First Real Cold Weather Commute of Winter '08-'09

Between my week of training up in Dublin and a bout of a cold brought on by my traitorous fifteen-month old daughter last weekend, I haven't been on my bike since the day after Thanksgiving - took the bus all this week. So today I climbed back on (as I could finally breathe almost normally) and rode to work. It was a beautiful morning for a ride, and I left the house at about 7:30 after getting all my gear together.

For those of you who are still perusing the idea of a winter bike commute, here's the weather situation for today:
  • Clear Roads - no ice or snow
  • Temperature: 20-25° Fahrenheit (-4° Celsius)
  • Wind...negligible
And here's what I wore:
Disclaimer: I do not work for Pearl Izumi.

I was plenty warm... perhaps a bit too warm. On the way home, we're going to see how I do with a simple UnderArmour t-shirt underneath the fleece (as it's supposed to warm up significantly today). I do find that the balaclava doesn't do a real good job at keeping ears warm, hence the earmuffs over the balaclava.

The commute itself was fine, though I seemed to miss EVERY light on the way to work. Cars gave me plenty of space, even when I crossed over I-670 on Summit (which is the only part that makes me nervous with all those cars coming off the expressway).

I keep a pair of shoes at work to change into when I get there, and also brought a polo shirt, undershirt, and pair of non-thick socks.

It took me about five minutes once I got here to get changed and cooled off a bit. I keep a small fan on my desk to aid with that.

So I'm hopefully back to commuting by bike for the foreseeable future... no more bus trips for a while. I'll miss being able to read on the bus, but I do love the exercise as well!

People, not speed.


  1. I received two pieces of clothing - a balaclava and a jacket - made of wind blocking fleece. It seems to be nylon between two thin pieces of fleece. The fabric is breathable, but windproof and water resistant. Very light and very warm. The jacket is a Marinac from Land's End and is not a cycling-specific piece of clothing. I don't know where the balavlava came from.

    One thing we seldom cover about winter cycling is the simple fact that we travel more slowly. I don't know why that happens, but I do know that it's essential to gear down and spin along easily in the cold. Constant motion keeps us warm and lower speed reduces wind chill.

    I rode to work yesterday. It was 20F with a slight tail wind. That's about my lower limit these days. My fingers and toes were cold, but the rest of me was fine. The commute is only 7 miles, though. If it were longer, the cold might be a problem.

  2. Nice starting point. I would add or modify a few items:

    * Snowboarder gloves also work well with wool liners. Key points: enough warmth for you comfort level, gauntlet to cover jacket sleeves and flexibility to use the bike controls, shifters.

    * Balaclava with neoprene mask (molded nose, mouth openings) otherwise the nose/mouth area clogs up with moisture.

    * Hiking boots, what about the gap between you shoe and pants? Clipless shoes are great for arch comfort, power, and safety over longer commutes simply add Potenza neoprene booties for warmth! Water resistant, insulate even when wet, stretchy to fit all shoes and 360° of reflective tape .

    * Being old-school I eschew Cordaround fancy pants and stick with traditional winter weight and merino wool tights.

    * Reflective clothing: 3M Scotchlite fabric/tape/sticker on the helmet, shoe booties, jacket and pannier bags

  3. Sounds like an item of clothing to check out, Ed. And about it being not cycling-specific, I have no problem with that, as I'll expound upon below.

    You're right about the slower travel, too... road conditions, more wind, and simple light-affective disorders and the like cause us to travel more slowly. I don't know about you, but I sweat more in the winter, because I tend to overdress to compensate. Still trying to find my happy medium, which is sort of the point of this post.

    Dan, thanks for the tips about snowboarder gloves. My lobster mittens are pretty similar to boarder gloves. I personally prefer to wear mittens in such weather, though... having my fingers touch each other inside the mittens allows them to aid in mutual warmth instead of having each of those appendages out by themselves where they get colder faster. And my shifters are the twist-style ones which work with mittens just as well as gloves.

    My balaclava doesn't have a mask for the mouth and nose, but that's something I'd like to try sometime. I've seen skiers use them on occasion and think that's a good idea.

    I didn't have to worry too much about the area between my boots and pants, which were slightly rolled up. I wore a pair of knee-high thick socks that I wear with kilts sometimes, and they worked great.

    Part of my philosophy with riding to work is that, as much as possible, I don't want to change clothes when I get to my destination. I want to try to keep it as simple as possible, and I'm to the point where all I have to do is change my shirt and shoes/socks once I arrive. I like the Bike-To-Work pants because they really look like normal khakis but with the added advantage of the reflective material. I have a pair of tights... but prefer not to have to wear them.

    Reflective material is indeed key. My panniers have reflective tabs, so do the Bike to Work pants, and of fourse, I have all the reflectors and lights going for my commutes this time of year. Plus my jacket is in that fluorescent yellow fabric that police use (Pearl Izumi calls it "Screaming Yellow") and I've never had visibility problems when wearing that!


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