Winter Cycling - too cold?
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12-11-00, 10:19 PM
Earlier this November I had my first cold ride of the year at -4 degrees Celsius (24 degrees farenheit). Well, it started to cool off today. I only rode about two miles (MTB) this morning, but I noticed a thermometer reading 2 degrees farenheit today (that's -16 degrees Celsius!) I'm at work now, and I started looking at the weather forecasts for my area.... the windchill right now is -12 degrees farenheit (-24 degrees celsius).
I do plan to go riding in the morning. I've riden in some cold weather, and percipitation does not affect me, but I am wondering if temperatures this cold require any extra precautions. Any experience in riding in temperatures this low?
12-12-00, 06:45 AM
I once saw a brave soul riding a bike on a university campus in Montreal... it was probably ten degrees below zero, (F). I was impressed. I used to have second thoughts if it was much below 20 deg F above zero. Not anymore.
The trick is to bundle up... multiple layers of clothing, and make sure that cotton isn't the layer next to your skin. You knew that, right? Keep your head warm with a balaclava or bandanna under your helmet. Or, live life on the edge... go helmetless and wear a winter hat. For sub-freezing rides I wear oversized (too long) shoes, with the toe area stuffed with down from an old parka, and two pair of socks under those. If it is cold AND wet, I mount a set of platform pedals to my "rainbike" and wear rubber lineman's boots... along with a surplus electric company rainsuit. Everybody has their own idea of which gloves work best, and I am partial to Fila ski gloves... the really big polar ones with articulated joints for the fingers. I sometimes wear motorcycle glove rain covers over those... they look like lobster mittens, and keep the wind at bay.
The bike shouldn't care whether it is tropical or arctic outside, although don't expect summertime levels of grip out of frozen tires. Lubes won't freeze... but your water supply will. (Best take some Brandy along, just in case!)
Also, realize that, bundled up like Bibendum, unable to swivel your neck or move your arms, you'll not set any speed records. In fact, the thing I hate most about winter is that my ETs suffer so.
12-12-00, 12:54 PM
Ok, i personaly will not ride when the temp goes under zero degrees farenheit. just too cold, and when you get to that temp, you have soo many layers on, you cant ride that well anyhow :D
fantinelj mentioned that the tempature is 2 degrees, -12 windchill, this can work for, or against you, if you are riding with the wind, at the speed of the wind, the windchill factor is gone, and it will fill 14 degrees warmer then when your just standing there... If your riding against the wind, it may not feel like -12, it may feel like -24!
I found a Windchill Caculator to figure out what -12 degrees farenheit is if you ride into it at just 5mph, but im bad at math, heres the calculations if you want to figure it out:
<li>Find out the temperature T in degrees Celsius and the wind speed W in kilometres per hour. If you're in Toronto, you can call Environment Canada at 416-661-0123 to hear a recorded message with current conditions.
<li>Subtract T from 33C to get T<sub>S</sub>, the difference between the air temperature and your skin temperature.
<li>If W=10, add 10% to T<sub>S</sub>;
if W=20, add 30% to T<sub>S</sub>;
if W=30, add 40% to T<sub>S</sub>;
if W=40, add 48% to T<sub>S</sub>;
if W=50, add 52% to T<sub>S</sub>;
if W=60, add 56% to T<sub>S</sub>;
if W>=70, add 60% to T<sub>S</sub>.
<li>Subtract T<sub>S</sub> from 33C to get the windchill.
<i>Example:</i> If the temperature is -2C and the windspeed is 30 km/h, then 33-(-2) = 35, 35*40 = 14, 35+14 = 49, 33-49 = -16, so the windchill equivalent temperature is -16C.
12-12-00, 02:25 PM
Why is that strong gusty wind always blowing in the OPPOSITE direction from where I must go? It's bad enough that the still air temperature will freeze my water bottle, now I have to deal with a headwind that will stop me dead if I cease pedaling?
Anybody else ever notice that? Moter Nature can be such a hateful... errr, witch.
I've considered getting a coworker to pick me up and deposit me twenty miles UPWIND of the office, so I could have a decent ride in...
... but non-riders won't hear of such nonsense, especially at 05:30.
12-12-00, 03:21 PM
I actually don't mind riding in headwinds. Hey, they'll make you a better rider and you'll have a good story to embellish later.
Remember, wind and hills build character :-)
12-12-00, 06:31 PM
Originally posted by Chris L
Remember, wind and hills build character :-)
That would be a good quote in your signature :D I remember once a few years ago, i was riding my bike home from school, only 5 miles away, but we were having some really odd weather with "micro-bursts" of upto 70mph, it took me close to 2 hours to cover what usualy takes just 40min. Luckly for me, it wasnt in the dead of winter.
