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Old 09-20-09, 05:58 PM   #1
NinetiesKid
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Daily Winter Riding in the South

This is for all you daily riders. I'm from Florida, and I'm not sure what to expect from Atlanta winters, I know it can get colder, but by how much I'm not exactly sure. I'm equipped with a couple of cotton sweat jackets, jeans, i.e. no special winter/water clothes at all. As you all know it has been raining nonstop here for a week now. I just keep a change of clothes in my water resistant bag and change when I get to school. Once it gets colder though...I have a feeling I won't be a happy camper. I want to be ready to ride in these terribly tough Atlanta/Georgia winters. Advice bike parts, riding gear, etc?
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Old 09-20-09, 06:03 PM   #2
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By the way, I know there have been tons of threads on other forums about winter riding. However, I've looked over them, and they are seriously geared for serious winter riding, like sub-zero temps. So I wanted to know what southerners are doing to keep warm, but not roasted.
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Old 09-20-09, 07:10 PM   #3
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Atlanta winters can be cold but most days (except when a cold front comes thru) are in the 30s or 40s in the morning. I've ridden when it was 18 degrees. Brrrr.
Most mornings from now until December shouldn't be too cold and luckily it will get cool/cold slowly. Probably 60s for a while, then 50s, then 40s by Thanksgiving.
If you don't have or don't want to wear typical cycling clothes, wool and fleece will work. You'll need gloves.
Once it gets cold (20s, 30, 40s) you'll need layers. Cotton DOES NOT work. If you get warm in the layers and begin to sweat (yes you will sweat when it's cold) to cotton will get wet and stay wet and you'll get chilled even with layers.
SmartWool socks are great.
You'll need to keep your head and ears warm. Skullcaps and head bands to cover the ears. When it gets REALLY cold a balaclava is a lifesaver (face and head saver too ).

If you'll be wearing cycling clothes look thru Nashbar's and Performance's website for ideas of what winter clothing to get.
You can also stop by area bike shops, REI, and the Performance store for ideas.

For the bike you'll need headlight(s) and taillight(s) and fenders if riding in the rain or after a rain.
You'll also need cycling rain gear that's breatheable so that you will stay dry but not get hot like when wearing a typical plastic raincoat.
You may also want a helmet cover to keep your head dry in the rain.

Mirrors on the bike or helmet are good too.

You'll also need to keep your feet dry. Wet shoes and especially wet socks are not comfortable.

Snow is kinda rare. Some winters it doesn't snow, some winters it snows once or twice.
Ice storms are another story. Riding on icy roads can be very scary and dangerous.

Contact the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition for more info and info about bike classes if your not used to riding in Atlanta traffic.

I'm sure others will offer lots of suggestions.
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Last edited by RonH; 09-20-09 at 07:16 PM.
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Old 09-20-09, 09:52 PM   #4
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Once it gets cold (20s, 30, 40s) you'll need layers.
+1 on the layers. When I moved out here I bought some different stuff and kept a spreadsheet of the different temperatures, what I wore, and if it was too hot, or too cold. I'm now comfortable in the teens and up.
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Old 09-21-09, 06:49 AM   #5
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I'm in B'ham, so the rain I'm getting right now will be yours in a few hours. It's rare that there are days that it is to cold to ride over hear, as long as you don't ride to early or to late. My biggest problem is always the feet. I can't seem to find the right combination to fight off that numbness.
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Old 09-21-09, 02:09 PM   #6
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*I biked in the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina. It never really got too cold for me, just annoyingly so. I'm not big on cold weather biking and I found the weather just a bit too cold for fun.

*RonH is right. If you intend on riding frequently, or especially if over a mile, fenders are a must. Nothing says cold like wet.

*What RonH says is good about cotton and layers is good too.

*Freezing rain is another story.

The bike I have now, a racing bike, would be pretty screwed on ice, only certain bikes can really handle an icey road, i.e. a hybrid bike or a mountain bike. The former may not be able to handle it at all.

Freezing rain storms aren't frequent in these areas, but we all hear about on the news how the city gets crippled when an event like that happens. I'm imagining myself using a bike to get to work and not being able to for a few days. In summary, freezing rain can really only be stopped, for sure, by a wider wheeled mountain bike, which even though posts hazards.

My only suggestion would be catering your bicycle to meet an icey road situation be that keeping pulblic transportation or even just walking as an option
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Old 09-21-09, 08:44 PM   #7
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You picked a good time to start thinking about riding in the winter. Getting the right combination of clothing takes a little experimentation to get right. Some general advice: avoid cotton and dress in layers. Wool and synthetics can get wet and still keep you warm. Cotton will get wet and freeze you. Have a tight fitting base layer, an insulating mid layer and an outer windproof layer. You can always take something off mid ride if you get too hot. You also don't need much cycling specific gear. Everything I wear during the winter, with the exception of my shoe covers and pants I found digging through my closet or at Walmart.
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Old 09-23-09, 01:54 PM   #8
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While I'm a daily rider in Northern Virginia, it's been 20+ years since I was riding in Atlanta. For the two winters I lived there I remember only a few relatively cold days (temperatures not getting out of the upper 20s and low 30s). The biggest problems was the occasional ice storm. We had one in 87 that left a couple inches of ice on the streets and didn't melt for a couple of days. It's not enough to warrant getting studded tires. I was much more of a casual rider and spent more time running 5 and 10 km events. I did use the bike several times a month to ride from near Emory into downtown.

