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Old 10-20-04, 10:15 AM   #1
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Suggestions needed for reasonable Nov commute attire

Hoping to be able to commute in Nov, but concerned about what would be reasonable attire and am looking for suggestions from the experts.

From my limited knowledge, I gather their are two approaches:

Approach A- draft as many of previous clothes as possible to do the job
Approach B- get specialized clothing that will make biking more enjoyable.

Approach B would be nice but budget has been severely hit. I have spend 2/3rds the cost of the bike on biking "needs" already, and still need: 1. head light, 2. tailight, 3. horn, 4. booties, 5. cyclometer, and maybe 6. cargo bags. I would like to find somethings I can wear now and later add specialized clothing. One way commute distance is about 8..10 miles. I have not got back in shape enough to ride the full distance yet and have no cyclometer.

November climate here:
Low: 23F
High: 52F
Avg: 37F
Rain/snow days: 6
Sunrise about 7:45am, Sunset about 6 pm. [Estimates, couldn't find data on web yet for Denver]

I expect to ride near both lows and highs, so versatility will be key.

Approach A, possible clothing:
gloves, jacket, long johns for am commute, double socks/wool socks, booties, cloth ski hood, vest, UV arm shields

Approach B, possible clothing
gloves, wind jacket, UV shield, riding tights, booties, leg warmers, riding termal layer.

1. Any changes you would recommend to approach A?

2. Any changes you would recommend to approach B?

Thanks in advance for your wisdom.

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Old 10-20-04, 10:52 AM   #2
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Your November sounds a lot like my November, though I don't think we're expecting snow any time soon. I have the same issue - it'd be nice to buy the specialized stuff, but I really can't afford it and still support my electronic gadget habit.

My plan, which has worked so far (high-30's to mid-50's this past couple of weeks) is a specialized base layer, upon which I pile whatever I need from my current wardrobe. For instance, I bought:

a pair of long johns/tights
a long-sleeved wicking jersey
a balaclava
a pair of glove liners
a pair of wool socks

I haven't bothered with the balaclava yet, it hasn't been cold enough. The base layer alone is plenty for the fifties and high forties, but any lower than that and I throw a sweatshirt over the jersey and a pair of sweat pants over the tights and wear the glove liners under my regular no-finger cycling gloves. I've got some wool sweaters and polar fleece pull-overs in my closet that I will throw on when the temps drop below thirty, and a wind-breaking jacket. Various scarves and hats that will fit under the helmet may come into play later on.

I think this will get me by until December; on my to-buy list I have mostly windblock-gear and rain-gear. You might check out for low-cost base-layerish stuff; that's where I got most of mine, and I've been pretty happy with it.
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Old 10-20-04, 10:57 AM   #3
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I use option A myself. I was able to find enough stuff to stay warm. Here is the run down on what I wear. Temps here are currently down to -7c/20f.

FEET: 2 X pair of warm socks. 1 X pair of Gortex Socks (I have these from the army) 1 X pair of runners. (I'll update the runners to thinsulite boots as it gets colder but right now no problems with cold or wet feet)

LEGS: Long Johns & Nylon Pants. If it gets colder I'll add a pair of sweats between the long johns and nylon pants.

UPPER BODY: Thermal top (nothing special just some long sleve sweatshirt I had),1-2 fleece tops, Nylon Jacket. Outer layer is my bright yellow nylon riding jacket with reflective stripes. Jacket provides no warmth but is waterproof and very visable.

Hands: Ski gloves (nothing expensive, bought at local dept store). If above freezing I have some light weight gloves.

HEAD: Tight fitting balaclava. Head band over ears. Ski goggles. If temp drops I put on a 2nd loose fitting balaclave that sits around my neck and chin only.

All in all I find the key is LAYERS and a waterproof outer layer. I can always throw on 1 extra layer if cold or remove one if hot and if I'm dry I stay warm.

I have bought some specialty items but mostly try to raid the closet of exisiting stuff.