12-13-00, 02:27 AM
Well, the weather conditions in my area have gone to the dogs since my last post. I've already had two off days, so I HAVE to ride tomorrow. The temperature is still in single digits, we have some moderate wind gusts, we have 3 inches of snow on the ground, and it is currently sleeting. I have a small heap of clothes and some hot cocoa. I'll try to ride 5 miles tomorrow, and see how it goes. I thought that I was wimping out at my "nothing below 20" limit, but I can't get my room mate out of the house if it's less than 40 F out. I only got him to ride in the rain once, and he complained a good while about it.
My experience in the past has proven to me:
if you get going hard enough then you'll warm up as long as your toes and fingers are well covered.
I hope that this proves true when it's cold as hades.
Joe, thanks for the info. I'll try to judge my direction WITH the wind tomorrow. I never thought that it would make that much of a difference.
12-13-00, 01:52 PM
The NODs (gnarly old dudes) which have passed their craft down to me over the years had three rules of engagement when it comes to the cold:
1. Start off a little on the chilly side...you'll warm up as the ride progresses, much more than you realize.
2. Cutting the wind is 75% of the battle...truth.
3. Cover you head...protecting your hands, feet and face is of course very important but one would be amazed at the convection (i think that's the correct principle...correct me if i'm wrong) that is hampered by a simple lid. I know Louis Garneau makes a winter cycling hat that fits under the helmet. Any small hat will do...better than just ear warmers and masks.
And believe it or not, you don't have to sacrifice too much in the way of aerodynamics when subscribing to this approach.
12-13-00, 08:07 PM
I was barely able to make it out of the parking lot at my job due to the 6-10 inches of snow that we have. I wasn't able to make it home to get my bike today so I haven't been able to put all of this advice to the test yet. I do think that Joe and Goatness have a noteworthy idea about the wind. I have a lot of faith in covering hands and feet to keep the whole body warm. My girlfriend bought me some waterproof socks for my b-day. They're awesome! I usually wear a bandana while I ride, but I may try to find something with a little more warmth.
We are supposed to be getting more percipitation in 24-36 hours. I guess that I'll have plenty of time to learn how to ride in 0 - 10 F temperatures (and snow and ice too).
Thanks for all of the advice and trade secrets!
12-19-00, 07:14 PM
16:30, my office. I'm putting the final touches on my tenue for the commute home. Essentially, I'm dressed up like the Pillsbury Dougboy... so well insulated am I that I cannot lower my arms completely, and I think I'm wearing three pairs of socks. (I raided my emergency office-clothes stash.)
Why? Well, we have three inches of snow on the ground, black ice on the roads, and a gale-force northwest wind gusting up tp 45mph, bringing the windchill down to, ah, -9F. This is GEORGIA, d@mmit! Bon sang! Land of magnolias, honeysuckle, and 105 degree summer days! WE don't often have to cope with this kind of weather!
Becky, my senior analyst, passed my office as I was wheeling out the rainbike. (my '88 Trek beater) I got the "but you'll get pneumonia out there..." speech. I politely countered with "germs can't catch me out there... I'm too fast, they don't have the right stuff."
Out I went into the wind tunnel of the gods... My normally hour & five minutes ride became a 90 minute bone chilling, lung bursting, barking mad psycho-slog through hell. You know how your nose runs when you ride in the cold? Ever had the mucous freeze in your moustache? My hands stung horribly for a while... then, disturbingly, they stopped hurting. Then my lungs went on strike... I am prone to asthma, under certain conditions (woodsmoke, some perfumes, arctic-cold air) but it never much bothered me on bike rides... until now. So, there I was, grinding along on a muddy dirt levee-top road, howling wind coming at me from the left... I'd lean into it to stay upright, then it would gust from another direction and throw me down... gasping for breath all the way.
Where I am from, we have a phrase for people like me... "un brin de folie," a touch of madness... I believe that I have crossed a threshold here. There must be madness in the air today.
I got to the top of the riverbank, where the levee road turns into a paved county two-lane. I pulled down a long, deserted driveway, (one of my many safe, outdoor pee-stops) and collapsed: pathetic, shivering, gasping, wind-blind & sweating pile of damp laundry.
Here is a French swear-word: "Bon Dieu de Merde!" Utter it aloud in Paris, and you'll turn every head within earshot. I chant it as a mantra on rides such as this.
Hours passed... well, perhaps five minutes... and I realized that I was feeling much better. I was no longer dizzy, I could breath a bit more easily, and the wind... the wind was blowing almost in the direction of home! I could just lay there like roadkill and and freeze to death, like a big, spandex opossum...
