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  1. #1
    2nd Century TBD AirBeagle1's Avatar
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    My First Winter Ride!

    My polypro tights came in on Friday afternoon, so I got up this morning thinking "the sun's out, the roads are dry, why don't I give this cold-weather riding a shot?" The extra motivation was my wife saying "why are you going to the basement to the bike trainer when you just spent money on cold-weather riding clothes?" Hard to argue with wisdom like that...

    So my first dilemma -- how do I dress for 20°F temperatures and 15 mph winds coming right off of Lake Ontario (and by right off the lake, I mean "oh look, there's Lake Ontario"). I didn't want to get so thick and bundled I ended up soaked, but also wanted to stay warm. So, figuring on a short ride looping around the house so I could always get home pretty quickly if I got too cold, I tried a pair of wool socks underneath a pair of polyester/cotton socks, my standard bike shorts, polypro tights over those, a long sleeve lightweight jersey to wick away moisture, a cotton turtleneck, lighter sweatshirt, balaclava, and my biking rain slicker over top to hopefully help with the wind. Threw on my gloves, sunglasses, and expanded my helmet a bit to fit over the balaclava, and I was off. Well, not without a few choice snickers from my wife (and a request that I go out the back door so the neighbors wouldn't see me). ;-)

    First couple miles were pretty uneventful. I was a bit chilly, but figured that was a good sign, hoping to warm up in the first couple minutes and then see how I felt. Was doing pretty good, although my legs were a bit cooler than I would have liked. I also noticed that I probably could have used just a bit more wind resistance on both my legs and my upper body. Feet didn't feel too bad, and gloves were working just fine (although it took a while to get shifting figured out).

    Went a few more miles along the lake, before I decided I'd had enough of that Ontario wind and turned inland (south) for a spell. As I moved inland, I tried to stay out of the harder gears and focus on spinning easily to start getting a feel for the bike again. It didn't take long to realize I was terrible at holding a line, which as much as I'd like to blame on the wind, might have had something to do with the rider. I also quickly learned that looking behind me was a bit tough with the balaclava, but by offsetting it to give me more space around my left eye, I was able to turn my head to check for traffic fairly easily. The sunglasses helped hold it in place, and thankfully, there were no issues with fogging.

    A couple more miles and I was getting a good feel for the efficacy of my winter clothing. The balaclava/helmet/sunglasses combo was working well, the upperbody was OK, although I could have used another layer, the gloves were great, but my legs were still pretty cold (which I REALLY noticed on one hill that I had to stand to climb), and although my toes didn't feel cold, unfortunately there was an issue. My toes didn't feel at all. I'd initially figured I'd go out for roughly an hour just to try this winter biking thing out, and though I wasn't overly uncomfortable, caution told me I should head home, get warmed up, and make a few adjustments for next time.

    Thankfully, I'd made this decision about a mile from my house, and as I took the turn toward home, it started snowing. Not a blizzard, by any stretch, but enough snow that it just started to stick on the roads and wet them, and it was blowing directly on my face, which certainly cooled things down a bit further. Pulled into the driveway, got the bike in the house, and hopped in the shower to find that my toes were pretty numb, and the top layer of my legs was a bit tingly. Good call turning for home when I did. All told, 8 miles, 30 minutes, experiment successful.

    Learnings For Next Time:
    1. Cycling jersey as base layer was good, kept me dry.
    2. Need another upper body layer, nothing too thick, but perhaps wind-resistant jacket instead of rain slicker.
    3. Definitely need another layer over legs. Not sure what that'll be yet. I have warm-up pants, but they're the button-down kind on the sides, so minimal wind resistance, and they're baggy -- I'm worried they'll get caught in the chain.
    4. Need to rethink toe warmth. Perhaps the two pair of socks, along with exploring options in whole-shoe covers?
    5. Hydration -- I took along a water bottle with Gatorade (made with warm water), not because I'd need it for so short a ride, but to work out any issues for future longer rides. Found it wasn't easy to drink in the cold weather, almost felt painful, and the thicker riding gloves made using the bottle a bit difficult. Also, the Gatorado quickly became downright frigid, also not a plus (but at least it didn't freeze). Might have to look into a small hydration pack or planning routes with indoor stopping places for future rides.

    Overall, though, I was pretty positive on the whole adventure. I'd originally hoped to get back outdoors when the temperature passed 40-50°F Fahrenheit (quite a ways away here), and am pretty sure there's no reason I can't get outside well before then. The sun shining off the patches of snow was gorgeous, and I even saw some wayward geese floating around in a pond in the few avenues that hadn't frozen over. Not a bad experience at all!