You will want to have some decent gloves, ear covers, tights and long sleeves and as others have said layering is important can cotton should be avoided. I have been accumulating cycling specific clothing when its on sale at Nashbar/Performance/REI/etc. While you can certainly make do with other stuff, I found the more I ride, the more I appreciate things that were designed to make me more comfortable.

I expect the area won't see more of the same kind of rain it has this week, but if riding in the rain, fenders are a must.
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Old 09-24-09, 11:13 AM   #9
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If you choose to use non-bike clothing, don't forget to check out the consignment stores. Last winter I was able to get 2-3 100% wool sweaters (high quality wool too) for about $5 each. Finders Keepers in Avondale Estates is where I found the goods. I suspect you might find stuff at Salvation Army etc. too. Mostly you are looking for creating a few layers to allow you to adjust for the heat of your body against the wind/cold.

I also like to have a light nylon jacket or something else that has the ability to break the wind. My basic attire last winter here was wicking t-shirt, wool sweater and nylon jacket which could be unzipped as I warmed up. Legs survived most of the time with just jeans, but on the colder days I added long-johns or another pair of pants. Don't forget your hands, I prefer wind proof mittens on the colder days. The fingers keep each other warm and the thumbs took care of shifting. A scarf is good for adjusting face exposure, of course you might get one of the wool mask type things (ugly).

I grew up riding in winters in central Illinois with temperatures 0 to 40 all winter. If dressed right, it wasn't bad at all. Remembering that it is very flat there, I found my favorite bike was my younger brothers 3-speed schwinn. It was much more stable and sturdier than my touring bike.

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Old 09-30-09, 07:19 PM   #10
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Thanks for all the tips guys!
If the last couple days are any measure, I'm going to have to get ready a lot sooner. I really thought I was being proactive thinking about winter wear now, but the last couple mornings were pretty chilly for me. I think I'll head up to the goodwill on Buford and see what they have for wool clothing, and something wind resistant. Maybe I'll invest in some waterproof socks too.
I appreciate the advice guys, see ya on the streets!
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Old 10-01-09, 07:55 AM   #11
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Waterproof socks??? Now there's something I've never seen. If you find some tell us what you think of them and if they actually work.
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Old 10-01-09, 08:21 AM   #12
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Waterproof socks??? Now there's something I've never seen. If you find some tell us what you think of them and if they actually work.
I tried the ones from Nashbar, and they leaked after a short ride. My shoe solution for cold/wet rides are a pair of short leather hiking boots (Rockports). I have waterproofed the boots to keep the rain out, and they are loose enough to wear thick wools socks without constricting the blood flow (probably one of the most important things about keeping your feet warm).

For my hands, I have a variety of gloves to mix and match to the current temp. For the horrible mid-30s wet ride, I found a pair of kayaking gloves that work for me. They let a small amount of water in, but act like a wetsuit. I have yet to find a truly waterproof pair of gloves.

For your head, try a plastic shower cap over your helmet. It really blocks the wind--I usually only wear when it is raining or below 30F. And it makes a great fashion statement.
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Old 10-01-09, 08:48 AM   #13
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Even down here in Miami it gets a bit chilly 40-45F in the mornings when the cold fronts pass. Atlanta will be colder. So for me once it hits 65 I put on a long sleeve base under my jersey, at 60 I will put on my leg warmers, long finger gloves and shoe covers, lower than 60 I add a jacket. Mainly my fingers and toes get cold so long finger gloves and shoe covers help that, I wear the leg warmers even though my legs don't really feel cold because I don't want knee issues. The winter here probably gets into the 60s 50% of the mornings, in the 50s 20% and below 50 maybe 2%.
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Old 10-01-09, 09:45 PM   #14
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Hahaha. Wishful thinking on the waterproof socks I guess. Just want to keep my toes warm on the cold and wet days. So wool really seems where its at. People also talk about clipless to stay warm and dry, but I'm not sure how this works? Guess it will just end up being trial and error with different numbers and types of layers depending on the temp though. Man I'm gonna miss just throwing on shorts and a shirt and riding in November.
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Old 10-02-09, 05:00 AM   #15
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People also talk about clipless to stay warm and dry, but I'm not sure how this works?

Man I'm gonna miss just throwing on shorts and a shirt and riding in November.
You can't do clipless unless you're wearing cycling shoes.

Shorts in November is possible. Sometimes we will have a short warm spell in Nov or Jan or Feb. Heavyweight shorts could be worn but your upper body will need a base layer and long sleeves.

I remember seeing a guy riding to work/school one morning in December a few years ago. The temperature was 32 when I left the house. He was wearing running shorts.

Just listen to your body. If something says, "I'm cold", then it's time to adjust the wardrobe.

Jeff said he has kayak gloves for cold, raining weather. Not everything you'll need is sold at a bike shop. There are lots of possibilities for cycling gear. When it gets in the low 30s I wear ski gloves with a silk glove liner.
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Old 10-04-09, 06:32 PM   #16
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+1 on the layering and wishfull thinking on waterproof socks or shoes. Takea a bit, but they all leak sooner or later.

A good deal of it also depends on how well acclimated you are, at first the winters seem estremely mild, then just as you get used to riding in the heat of the summer, the same thing happens in the winter, they seem to get colder and colder, while riding at 30 was ok, a few years back, my limits are more in the 40s and 50s most winter days now.

Have lived in the NE, Central and Southern part of the U.S. and on every continent other than Antartica, with good layering of the right layers, and smart riding, almost any temps are negotiable. Now some places may not be good for longer rides, but some riding can be done.
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