Or... I mounted up, and wobbled away...
I'm sitting here at home now, luxurious Chateau Cambronne, showered and warm, with a glass of red Bordeaux, (cocorico!) some minestrone, Speedvision Superbike races on the tele, and a smug, satisfied feeling deep inside. I logged the worst average speed and elapsed time I've ever recorded... in 26 years of cycle commuting!
But I'm home, alive, comfortable, and yes, I'm going out again tomorrow morning. With perhaps four pair of socks on.
[Edited by Cambronne on 12-20-2000 at 07:59 AM]
12-20-00, 06:33 PM
I guess that it's been a little while since I've posted on here. I guess that I've just been too busy riding in the ice. I have found that the wind is my friend in the winter. If the wind is blowing, then that's the way I'm going. I do look like something of an abstract painting: Red arm warmers, silver jersey, grey/orange/black shoes, black waterproof socks, vanilla long johns, kahki shorts, blue helmet. Kinda funny.
I have been filling my water bottle with warm water- it usually doesn't stay warm, but it does take a LOT longer to freeze. Tomorrow I should be able to hit the trails again, and I plan to purchase a headband to cover my ears.
Can't wait to get back to XC.
Thanks for all of the advice guys. Maybe I'll start commuting...
12-28-00, 09:21 PM
I've found that a plain old cycling cap with some of those "snap/clip on" behind your head foldable ear mufflers work really,really well, I think they're called "Ear-Grippers". If it's too cold for the cap a lycra balalclava does a very good turn under the helmet. I do keep an old helmet with some of the fit stuff left out to make room for a wool cap.
Jean Beetham Smith
01-01-01, 09:31 AM
Chris L: At my age I don't need any more character, and I've reached the age where I know that "I'm not getting older, I'm getting better" is a lie. Every year I have to work harder to only get slightly worse, but now I have enough character that that is OK. So at your age, keep building character and you too need not fear old age, you'll be a happy curmudgeon.
Cambronne: Know how those windy rides feel. Recently had to shift down and hammer to make 11 MPH going down a hill that usually is good for 33 MPH, unfair!
01-01-01, 04:48 PM
Yeah, I like being young and stupid. But hey, I see plenty of older riders getting around in my part of the world (like 60+) and some of them are madder than I am!
01-03-01, 06:40 PM
My girlfriend gave me a Pearl Izumi Head Cap for Christmas. it works great. It is far better then any ear warmers that I have tried, plus it covers my head, ears, and neck. I would recommend Pearl Izumi to anyone looking for a new bike cap of any kind....
01-04-01, 08:42 AM
The last couple of days it has been what passes for cold here in New Orleans - high 20's (F) with 10-15 mph. Not even close to what some of you have described so I won't event begin to try to advise. I hit just the right combo of layers so I was just right without sweating much. This morning was just as cold. I had every intention of riding, but snuggling with my wife was just too warm and cozy so I slept in and drove. So sue me! :-)
My (hopeful) contribution here is
Sierra has a lot of coldweather gear, including several weights of lightweight, long underwear, hats and gloves. Their regular prices are pretty good, and their Bargain Barn prices are pretty amazing. Check them out. They also have a limited amount of cycling-specific gear.
I have a Turtle Fur (not furry at all) under-helmet cap with ear flaps that works well (not from Sierra though they might have them). I also have a heavy weight fleece balaclava. Sierra right now has a nice light weight neck warmer for $2.95, if you don't mind camo.
Another site, http://www.campmor.com has good stuff, too.
Commuting in cold weather is just the way it is for me in northern Wisconsin. For the past two weeks it has been between 0 to 10 degrees F and with wind chill fell to below -25 F. My tears literally froze on my cheeks last week.
The important thing is to cover exposed skin. Sometimes, I wear ski goggles if it is too cold. It really isn't too important to dress extra warm because your body warms up with riding. In fact, for a comfortable ride, the challenge is to keep your extremeties and skin from freezing without having your body core sweating. The most difficult skin to cover is the area just above your eyebrows and your nose.
Some simple advise for gear is:
1) Get a mask that allows you to breath easily. Most of the new synthetic material balaklava and other modern masks are woven too tightly to breath easily. The old woven ski mask still works best in really cold weather - sorry REI.
2) Keep your feet warm - forget the high-tech socks. No socks will save you - even the electric socks- if it is below 0 F and windy. Wear Sorel style pac boots with full thick felt liners.