  2. #2
    Disgruntled grad student beingtxstate's Avatar
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    Sounds like overall you had a good experience! Actually my problem is usually having too much clothing on. It is really hard to strike that balance between too much or too little clothes for the distance expected. Nice post, it was fun to read!
    1990 Trek 330
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  3. #3
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    Hey welcome to the wonderful world of winter riding. I rode to the gym this morning and it was 20 below with the wind chill.

    A great place for suggestions is the winter ride sections in the forum. I went with their suggestions for gloves and have been happy with it. I use some cheap flip top gloves with polypropelene liners.

    What may help your legs is some waterproof jogging pants over your tights. This will keep the wind from penetrating.

    Winter cycling shoes can be a great addition also. I do not have a pair but the guys in winter forum love the lakes and usually buy them a little big so they can wear an extra pair of socks.

    Have you thought about getting a snow boarding helmet? I have one and use ski goggles with them and it is fantastic for really cold days. I like the ski goggles because they are much nicer in the cold wind. My eyes water really bad with it blowing in my face.

    Glad to hear about another person starting this. Have fun and be careful. I do not want to read about you getting frost bite.

  4. #4
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Key to cold feet...shoes/boots that are large enough to give you plenty of room WITH a couple layers of socks. I have the Answer winter boots and go most of the winter with just one pair of smartwool socks. Below 10 F or so I usually add a thin wool or polypro sock under the thick sock, and I am fine.

    Legs - get a pair of nylon warm up pants to wear over your tights. You can cinch up the legs with rubber bands, duct tape, velcro, etc. to keep out of the chain.

    Good bet for the upper body is a polypro base layer, one or more wool layers (wool sweaters can be found dirt cheap at thrift stores), and a wind resistant jacket with pit zips and front zip at minimum...rear vent and adjustable wrists even better, so you can adjust the amount of air you allow through for ventilation.

    Get yourself a Polar insulated water bottle...insulation works both ways. I like filling my bottles with iced tea w/ lemon in the winter...doesn't freeze as fast as water and I hate gatorade.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  5. #5
    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    You can also get some decent windproofs at Walmart (Pants), for a low $$. They aren't really cycling, instead, running, and will flap in the wind a bit, but still, they provide an area of still air, just be careful to use a strap or something to keep them out of the chain.
    on light duty due to illness; please contact my assistants for forum issues. They are Siu Blue Wind, or CbadRider or the other 3 star folk. I am currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes. I am making good progress, happily.


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  6. #6
    2nd Century TBD AirBeagle1's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice folks!!!

  7. #7
    Not safe for work cyclokitty's Avatar
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    I avoid anything cotton and instead wear polypro, wool, or fleece, with a windproof shell. So on top I wear a longsleeve polypro or wool undershirt, longsleeve Sporthill top, and my windproof shell, but when it is cold and wet, my fleece lined rain jacket. On my legs I wear my polypro bike tights and a Sporthill polypro pants that are windproof and stretchy. I'm slowly changing some of my riding gear to wool as I either wreck (I am not delicate) or get to small (yeah) because I noticed that my few pieces of wool clothing doesn't reek like monkey after one ride. It takes a week of riding before I go all monkey.

    I use a water bladder in my backpack and for Christmas received a insulator for the water hose. I haven't used it yet because I mean to use it this summer so the water doesn't taste warm and hideous. I received the tube insulator because my homemade insulator out of a evazote sleeping pad was embarassing to my friends.


  8. #8
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    +1 for some of the Walmart Stuff. They have some good base layer stuff that work well. Some of the shop in our area have good size crews that still ride in Winter. Talking with them and finding out what works for them might help also.

    Myself, for headwear, I can get away with a thin skullcap an ear band that I got at Walmart for $3 and my helmet.

    Now I worked on Flightline for years and what works for me out in the cold might not work for others.

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  9. #9
    Squirrel solveg's Avatar
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    I've been winter riding for about a week now. I'm very proud of myself! The hardest parts are learning to dress right (each day is a whole different dressing game) and psyching myself into getting out the door.

    I'm not a clipless pedal person, but my observations are that people who try to wear bike shoes end up with really cold feet. I would choose boots, any day.

    I end up with a couple layer of long underwear on (silk and midweight), then heavy weight biking/wind clothes. It was -9 yesterday with -25 wind chill, and I added an additional layer of fleece to the mix.

    For my hands, which have also never gotten cold, I just wear gloves and I have Pogies put on the handlebars, which are like muffs.