Hope this helps
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Old 10-20-04, 12:45 PM   #4
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wool sweaters from the thrift store are the cheapest bestest commuting wear i have found so far.

i have three seperate ones in different thicknesses that will let me go anywhere from 50 down to 30 degrees with a long sleeve jersey underneath.

a full-zip fleece vest is the only other protection i wear over the top if its gonna be windy (the vest zips up and protects my neck).

in cold rain i break out the northface, and prey i don't fall and ruin a 200 dollar jacket.....

down bottom i'm in spandex shorts till 50 degrees. colder i put on tights over spandex good till like 30. extreme cold gets these mtb pants i got cheap (since they are windproof, they are hot as h@ll and i wouldn't even consider them if it is gonna go much over freezing.

best deal is the thrift-sweaters which should never cost more than 5 bucks, just make sure they are all wool and not some other crap!
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Old 10-20-04, 01:00 PM   #5
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Although I have, over the years, accumulated the specialized cycling gear, I started off using what I had. Don't get carried away with bundling up too warm initially but carry an extra layer for emergencies. You probably need less than you might think, definitely less than what you would wear for walking around. But you need an extra jacket or something in case you have a flat or just realize you underestimated how cold it was. You probably need less on your legs than you think, except for your knees which need more. I am quite comfortable at around 30 with knicks or knee warmers, but I slip a couple of rectangles of fleece under them in front of my knees to keep them a little warmer. I start wearing knee warmers when the temps get into the 60s. You knees will almost never feel cold, but they need particular protection precisely for that reason; there isn't much circulation in your knees.
If it ain't broke, mess with it anyway!

Last edited by RainmanP; 10-20-04 at 01:06 PM.
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Old 10-20-04, 01:15 PM   #6
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Denver Civil Twilight

The time after sunset and before sunrise when the Sun is below the horizon but not more than 6 below it. During civil twilight, the sky is still quite bright and only the very brightest stars and satellites can be seen.

In some countries, the end of evening
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Old 10-21-04, 09:11 AM   #7
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Wow, what a lot of good suggestions for Option A. I will compile a combined list later. First I need to get into shape.

I have bookmarked the navy URL. This is exactly what I was looking for, thank you. Intererestingly, if you just click on the link it gives the data for year 2000, but if you go back to the top it is easy to get the data for 2004.
Now I can update my climate worksheet.

Very interesting, for Denver


5:31 Jun11-16,2004 ; Jun11-16,2005

7:21 Dec29-Jan 11,2004 ; Dec30-Jan10,2004


16:35 Dec4-9,2004 ; Dec4-9,2005

20:32 Jun22-Jul2,2004
20:30 Jun22-Jul2,2005

Thus for bike commuters with an hour commute. About 1/2 hour of bike lights in the am in Dec and about 1 hour in the evening. Sounds like back up batteries/light might a good idea during Dec.

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Old 10-21-04, 09:28 AM   #8
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you don't need a cyclometer. what for? you have a wrist-watch, you have a map.
Peter Wang, LCI
Houston, TX USA
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Old 10-21-04, 10:08 AM   #9
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a ceap way for shirts is to get cheap base layer shirts (poly) and cotton long sleeve tee's over that. it works pretty well and it is sure cheap.
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Old 10-21-04, 10:20 AM   #10
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That's about the current temperature regime for my commute, so here's my typical suitup and ride:

Above 30 in the morning, generally just a base layer of an UnderArmour clone mock turtleneck and a longsleeve tshirt. Bib shorts on the lower half with a set of compression shorts underneath them.

Below 30 in the morning, same as above with maybe the addition of a shortsleeve tshirt in the mix. Still in the bibs.

Around 25 I'll add a pair of UnderArmour ColdWear leggings over the bibs.

At 20 I'll go to a slightly heavier longsleeve shirt and pull on my UnderArmour Cold Gear hood. Maybe I'll don the neoprene overshoes, but more often then not I'll just keep pedalin along in my Cannondale clogs and thin socks.

