Drive My Bike


The Right Formula For Winter Bike Commuting
October 14, 2008, 5:12 pm
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Based on yesterday’s ride I think I am getting close to the right mix of clothing for cold weather bike commuting.

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Yesterday the thermometer in my backyard showed 32 degrees (F) as I was getting ready to leave. Once again, I was excited for another cold weather ride so that I could test the latest changes to my bike commuting uniform. I was actually expecting the temperature to be around 27 (F) based on the weather forecast, so things were a bit warmer than I was preparing for.

Based on my previous experiences and research I’ve settled on a basic cold weather outfit that I can modify as needed for temperature variations:

  • Top: Long Sleeve Base Layer (Duofold Varitherm)
  • Bottom: Ankle Length Base Layer (Duofold Varitherm)
  • Jacket: Pullover Windbreaker (Cabelas)
  • Pants: Regular Cargo Shorts (not biker shorts, just plain shorts)
  • Gloves: Long Finger Biking Gloves (Pearl Izumi Cyclone)
  • Head: Lightweight thermal beanie (Novara) , Helmet
  • Eyewear: Sunglasses, unless cold causes fogging
  • Footwear: Cotton athletic socks, Running shoes

With the above outfit I’m comfortable into the upper 40’s. As it gets colder I can add:

  • Top: Long Sleeve T-Shirt
  • Face: Fleece Neck Gaiter pulled up to cover face and ears, but movable as needed for ventilation
  • Gloves: Thin glove liners worn under the above biking gloves

That is what I wore yesterday on a 32 degree day, and I was almost too warm, so I was adjusting my ventilation to avoid overheating. If it gets really cold so that the above is not enough, then I’m planning to add:

  • Top: Fleece pullover, worn under the windbreaker
  • Gloves: Full snow gloves instead of biking gloves
  • Pants: Snowboarding pants as wind/moisture block as well as adding additional thermal layer
  • Footwear: Heavy synthetic socks and possibly snow boots if roads are snowy

I’m feeling pretty confident at this point that the cold weather will not be a problem. I was very comfortable yesterday, and easily could have handled even cooler temperatures. The one thing that I’m intimidated by now is ice on the road. We get so much snow here in Utah that we have great plow crews that keep our roads very clear, so hopefully ice on the roads won’t be much of an issue. If it looks like it will be then I will probably choose not to ride on those days.

I would also mention that it was great to actually see another rider out yesterday in that cold weather! I’ve noticed that the herd has definitely thinned as the temperatures have dropped. I’ve gotten some great “you must be crazy” looks from drivers as well, and that is always fun.

Ride Safe and Stay Warm.

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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



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.

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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