    My head: I wear these permanent fleece things on my helmet which act as ear muffs. I have a light smart wool baclava and beanie, and I just bought ski goggles, which are really, really nice.

    I've never been cold riding... in fact I've been too warm a few times, but for some reason I get the chills a few hours after riding. It was worse in the beginning when I would come in and strip to my long johns and then do stuff for a while. I was sweating and not realizing it, and I didn't realize my long johns were damp. But yesterday I took a hot bath right away and was still chilled a few hours later.

    My LBS is full of winter commuters, and they told me that if you're not cold for the first mile, then you're over dressed.

  10. #10
    Senior Member coldfeet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
    Key to cold feet...shoes/boots that are large enough to give you plenty of room WITH a couple layers of socks. I have the Answer winter boots and go most of the winter with just one pair of smartwool socks. Below 10 F or so I usually add a thin wool or polypro sock under the thick sock, and I am fine.
    + 1000! If you buy a winter riding shoe/boot, shop for it with the socks you intend to wear. I didn't and now have to buy another pair for longer /colder rides.

  11. #11
    Senior Member
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    I commute in Buffalo so we get just about the same weather. Here is what works for me:

    Comfy in Temps down to 8 F (has not been colder so that is my lowest known limit)
    Top:
    Breathable T-shirt
    Fleece pull-over
    Thin Windbreaker coat
    Bottom:
    Illuminite Tights (they are pretty thick and warm)
    J&W Rain pants and a more serious wind breaker
    Head:
    Turtle Fur cap
    PSolar face mask
    Hands:
    Old pair of Gortex Ski Gloves
    Feet:
    Winter boots

    Temps around 30 F or higher
    Don't wear the Rain pants
    Don't wear the face mask

    Temps around 35 F to around 45 F
    Lighter full-fingered gloves
    Don't wear the Turtle Fur Cap

    Temps above 50 F
    Don't wear the Fleece pull-over

    These are rough guidelines that seem to work for me. My ride is only about 5 miles each way. I usually start to unzip my windbreaker after about 2 miles and start to let more and more fresh air in. My windbreaker is supposed to breath (which it does a little), but when I get to work I need to turn it inside out to dry it out. The T-shirt and Fleece nicely move the moisture to the outside layer. At times I could also use an inbetween pair of gloves, but I can't justify spending the extra money. Last Friday was VERY windy 25 to 30 MPH wind with gusts to 45 MPH. I also have to commute between two of our office during the day. The ride was SLOW, and added nearly an extra 10 miles... it wa the first time in ages that I could feel my legs the next day, so it was a good workout. After all the extra riding my gloves were definitely getting sweaty by the afternoon ride home.

    Happy riding,
    André

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    We may be riding in the same hood...west side of the Genesee, Greece
    Charlotte area.

    Lots of great advice here so far. These folks know what they're doing.
    Not wanting to invest in cycling specific clothes I just
    wear a pair of jeans, and a pair of light socks with my work boots (a lot
    of my riding is in conjunction with commuting to and from the job) and I'm
    toasty. If it's single digits, a pair of long johns works wonders. Dressing for
    the job, indoor/outdoor duties in a refinery, my torso's often overheated
    by the end of my rides which vary from 4.5 to 25 miles. I have found that
    my winter enjoyment went sky high once I down shifted and just puttered
    along at aroud 10 to 12 mph.

    Happy trails

  13. #13
    2nd Century TBD AirBeagle1's Avatar
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    Lots of good stuff here, thanks for all the help. Looking forward to testing out some of my newfound knowledge this weekend!

  14. #14
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by AirBeagle1 View Post
    Lots of good stuff here, thanks for all the help. Looking forward to testing out some of my newfound knowledge this weekend!
    My winter riding gear:

    compression shirt - as a base layer and to keep all the loose skin from flopping around;
    bib shorts;
    Trek heavy-duty cycling tights;
    cycling jersey, sometimes an insulated one, sometimes not;
    fleece Performance cycling jacket;
    yellow Performance cycling shell jacket;
    cycling socks;
    wool hiking socks;
    hiking boots;
    insulated cycling gloves;
    balaclava (if needed);
    And if it's a long ride, or there might be rain, I'll carry a cycling rainjacket.

    I've dressed like this, with some variation, for all my rides this winter, including a four day tour over Christmas.

