Drive My Bike


Into The Cold
September 23, 2008, 10:12 am
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I checked the weather report last night, and they predicted that it would be in the low 40’s this morning. Normally I don’t think of temperatures in the 40s as being very cold, but I have to admit that I was very intimidated by the thought of riding in that kind of weather!

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I did some looking around yesterday, and I found this great post about dressing for cold weather bike commuting. I love how they show pictures next to the temperatures so that you have  a frame of reference depending on what kind of weather you’re going to be riding in as you bike commute. I also really liked how practical the author is, recommending simple solutions with a no-nonsense approach. There’s also some very useful information in the great comments on that post.

I’ve been wearing fingerless gloves, and I noticed that even in the low 50s my fingers were starting to go a bit numb, so based on the ideas in that article I went to REI last night and took a look at the cold weather biking gloves they had in stock. I have come to really like a lot of the things in REI’s Novara line of bicycling gear, but the Novara cold weather gloves didn’t seem to get very good reviews on REI.com, so I figured I’d just try on lots of gloves and see what worked for me. I settled on the Pearl Izumi Cyclone gloves. They seemed to fit the best, had some padding for comfort, and claimed to be water and wind resistant.

I have a good pullover windbreaker that I’ve been wearing when it gets cold, and it’s been great to keep out the wind and occasional rain, so the only other change I made this morning was wearing a long-sleeved shirt under my windbreaker instead of a biking jersey.

So how was the ride today…? Well, I looked at the thermometer before I left, and it was 41 degrees (F) while I was pumping up my tires. I was certainly cold for the first mile or so, in fact I was so cold that I actually was second guessing myself and wondering if this was a bad idea. But, after the first five to ten minutes of riding I started to warm up, and by the third mile I started getting warm enough that I actually unzipped the windbreaker a bit to get some more air circulation going. My new gloves seemed to work okay, although I can tell that when it gets colder I’ll probably need to bring out my big snow gloves, but that is probably to be expected. I got to the office in good time, and it was actually quite a refreshing ride.

Some things I’m going to change…

– I need something on my ears, because by the time I got to work they were actually sore. This surprised me, because I don’t think of 40 degrees as being that cold, but I guess the wind chill I was generating at 15-20mph was significant. I really don’t like earmuffs or beanies. Even when I snowboard I prefer just my helmet, without any kind of balaclava or earmuffs. I’m not sure what my solution will be, but I need something on my ears.

– I think I’ll wear some kind of thermals on my legs. I just had normal shorts on today, so it was bare skin from the knee to the ankle, and it wasn’t too uncomfortable, but I’m thinking that it might be better for my knees to keep them a bit warmer. I also might take a look at some of the biking “knickers” I’ve seen out there.

All in all, my first cold day was a good experience, and I’m excited to continue on this next phase in my bike commuting adventure. Based on today’s ride I’m confident I can keep going until the snow files and the roads start to get icy. At that point I intend to try to keep bike commuting, but I’ll have to make some more adjustments to my equipment.

As Buzz Lightyear would say… “To Infinity and Beyond!”

UPDATE: Read about my 50 degree commuting here and my 30 degree commuting here

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5 Comments so far
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Scott- You are way ahead of us here. The cold weather is still a couple of weeks, perhaps several weeks off. The most I had to wear was a light windbreaker for the first fifteen minutes of my ride.

Keep us updated on how you do. I haven’t cold weather commuted yet. So I think it will be a learning experience. ANd thanks for the link.

Comment by Tom

This is why I subscribe to other blogs! Great post, and especially great link. I still have a while, since I live in the South, but the link to dressing for cold weather is already bookmarked.

Comment by Zach

How about headphones to warm those ears a little? Some of the larger ones that wrap around from the back have worked for me in the past. Just remember not to turn the volume up so high that you can’t hear your surroundings (assuming you normally hear). You could also wear the headphones without connecting to a player. I have worn a thin, nylon-like helmet liner that is long enough to tug down over most of my ears. It has to be cold enough for the headwear though!

Comment by Drew

I wear a fleece headband that covers my forehead and ears when the temperature drops to the low 40s or 30s, and it works pretty well. I have to keep the top of my head uncovered to keep from overheating.

Comment by Dan

If you take a look at my latest post you’ll see that I found a lightweight beanie with a warming ear band, and that sort of worked for me. I actually bought a full balaclava yesterday, but then returned it after I got home and decided that it would be too warm on the top of my head. Dan, like you I can’t have much on my head or I overheat. For now I’m going to try wearing a fleece neck gaiter pulled up around my nose and ears to see how that works. I think between that and my lightweight beanie I’ll probably be okay. Tomorrow morning should be in the upper 20’s so we’ll soon see how it goes.

Comment by Scott




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