For my hands, just a cheap set of thin gloves.

For rain I wear a cheap waterproof windbreaker. I got the pants somewhere but I never use em. I've got to remember to bring an extra set of bibs, shorts and socks to leave at work for when I take a good soaking. If I work at it, I can get just about everything dry for the return trip, just takes some strategic placement of wet items near heat sources.

For illumination I'm using a handlebar system from, four hours run time at 5w with the ability to use another 15w. Also have a 10w helmet mounted system for the same source.

Most of my clothing came from the evil empire of Wally-World, except for the UnderArmour gear which was dirt-cheap off Ebay. WW carriers the Starter brand which makes the DriFit and DriStar lines of clothing. Generally aroun $10-$12. Shirts and such I have a 4 or 5 of each. Pants, two pairs. Bib shorts, to many.

My commute is 21 miles round trip, mostly rural backroads.
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Old 10-21-04, 10:28 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by kf5nd
you don't need a cyclometer. what for? you have a wrist-watch, you have a map.

Don't need a map. I guess don't need cyclometer, but want one. Why?

-- for conditioning and as restarting biking, learning to get a consitent cadence
-- for maintenance, so know when to replace the chain
-- for motivation, wheee, I went XYZ mph, or XYZ miles today/this week.
-- for economic justification, i.e. after 22 months of 65 miles/week, the bike and all gear is free

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Old 10-21-04, 10:31 AM   #12
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Arm-warmers and leg warmers are for variable temp rides. For cold commutes it is better to use long sleeved jersey and full leggings.
Use a wicking base layer; it doesn't have to be cycle specific 'cause you cant use the rear pocket. A cheap hiking jersey is good value. Use a windproof outer with a high collar and pit zips. In between, add thin woollen jumpers /sleeveless body warmers to get the right insulation.
For legs, wear cycling shorts if you prefer, and over the top, cycle-specific leggings or windproof polycotton hiking pants.
Bib tights are better in the cold but running style tracksters are OK.
For your feet, use larger size footwear with 2 layers of wool-rich socks. Avoid mesh shoes. Getting up in overshoes can be a lot of hassle (same as arm/leg warmers), so a winter boot or lightweight hiking boot may save time.
I would suggest a neck tube, thin hat, balaclava and good gloves.
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Old 10-21-04, 10:47 AM   #13
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Lots of good suggestions in this thread. Layering is the key with the first layer being the most important. Here is my input:

1. I'll second the UnderArmour mock neck undershirt. I almost don't need anything but a wind jacket over that down to around 35 F. Layer cheap stuff over that as it gets colder.
2. I have a pair of winter weight tights I bought from Performance 8 years ago that keep me warm enough no matter how cold it is. When it gets real cold I add a cheap pair of leg warmers over the tights (but it has to almost be below zero for that).
3. My feet are the most difficult body part to protect. A pair of wool socks over Goretex socks (expensive) usually does it, with either plastic bags over the socks or toe warmers/neoprene booties over the shoes.
4. Last year I found a pair of Merrell high top cross trainers at a Nordstroms outlet -- cheap ($20.00). They have Goretex and are waterproof. I started wearing them in the January/February and my feet were always toasty. You can't go clipless with the shoes but who cares at that time of year!
5. When it gets real cold use bargain table ski gloves. Don't waste money buying the expensive gloves you find at places like Performance or a bike shop. However, you will want a lighter pair of long fingered gloves for the 35-50 F temperature range but don't spend a lot. I end up pocketing mine about 5 miles into my ride if the temp is above 40 F.

Good luck and keep riding.

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Old 10-21-04, 01:50 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by RainmanP
I start wearing knee warmers when the temps get into the 60s. You knees will almost never feel cold, but they need particular protection precisely for that reason; there isn't much circulation in your knees.
I've never thought about knees. How did you know you needed them? So with the knee warmers, does that help keep your feet warm?
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