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    booties

    I just started riding clipless this winter, and I've found that with some home-sewn fleece booties slipped over the shows, I was having less issues than my training partner did who had tennis shoes and multiple winter sock layers.
    The only time I ran into problems was on the eerie canal trail after a big snow. My shoes iced up pretty bad and I had to turn around. The solution I came to was to stuff a hot-hands just under the tongue of the shoe when it's snowy.
    Also, just had to quit the clipless pedals for a bit and tried tennis shoe/bootie combo to thrilling effect.
    I bet the storebought booties work a lot better, though.

  16. #16
    NadaKid wayne pattee's Avatar
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    (and by right off the lake, I mean "oh look, there's Lake Ontario")
    Same deal here only Lake Huron. Our city buses have bike racks on the front and a couple of times I've had to cheat and take the bus home when riding into a cold wind was too much.

  17. #17
    2nd Century TBD AirBeagle1's Avatar
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    Winter Ride Update -- Getting Better:

    As I drove home from work early Saturday afternoon, I noticed something very strange for February. The roads were clear, the sun was out, the wind was manageable, and the thermometer on the car read 28°F. And I'd be home by 3:30! This just called for pulling out the bike.



    Grabbed a quick sandwich when I got home, unhooked the bike from the trainer, and got myself suited up. Wool socks under a pair of thick cotten socks, bike shoes, and thermal bike shoe covers. Padded shorts, pair of thermal tights, and a cycling jersey, followed by a cotton turtleneck, a wool over-sweater, and a bright yellow cycling jacket over top. Pulled on the balaclava, helmet, sunglasses, gloves, and I was good to go. Then I remembered -- the bike was in the basement on the trainer. Son of a puppy. Got half the stuff off, wandered downstairs, unhooked the bike, brought it upstairs, grabbed my keys, cell phone (just in case), and I was out the door.

    Took a little while to get used to clipping in and out with the thermal boots on over my biking shoots, but I eventually got the hang of it -- this time without falling over in front of any neighbors. Then it was off on the standard 12-mile loop with a good stretch right along scenic Lake Ontario. First 5-6 miles went very well, as they always do -- heading west there's a very wide berm, the road's a couple miles from the lake, and trees protect you from the wind. Once I hit the Bay and turned north toward the lake, however, I could see a definite change in the weather. Started seeing some patches of snow and ice on the road, as well as noticing more pronounced wind. Nothing too terrible, and the sun was still above the tree line, so I should have plenty of time to make it home before dusk hit.


    Lake Road is always a little bit dark due to the large trees as well as numerous gulleys and dark asphalt, but by this time I'd been working hard enough that I was having trouble keeping my glasses from fogging over. The reduced visibility with the sun getting lower in the sky combined with the fogging made the faster downhill portions a bit dicey, but I just pulled down the glasses and looked over the top of them. Wasn't too long, however, before a thrill-seeker behind me decided to pass me on an uphill portion of the road with no berm by swinging blindly into the oncoming traffic lane. When I heard him coming around me, I immediately started looking for a bail-out spot to the right of the road, and as I crested the hill, I immediately took note of the pickup truck rapidly approaching in the oncoming lane. This was going to be close. I slowed down quickly and pulled out of the way as the truck hit his horn and slammed on the brakes. The car passing me JUST managed to avoid the truck and get back into the right-hand lane before the two vehicles became intimately familiar with each other. Whew! It certainly pays to stay awake on the narrow roads. The driver of the car that passed me didn't even slow down as it sped into the distance -- the truck on the opposite side, however, waited a moment to make sure I was OK (didn't ditch the bike or anything, but seeing as I was well of the road anyhow, I took the opportunity for a quick breather, glasses defogging, and a picture or two). We each then continued on, shaking our heads at the idiot who was in such a hurry he risked his (and our) lives to save 30 seconds.

    Following the break, I continued to have trouble with my glasses fogging over, something I'm going to have to think about a bit more. After mile 10, some of the fingers on my right hand started going a touch numb, even with the gloves on -- I think perhaps in the previous excitement I forgot to keep wiggling them on occasion. Toes were just fine, however, indicating the overboots were performing as advertised. Got home, got everything put away, and hopped in the shower. Legs were a bit red and tingly (still need to find one more layer for my legs), but all in all, a nice day for a ride, especially considering how rarely we see the sun in the winter.


    Ride Statistics
    Distance: 12.59 miles
    Average Speed: 15.6 mph (personal high for this route is 17.9 mph from last September)
    Top Speed: 28.2 mph
    Avg. Heart Rate: 160 bpm
    Max Heart Rate: 182 bpm
    Avg. Cadence: 73 rpm
    Total Climbing: ~ 600 feet
    Calories Burned: ~ 760



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