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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 01-09-14, 09:26 AM   #1
wphamilton
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Arctic Vortex, Southern Surprises

As Southerners we don't see that weather very often. Our local low of 3 and crazy wind chills wasn't a record by any means, and it is not extreme compared to the northern climates, but it's so unusual that it's been decades since the last time. If you commuted in it, and you're a seasoned commuter with none of this zub-zero experience, what did you learn that was surprising?

I figured it would just be like the usual cold rides, only more so. I knew already that cold weather generally makes you slower, and just generally feels like something is draining your accustomed power away. But when it's a LOT colder, there was a LOT more resistance and fatigue and that surprised me. I mean my speed was down to almost half and I wasn't slacking.

You can add enough layers that you'll still arrive with sweat-drenched base layers, regardless of the temperature. That shouldn't have surprised me, but it did.

And finally, something changes with your position on the bike or your motions. Or maybe I tensed up, but whatever it was I'm still recovering from various muscle aches and my joints are randomly complaining. I didn't expect that either.

So, what else?
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Old 01-09-14, 10:01 AM   #2
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We didn't hit your temps down here, 29, but I you nailed everything that I experienced on my ride. The one thing that also surprised me was when I finally arrived at work (7 measly miles later), my butt was numb...lol...cold numb. I usually ride between 18-21mph, I could barely get enough strength to go over 16mph.

I breathed a lot harder and I noticed every so often my legs felt like they were cramping up until I could no longer feel them. Once I arrived at work, I actually felt like I had just warmed up (30 minute ride). I usually get that "warmed up" feeling about 5 minutes into my ride...
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Old 01-09-14, 03:28 PM   #3
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I didn't ride on the 9-degree morning but did ride when it was 15 F. The main issue I noticed was my hands and feet getting cold, which was the main reason why I didn't ride when it was 9 F. Surprisingly I didn't sweat hardly at all at 15 degrees, even with an extra layer of clothes. I attribute that to the Showers Pass Elite jacket I was wearing for my outer layer because it is very breathable.

I have noticed differences in bike fit since the weather got cold in November but hadn't really attributed it to the weather. My reach seems to have shrunk with the cold and my handlebars all feel a little too far away. The main difference that I notice with the cold is slower speeds, and my pace seems to drop in a direct relationship with the temperature declines. It's often windier here in winter as well, so that is another factor affecting speed in addition to the denser air, tighter muscles and bulkier clothes.
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Old 01-09-14, 03:52 PM   #4
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The hands, DEAR god the HANDS! I ride with gloves, but just for padding, and half finger with gel inserts. Numb in the first 3 miles.
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Old 01-09-14, 04:46 PM   #5
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I wimped out when it was -4F. My hands got cold the night before, and then it dropped 15 degrees. And the wind picked up, which meant I would have had a very cold headwind on the way to work. I have enough experience with riding in the cold that I can layer correctly to avoid sweaty base layers. I actually have more trouble with that when it's in the mid-20's or higher.
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Old 01-09-14, 08:37 PM   #6
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3? We got to 8 in Chapel Hill, with a wind chill of -1 on Tuesday.
The ski gloves that work great at 35 and so-so at 20 are a failure at 8.
A balaclava might be a worthy investment for the future, as the bandana I had over my mouth kept fogging my glasses.
Otherwise, I was OK.
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Old 01-10-14, 07:43 PM   #7
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The afternoon before the 9F morning I taped plastic bag tubes over my grips and levers. These tubes were about 6" in diameter - just enough to get my gloved hands inside and functional with the levers. The tailing ends extended back about a foot and so covered my wrists. Not real elegant but they worked rather well. My bars are flat - wouldn't work at all with drop bars.
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