3) For hands, Chopper mits with leather outers are still hard to beat. Finger gloves are nice, but if they let you down half-way home and the weather is really bad, you could be in for some unforgetable pain and damage. Remember, unlike skiing, you are holding on to a steel pipe when you bicycle. I have covers over my handle-bars in which I insert my gloved hands. This works well. I got my covers in Japan, but there they use just the covers without gloves, so the covers are a little small with gloves.
4) Don't neglect the area around your eyes. If it is dangerously cold, you might need ski goggles. If you wear glasses, I suggest switching to contacts. Your breath can quickly freeze to your glasses and leave you blinded in an instant (even with anti-fog goop on the glasses). Glasses are most prone to fog when the wind is at your back and when you stop and have to look down (to make adjustments or - heaven forbid - to make repairs).
I used to kid myself that winter biking is as fun as summer biking, but at really cold temperatures, I have to motivate myself with thoughts like "it's good for me and the environment" more than "Oh, Gee, this is fun".
01-11-01, 08:30 PM
Lately, I have been battling whole sheets of ice on the MTB trails. There really is nothing that you can do about that other then pray. As for the cold and my motivation to keep riding: "bragging rights"
08-18-01, 09:22 PM
You all seem a pretty adventurous sort. What you ought to do, then, is have a look at the icebiking website:
There is a great amount of information here which will make it possible for you to cycle in very cold weather.
I've winter-cycled a couple of years in northern New England. Coldest non-wind-aided temperatures were something like -15F. Snowstorms, wind, ice-- I braved it all. I had a seven mile commute I made everyday in the dead of winter on my aluminum horse. If I can do it, you can do it too.
If anything, I was hoping it would get much colder during those winters so I could have myself an adventure. I wouldn't hesitate to ride in -20F still air temperatures-- I wanted to have a go at -30F, or even -40F. _That_ would have been great.
Again, I have to recommend the website, as it has much more information than I can rehearse here now. But, here are some important key points to take with you now:
(1) You need surprisingly little clothing to keep you warm on a bicycle. The key is that your outer layer be wind proof. For a 10 below zero Farenheit ride, I would put on one poly undershirt, a bicycle jersey, and a light cycling rain jacket with a hood. My lower half was covered in one pair of normal long bicycle tights, and a pair of Gekko gear icebiking tights. I wore one balaclava, two pairs of socks covered in turn by vapor-barrier booties and then covered with thick soled running shoes. (No helmet. If you're shocked, go write in another forum-- after you figure out how we manage to live without helmets in cars or life-vests while we swim.) I used the toe-clip pedals in the winter. Gloves were full-fingered Wal-Mart things, with a detachable poly liner.
I covered my eyes with plastic lab goggles. They didn't seal on my face, and they had air holes in the top. I generated plenty of heat to keep my eyes warm while I rode. Yet, even when I slowed my gogs didn't fog up. They were $3, too.
With these items, I was fully comfortable in very cold temperatures. I'd go even to -20F with these items. Another layer and I'd go lower.
(2) If you're going to be riding in _snow_, and not just in cold weather on plowed roads, I'd recommend a mountain bike. Traction is better, handling is quicker, and torque is better with lower gears. Also, water will freeze on your deraillers and cogs, and while mountain bike components will freeze up like any other in these conditions they last the longest before they do. (If they do freeze, be sure you're in a gear you like, because you're not changing it until you get home.)
(3) You can't go fast in very cold weather, whatever you do. Not because of the wind from the speed, because you can't do it. I don't know precisely why, but with the thicker clothing, the need to keep from overheating (yes, it's true!), wider tires, and colder, denser air, I wasn't breaking any personal bests. Forget about aero clothing. Think of it as a macho adventure.
(4) Below -20F, you'll need to make some adjustments to your ride. Cold weather lubricants for your cables and chain.
(5) Just do it! It's not a big deal. People ski in temperatures close to 0F or colder. They snowmobile in the cold, cross country ski, and snowshoe. Just ride your bike.
08-31-01, 07:40 PM
It's a bit early to be talking about foul weather riding here on the east coast. But I thought I would put in my two cents worth.
One of the best things I have found for use under a helmet is a Hardhat liner. Yes a Hardhat liner. They are relatively thin, cover the whole head and ears and typically snaps under the chin. I have an old one that is made of cotton I like much better than the new nylon one that I have seen.
It has been a while sence I have seen one in a store but I imagine one could be found in building supply or tool stores.
Worth a look; very comfortable and doesn't add much bulk.
P.S. Is Hardhat one word or two??? Duh! Whatever.
08-31-01, 07:45 PM
Originally posted by HardBall
They are relatively thin, cover the whole head and ears and typically snaps under the chin
Oops, They are...typically snap under the chin.
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