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Winter Cycling Don't let snow and ice discourage you this winter. The key element to year-round cycling is proper attire! Check out this winter cycling forum to chat with other ice bike fanatics.

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Old 03-11-08, 05:50 PM   #1
charly17201
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Question for 'Next' Winter

I live and work in south central PA. I work outside year round and just got back in to commuting again a couple weeks ago after 7 years of backsliding. I'm seriously considering being completely car-free by mid-summer, but am looking ahead to next winter.

My question, since I already work outdoors and have Carhartt and Walls insulated coveralls..... if I don't ride hard enough to get all sweaty, wouldn't my coveralls work just as well as buying a bunch of winter specific riding clothes? I wouldn't have a problem swapping out the coveralls at work on a daily basis.

I have a 'bent that I ride now, and my old DF (Trek 1000) that I'll probably sell and get something else more practical since I can't ride the roadie anymore without shoulder and neck pain.
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Old 03-11-08, 06:28 PM   #2
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I suppose it might work if you keep it under 5 MPH and don't have any hills to climb.

Most of the people I see riding in "regular" clothes in winter are either wobbling along at 5 or under, or have their coats wide open. Sometimes both. Cycling generates huge amounts of heat.

Two-thirds of my commutes are in "regular" clothes. I rode all winter with never more than a windbreaker over two regular shirts (a long-sleeve t-shirt under a business shirt). On bottom, kneewarmers (sometimes cycling-style kneewarmers, sometimes those neoprene knee-brace jobs from the pharmacy) under my jeans. Our typical this year was in the 20s. Cold days were in the teens. I rode this combo down to 4°F.

I'm no speed demon either. My average speed through the winter has been 12-13 MPH. And on days over 25°, I'd be unzipping within two miles.

Keep in mind, Carharts and stuff are made for people who sit around all day on backhoes, stand around in bucket trucks and stuff like that. There isn't sufficient physical movement going on for warmth. So they have to wear something highly insulated. It's not the cold alone they're made for, it's the combo platter of cold and inactive.

Plus those clothes are stiff. I can't imagine wearing something that heavy and inflexible and trying to ride. Heck, I don't like riding in jeans because the knees don't give as I pedal. But on short commutes, I can tolerate it for a few minutes.

Last edited by tsl; 03-11-08 at 06:34 PM.
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Old 03-11-08, 07:09 PM   #3
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I suppose it might work if you keep it under 5 MPH and don't have any hills to climb.

Most of the people I see riding in "regular" clothes in winter are either wobbling along at 5 or under, or have their coats wide open. Sometimes both. Cycling generates huge amounts of heat.

Two-thirds of my commutes are in "regular" clothes. I rode all winter with never more than a windbreaker over two regular shirts (a long-sleeve t-shirt under a business shirt). On bottom, kneewarmers (sometimes cycling-style kneewarmers, sometimes those neoprene knee-brace jobs from the pharmacy) under my jeans. Our typical this year was in the 20s. Cold days were in the teens. I rode this combo down to 4°F.

I'm no speed demon either. My average speed through the winter has been 12-13 MPH. And on days over 25°, I'd be unzipping within two miles.

Keep in mind, Carharts and stuff are made for people who sit around all day on backhoes, stand around in bucket trucks and stuff like that. There isn't sufficient physical movement going on for warmth. So they have to wear something highly insulated. It's not the cold alone they're made for, it's the combo platter of cold and inactive.

Plus those clothes are stiff. I can't imagine wearing something that heavy and inflexible and trying to ride. Heck, I don't like riding in jeans because the knees don't give as I pedal. But on short commutes, I can tolerate it for a few minutes.
Something else to consider is that Carharts are cotton. Riding to work is going to get you cold and, quite possibly, wet. Spending a whole day in wet cotton could have some dire ramifications. Bicycle specific clothing is all about sweat management and cotton duck cloth doesn't do much for that.
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Old 03-11-08, 07:45 PM   #4
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I agree with above posts.
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Old 03-11-08, 10:41 PM   #5
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I rarely wear completely regular cycling wear in the winter. I go with more generic clothing which would be appropriate for any outdoor sports ... stuff like wool and polypro, but not jerseys or things like that.

Just don't wear cotton in cold temps.
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Old 03-12-08, 09:19 AM   #6
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<SNIP>
Two-thirds of my commutes are in "regular" clothes. I rode all winter with never more than a windbreaker over two regular shirts (a long-sleeve t-shirt under a business shirt). On bottom, kneewarmers (sometimes cycling-style kneewarmers, sometimes those neoprene knee-brace jobs from the pharmacy) under my jeans. Our typical this year was in the 20s. Cold days were in the teens. I rode this combo down to 4°F.

