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  1. #1
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    Biking in NY in the winter

    Any suggestions on how to. I live in a rather hilly area and have school at 730 (so no time in morning) until 330 (so little time in evening).

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    It's always weather dependent. Snow shuts you down unless you're really hardcore, a mt. bike, or cross bike with good knobbies works on snow covered streets, but not on black ice, which is a huge concern. You can mt. bike the trails, it's always better when the trail is frozen but snow free anyway.

    Invest in clothing for cold temp's and this includes booties to keep you feet warm if you use cycling shoes and clipless pedals, plus a wind proof layer if it's windy. etc... My limit on the road bike is about 25, then I'm in the woods on the mt. bike.

    You can also invest in lights, good LED head and bar lamps. They work very well and let you do the trails at night, or the North County Trail (just watch that black ice). Or with an extra set of white and red blinkies, ride the roads.

    In truth though, I don't ride as much in the winter, living on Long Island. Typically mt. biking at Bethpage, unless it's wet or muddy, or road if the temps are above 35. I do other activities, swimming, indoor cycle at the recreation center, drink beer, etc... It really comes down to your tolerance level.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Ferdinand NYC's Avatar
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    I hate riding in the winter. For me, riding in the summer is a joy, and riding in the winter is a chore. But I do it in order to keep in shape.

    I ride every day that it doesn't snow or rain -- we've been lucky in that regard the past two winters, after a 2010-11 winter with lots of snow. The obvious problem is keeping warm; for me, the problem is greatest at the hands and face.

    I wear sometimes as many as four pairs of gloves at once: two thin woolen pairs, a pair of winter gloves, and a white woolen pair over everything. (I always want my outer gloves to be white, so that my hand signals are most likely to be noticed. In summer I wear white baseball batting gloves; in fall and spring I wear two layers of white-ish work gloves.)

    For my head and face, I wear a bandana and a hood under the helmet; and then I wrap my neck and face with as many as four scarves.

    I have less trouble keeping my trunk warm. Near the bottom of my many layers of shirts, I wear a small sweatshirt and a small jacket, over which I pile other shirts, culminating with a hooded sweatshirt (I mentioned the hood earlier) and a pullover poncho-like garment that is meant to be rainwear. I discovered by accident that this non-porous top layer keeps the warmth in very well.

    I have no trouble keeping my legs warm; they are the last thing that gets cold. I just wear two layers of compression shorts and then normal gym shorts.

    That's good for temperatures down to freezing. For days that are below freezing, I have a large lined sweatsuit that I wear over everything that I have already mentioned. With that get-up, I have ridden in temperatures as low as 11 degrees.

    You mentioned that you don't have much time to ride. But maybe you can ride to and from school. I ride to and from work, turning my commutes into workout time, and sparing myself the necessity of going back out to go to a gym after coming home from work (which I would surely slack off on). I accumulate only 20 miles a day that way; but it's enough to keep the weight off and to keep my discipline up.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ferdinand NYC View Post
    I hate riding in the winter. For me, riding in the summer is a joy, and riding in the winter is a chore. But I do it in order to keep in shape.

    I ride every day that it doesn't snow or rain -- we've been lucky in that regard the past two winters, after a 2010-11 winter with lots of snow. The obvious problem is keeping warm; for me, the problem is greatest at the hands and face.

    I wear sometimes as many as four pairs of gloves at once: two thin woolen pairs, a pair of winter gloves, and a white woolen pair over everything. (I always want my outer gloves to be white, so that my hand signals are most likely to be noticed. In summer I wear white baseball batting gloves; in fall and spring I wear two layers of white-ish work gloves.)

    For my head and face, I wear a bandana and a hood under the helmet; and then I wrap my neck and face with as many as four scarves.

    I have less trouble keeping my trunk warm. Near the bottom of my many layers of shirts, I wear a small sweatshirt and a small jacket, over which I pile other shirts, culminating with a hooded sweatshirt (I mentioned the hood earlier) and a pullover poncho-like garment that is meant to be rainwear. I discovered by accident that this non-porous top layer keeps the warmth in very well.

    I have no trouble keeping my legs warm; they are the last thing that gets cold. I just wear two layers of compression shorts and then normal gym shorts.

    That's good for temperatures down to freezing. For days that are below freezing, I have a large lined sweatsuit that I wear over everything that I have already mentioned. With that get-up, I have ridden in temperatures as low as 11 degrees.

