for those ways below 10-15 degrees I have lobster claws (LG) that I wear over thin liner gloves.
2) Skull cap from Pearl Izumi. Pretty much start wearing this when the mornings are below 50.
3) When its really, really cold (10-15) I wear ski goggles. Cold eyes is the worst.
4) Fleece Pearl izumi tights under flannel-lined khaki pants.
5) Wool socks, shoe booties
6) Long underwear shirt, fleece, Pearl barrier jacket (by the way, for a while I was getting a 50% discount on Pearl stuff that’s why I have so much)
7) lights, lights lights! I also need to invest in a lot of reflective tape.

Welcome to the fun of season riding! I also have a winter bike with studded tires for the days when the roads are terrible out here. Don’t let the weather scare you off!

Comment by James

My biggest concerns with riding in winter are my tires and illumination.

@james you said you have studded tires for winter, are they heavier and do those types of tires make it difficult to steer? How do they handle on pavement vs. a snow packed road?

I have lights, and reflective tape. But I;m sure it’s not enough. The other day I saw a woman riding her bike in the morning wearing this huge bright green shirt. It was hard to miss her.

For me the big thing is gloves. When my hands get too cold, I can’t grip the handle bars or pull the break lever very easy. But thick gloves also make it hard to grip. Trying to find the right combination of warmth and usefulness.

Comment by Thom Allen

I ride year round in the midwest – 100+f in August to 20f (-9c) in January. I don’t ride much below 20f (though my actual record low for a commute is 17f) or if there is ice on the road. I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but I still have a survival instinct. On the coldest days I wear a poly-cotton baselayer, winter weight PI l/s cycle jersey, topped with a PI amfib l/s jersey. Bottoms are a winter-weight Nashbar bib, with PI amfib tights. Shoes are Salomon trail runners with toe covers. I use Power Grips not clipless. Gloves are Craft Siberian – I still get cold hands though. Sometimes I’ll wear a fleece beanie under my helmet. That’s about it. I do about 20 miles a day in the winter and feel OK; not toasty but I can still get out and ride, and I love riding on cold nights. I don’t have any special gear on my Tricross – Spesh Armadillos with thick tubes, full fenders, a rear rack for ‘stuff’ and a *lot* of lights. On the front: a MiNewt X2 dual (pretty good lumens per $) and two cheap white flashy lights. On the rear: four 9-LED Nashbar lights and a Planet Bike LED – the one with the big ole pulse. I might still get whacked but at least I’d win the lawsuit. Drivers around here are completely mad, selfish, and hate cyclists. I get abused daily – really hateful language, I mean it is shocking what they come up with. I was assaulted once (by a guy who ran me off the road because he was late for a haircut), and I’ve had cars aimed at me more than once – not kidding, honest. Cold is not top of my list of “least favorite things about cycling” by a very long way. Not much keeps me off the road though – it’s just too much fun.

Comment by KC Tricrosser

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