I'm no speed demon either. My average speed through the winter has been 12-13 MPH. And on days over 25°, I'd be unzipping within two miles.
<SNIP>
I have been somewhat similar. I started out last spring just wearing my kahki pants and tucking the bottems into my socks. During the summer I just wear swimming trunks as my ride is only 5 miles each way. During the fall I bought a set of tights because they are more comfortable for riding (fairly wind resistant, but released access body heat very well). I just add a set of rain pants if things get near freezing. For my top I used to wear a T shirt with a pull-over fleece. I then needed a wind breaker to keep the wind out. The only problem was that the Wind breaker didn't breath so I'd arrive very sweaty at work. I now have a Foxwear Evap coat and can wear it all the way down to 2F. When you first get outside you feel cool, but withing minutes you warm up nicely and arrive at work without being super sweaty. Since I am comfortable with a T shirt and a light breathable coat, I could not immagine how badly I'd sweat in cloths that are designed to keep you good and warm, I'd roast to death even with sub zero temperatures.

Happy riding,
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Old 03-12-08, 05:05 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by charly17201 View Post
I live and work in south central PA. I work outside year round and just got back in to commuting again a couple weeks ago after 7 years of backsliding. I'm seriously considering being completely car-free by mid-summer, but am looking ahead to next winter.

My question, since I already work outdoors and have Carhartt and Walls insulated coveralls..... if I don't ride hard enough to get all sweaty, wouldn't my coveralls work just as well as buying a bunch of winter specific riding clothes? I wouldn't have a problem swapping out the coveralls at work on a daily basis.

I have a 'bent that I ride now, and my old DF (Trek 1000) that I'll probably sell and get something else more practical since I can't ride the roadie anymore without shoulder and neck pain.
So far nobody who responded has ever tried riding in carharts, so they're just talking out of their hats (to put it nicely). Give it a try next winter (or on a cold day this spring) and let us know how it worked. There are literally billions of cyclists all over the world, and very few of them wear cycling-specific clothing. It gets pretty damn cold in Beijing--much colder than most places in the US--and millions of Chinese cyclists keep going! I bet none of them is wearing spandex tights or a $300 shell.

I would be interested to know how your experiment works out. Please post after you've tried the carharts!
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Old 03-12-08, 05:24 PM   #8
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My outer shell all this winter has been a generic Carhart style (actually Faded Glory) insulated shirt. If you think about it, those farmers, backhoe operators, etc. have got to know what works and what doesn't. Mine is made of tightly woven cotton with a soft, thin insulating layer. It buttons up. It really cuts the wind well. Next to my skin I wear either a short sleeved wicking tee shirt or a polypropalene long sleeved top. In between I would wear a hoodie, sweater, or nothing, depending on the temp and what I have that's clean. I don't get cold. Any sweat goes into the middle layer and can be easily removed.
The coldest it gets here is the teens. I could not see using or needing anything heavier than the outer shirt that I use. I see no reason to change what I'm using. It would have to be really cold to need full winter weight Carharts and I think they would be bulky.

The outer tightly woven cotton works very well to cut the weather.
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Old 03-12-08, 06:06 PM   #9
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You'll be just fine in your Carharts. My only suggestion is to be careful how many layers you ride in. Get yourself one of them cheap poly shirts from Target for a base layer for the ride in, letting it dry out while you work if you can so you can wear it home too. Haul your normal base layer and any additional layers you might wear for work, but not for the ride. The front zip and loose cuffs of your overalls will help you to regulate your temperature while you ride, and you'll have dry layers to get into for work. Nothing worse than a wet base when you are working outside all day in the winter.
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Old 03-13-08, 04:03 PM   #10
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Now it the time to start searching different websites for "Sales". Performancebike.com , Sierratradingpost.com , rei.com , Cabelas.com (they have good Polarfleece, cheap). Bikenashbar.com Spend the rest of the spring and summer doing 'searches' for winter cyling clothing. I saved over 50% on stuff and found out that I didn't need that much. I wear Showers Pass as an outer shell that I can use year-round no matter what the conditons.
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Old 03-13-08, 06:48 PM   #11
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I seen Showers Pass mentioned by several others (in this and other forums) but I really don't know much about them. I have some older Hind GorTex wind/rain pants and top that I have used in the past in the rain, and I used them a couple of weeks ago on the bent with great results.

Last edited by charly17201; 03-13-08 at 06:49 PM. Reason: clarification
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