Join Date: Dec 2003
Bikes: SOMA Grand Randonneur, Gunnar Sport converted to 650B, Rivendell Rambouillet, '82 Trek 728, '84 Trek 610, '85 Trek 500, C'Dale F600, Burley Duet, Lotus Legend
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I've ridden my bike to work every day since sometime last December. These are the notes that I made to myself at the end of last winter, to remind myself what to wear this winter. My hands tend to stay warmer than most people, while my legs and feet tend to run a little colder. For context on the kind of riding I'm talking about:
Washington, DC Area; from home: 10 miles from near Falls Church to Rosslyn, down the river, across 14th street bridge, past the Marina, and
over to capital hill. From Lyons Village, 7 miles to Rosslyn etc.
Standard ride time with no strong headwinds:
Road bike, road tires, summer, from home: 40 minutes riding in, 50 minutes riding home.
Road bike, road tires, summer, from Lyons Village: 25 minutes riding in, 35 minutes riding home.
Road bike, studded tires, light snow & ice, from home: 45 minutes riding in, 60 minutes riding home.
Mountain bike, studded tires, medium snow & ice, from home: 55 minutes riding in, 70 minutes riding home.
Mountain bike, studded tires, heavy snow & ice (4-5", rutted up), from Lyons Village: 45 minutes riding in, 1 hour riding back
Mountain bike, studded tires, really bad snow, strong headwinds, from Lyon Village: 1-1/2 hours riding in, 2 hours riding home
(All temperatures are Fahrenheit.) Last winter, the coldest day was about 10 degrees. It is approximately true to say that only the air temperature
matters--windchill will depend somewhat on wind direction relative to bicycle direction. In general, the windchill from riding speed is sufficiently
large that the extra windchill from external wind is not an issue. Humidity is probably a factor between 30 degrees and 40 degrees, but not enough so
that I altered clothing for it.
Make sure to pack a space blanket in case of emergency bivouac.
Below about 55 degrees, wear thin tights under bike shorts. Below about 35 degrees, switch to the thicker, windproof tights under bike shorts. Below
20 degrees, wear thin tights under the thicker tights under bike shorts. At 10 degrees these were just warm enough, but below that you'd probably
want windproof, breathable shells.
Below about 55 degrees, wear toe covers and either two pairs of light socks or one pair of thick socks. Below about 45 degrees, switch to winter
cycling shoes. Below about 25 degrees, wear a light sock under a heavy sock. I'm guessing that below 10 degrees, it might be useful to wear a light
inner sock, then the gore-tex outer sock, then a heavy sock.
Below about 45 degrees, wear the fleece skullcap and the helmet-mounted ear-covers. Below 35 degrees wear the neck-warmer/heat-exchanger. Below 15
degrees switch to the balaclava/heat-exchanger. This combination was just warm enough at 10 degrees, but below that would most likely need to be
supplemented with a helmet cover.
Below about 25 degrees, wear the clear "ski" goggles. (Between 25 and 35, they are more resistant to fogging than the clear wraparound sunglasses,
but start to feel too hot over that temperature range.)
Below about 55 degrees you can wear the flip-top mittens; but they become essential at the start of the ride at around 45 degrees. They worked fine
with no additional handwear down to 10 degrees. Below 10, you could supplement with the gore-tex outer mittens, but these are rather unwieldy.
Below about 55 degrees, a light jacket becomes desirable. At about 38 degrees, a windbreaker needs to be added. This combination is acceptable down
to about 20 degrees, but below that a second bicycle shirt or even a thicker fleece shirt become necessary. This combination (two shirts, light
jacket, windbreaker) was not approaching being too cold at 10 degrees, but could easily be supplemented with fleece jacket, etc., for lower
Given the relatively short ride times (2 hours max), it is better to be too hot and sweat than to be too cold and become injured. Longer
ride times would require more care to be taken to not get sweated up.