    You mentioned that you don't have much time to ride. But maybe you can ride to and from school. I ride to and from work, turning my commutes into workout time, and sparing myself the necessity of going back out to go to a gym after coming home from work (which I would surely slack off on). I accumulate only 20 miles a day that way; but it's enough to keep the weight off and to keep my discipline up.
    Thanks a lot, very descriptive. Would you recommend I use my redline (hybrid) or giant (road)? Or does it depend on temp?

  5. #5
    vol
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    I always saw in the winter some delivery bikes parked on the sidewalk equipped with bike mittens (pogies). They look really "cool" (=warm and cozy), though I don't know how convenient it is. This website looks useful.

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    I rode last winter, but not when it got too cold. Lights are a necessity. For clothes I would wear a capilene undershirt, a thermal Pearl Izumi Jersey and a PI windbreaker cycling jacket on top of that. I used a pair of thermal leg warmers with regular cycling shorts, and a thick pair of socks with my regular gym shoes on my MTB, or thinner socks, my cycling shoes and a pair of booties over them when I took my road bike. And of course gloves, but nothing too thick. I have a pair of PI full fingered gloves that would be OK, and also a pair of neoprene gloves that didn't keep my fingers warm at all. I would wear a wool beanie under my helmet on the coldest days that I'd still ride.

    I was usually pretty much warm, but I do remember my fingers getting cold so I have to work on that. I also have a nerve problem in my fingers that gets a lot worse in the cold, and that just hurts.

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    My gear at 25-35 degrees is: Wool socks, clipless shoes a size big to accommodate the socks, Performance neoprene booties, sized XXL to fit over the shoes, Bellweather tights that are taffeta front and lined spandex all (or lightweight polypro bottoms under lightweight spandex tights), bike shorts, lightweight polypro top, heavier polypro top, lightweight wind jacket, lightweight pplypro glove liners, EMS ski gloves, med. weight polypro hat or lightweight polypro balaclava, helmet.

    I wear a LOT less if I'm in the woods mt. biking, as 1) Less forward speed 10mph typical, 2) Lot's more shelter from the wind in the woods. Road riding can get cold with it's constant 15mph wind chill, where as with mt. biking, I'm OK at 15 degrees.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Ferdinand NYC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by youngbeginner View Post
    Thanks a lot, very descriptive. Would you recommend I use my redline (hybrid) or giant (road)? Or does it depend on temp?
    I'm sorry to say that I can't help you there. I have only one bike, a mountain bike. I ride only on city streets, never off-road; but I like a mountain bike for the wide tires and the stability.

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    Quote Originally Posted by youngbeginner View Post
    Thanks a lot, very descriptive. Would you recommend I use my redline (hybrid) or giant (road)? Or does it depend on temp?
    Depends on temp's and road conditions. Are you thinking of riding on snow covered surfaces ?, does the hybrid have a knobby tires that might be suitable for snow ?, do you have the clothing to keep warm at 25 degrees on your road bike at a steady 15 mph headwind ?. Is there a likelyhood for black ice or any road ice conditions that make bike choice moot ?.

    Only you can answer those questions.

  10. #10
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    It takes practice and determination. Remember that in Minnesota, they have a saying: There's no bad weather, only bad clothing.

    Learn what clothing you need for each range of temperatures. When you're out there and get cold, pay very close attention to where, exactly, on your body, you feel it. For example, you could feel a general unpleasant cold feeling, but if you pay attention, you'll notice that you need a scarf or something like that.

    Try to find your limit. For example, I used to have a rule for myself that I wouldn't ride when there was snow or ice on the ground. Nowadays, my rule is that if it's under 25º, I won't be on the bike for more than 30 minutes.

    The more you practice winter riding, the better you get at it. You can increase your toughness if you want, but again, it takes determination. In the last couple of winters, I did succeed at getting tough to it. At a certain point, people thought I was nuts for being out there when it was below 25º and blowing hard. But I was perfectly dressed, and I didn't even feel it. It just didn't feel remarkable to me.

    Two big helps were my giant scarf and my goggles. I use regular cheap carpenter's goggles, which keeps the wind out of my eyes. I wrap my scarf around my neck and face. Also, I rubbed the exposed parts of my face with Vaseline, which also reduced the wind's sting.

    There is a Winter Cycling section of bikeforums, which you should check out. Plus if you do a web search on "winter cycling" you'll probably get a wealth of information.
    Please email me rather than sending me a private message. My address is noglider@pobox.com

    Tom Reingold
    New York City and High Falls, NY
    noglider's ride blog

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by youngbeginner View Post
    Thanks a lot, very descriptive. Would you recommend I use my redline (hybrid) or giant (road)? Or does it depend on temp?
    My rule of thumb is if the roads are clear, road bike. If the roads are wet, salt-covered or dirty, cyclecross bike. Road bike requires more attention and more frequesnt cleaning, so I try to avoid getting it dirty. Cross bike is much more foregiving if I don't wipe it down after a ride.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cleansheet View Post
    My rule of thumb is if the roads are clear, road bike. If the roads are wet, salt-covered or dirty, cyclecross bike. Road bike requires more attention and more frequesnt cleaning, so I try to avoid getting it dirty. Cross bike is much more foregiving if I don't wipe it down after a ride.
    This one had me puzzled. Is there some magical properties to a CC bike that makes it more suitable to riding in the crud ?. Other then larger tires and clearance for same, the frame might be the same material as a road bike, the components are probably the same, headsets, hubs, b-bracket, etc.... all from road component groups.

    So how is it a cyclo-cross bike is better able to withstand the crap that winter roads throw at you versus a road bike ?. Granted that the larger tires are better suited to sketchy surface conditions, with the knobbies useful in sand and/or snow, but other then that, I'm not seeing it.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
    This one had me puzzled. Is there some magical properties to a CC bike that makes it more suitable to riding in the crud ?. Other then larger tires and clearance for same, the frame might be the same material as a road bike, the components are probably the same, headsets, hubs, b-bracket, etc.... all from road component groups.

    So how is it a cyclo-cross bike is better able to withstand the crap that winter roads throw at you versus a road bike ?. Granted that the larger tires are better suited to sketchy surface conditions, with the knobbies useful in sand and/or snow, but other then that, I'm not seeing it.
    I guess only because it is expected of a cross bike?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
    This one had me puzzled. Is there some magical properties to a CC bike that makes it more suitable to riding in the crud ?. Other then larger tires and clearance for same, the frame might be the same material as a road bike, the components are probably the same, headsets, hubs, b-bracket, etc.... all from road component groups.

    So how is it a cyclo-cross bike is better able to withstand the crap that winter roads throw at you versus a road bike ?. Granted that the larger tires are better suited to sketchy surface conditions, with the knobbies useful in sand and/or snow, but other then that, I'm not seeing it.
    a lot cheaper than the road bike.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Jim Kukula's Avatar
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    I've taken some very dangerous falls on black ice in the past, so nowadays during the winter I use studded tires - schwalbe marathon winter tires.

    I also have fender with mudflaps which help keep the crud off.

    I have platform pedals so I can wear winter boots with thick socks. Balaclava under my helmet. When it is really cold I will wear knit mittens with nylon over-mitts. Mostly I find it's hands and feet that need to be bundled up good. I wear Sport Hill knit pants that are made for cross country skiers.


  16. #16
    Commuter & cyclotourist brianogilvie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kukula View Post
    I've taken some very dangerous falls on black ice in the past, so nowadays during the winter I use studded tires - schwalbe marathon winter tires.

    I also have fender with mudflaps which help keep the crud off.
    Both are excellent suggestions. Peter White sells Schwalbe and Nokian studded tires and has an informative page on the different models.

    When I bike in the winter, I dress essentially the same way I do for cross-country skiing, except that I wear a helmet. An adjustable balaclava is useful if you're in a stiff wind.

    Good lights are essential. I recommend a dynamo hub for reliability, but if you don't want to make the investment, then a headlight with an asymmetric beam such as the Philips Saferide or B&M Ixon IQ allows you to ride safely in the dark without blinding oncoming drivers. The Ixon Pure's beam isn't quite as good but it's still better than the typical symmetric light, which wastes too much light on the ground in front of you and the air above you. The Planet Bike Super Blaze rear light will ensure that you're noticed from behind. Again, Peter White's site has useful information on bicycle lighting.
    Public accountability: my Beeminder weight loss graph.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by youngbeginner View Post
    Any suggestions on how to. I live in a rather hilly area and have school at 730 (so no time in morning) until 330 (so little time in evening).
    I've commuted a few times during the winter even with snow on the ground. It's all about the tires. The tires are the one who is in contact with the ground. Get a decent set of knobbies and make sure you're gear is waterproof and you'll be good to go. As for under the helmet, a do-rag is good but on wet days, i've wrapped the top of my head with a plastic bag underneath my helmet. Biking in the snow is pretty fun and it's a real test on your bike handling skills. Good luck!

  18. #18
    Senior Member walrus1's Avatar
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    You can do it but watch out for windchill and road salt. I draw the line at snow and ice.

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