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  1. #1
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    When do shorts become unhealthy?

    Is there a temperature below which I absolutely mustn't cycle in shorts, even if it's going to warm up later? I don't really like wearing trousers (though I'm cycling in them now, because it is below freezing at night and only upper-mid 30's during the day), e.g. if it's 40 degrees, can I cycle to college (1.5 miles) in shorts, if it will be 55 on the return trip, or do I need to be a bit more patient?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Jurgen's Avatar
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    I wouldn't cycle in shorts anything below 50 degrees, and even that is probably on the low end of reasonableness.

    Why take the risk with your knees?

    If you're feeling kinda Homer Simpson though ("Don't you hate pants??"), invest in some leg warmers for those ~50 degree days and quality tights for when its colder.

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    Standard wisdom that I've always heard is that you should cover your knees at anything below 60 degrees. I'm not sure where that originated, but you see it in a lot of articles. The reasoning behind it is that all the ligaments and tendons in your knee are so close to the surface that they are easily impacted by the cold and become more susceptible to injury.

    The bottom line for me is that I would prefer to be warm than cold, so I tend to overdress when the temps are "between" cold and hot.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by twilkins9076 View Post
    Standard wisdom that I've always heard is that you should cover your knees at anything below 60 degrees. I'm not sure where that originated, but you see it in a lot of articles. The reasoning behind it is that all the ligaments and tendons in your knee are so close to the surface that they are easily impacted by the cold and become more susceptible to injury.

    The bottom line for me is that I would prefer to be warm than cold, so I tend to overdress when the temps are "between" cold and hot.
    I'm not sure how true this is. It's one of those things that's been around a long time but I haven't seen any studies or proof. Cycling is filled with old tales like that.

    Personally I just do what's comfortable. The faster you go, the more calories you burn in your legs. Offsetting that is the increase in wind speed that cools. Whatever feels good is what Isay.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

  5. #5
    50000 Guatts of power 127.0.0.1's Avatar
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    you should cover your knees when temp is 'in the 50 degrees'. so yes below 60, should cover
    it up.

    no matter who says what, do it.

    this will ensure your legs and nerve endings will last as long as you do, whet
    you get old. if you try to cheat (like I see a lot of idiots running shorts in the 40's
    and even 30's) those people will get deep vein thrombosis and other nasty leg
    problems when they get old.

    cover them early and cover them often
    I like fat bikes
    and I cannot lie.

  6. #6
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jurgen View Post
    I wouldn't cycle in shorts anything below 50 degrees, and even that is probably on the low end of reasonableness.

    Why take the risk with your knees?

    If you're feeling kinda Homer Simpson though ("Don't you hate pants??"), invest in some leg warmers for those ~50 degree days and quality tights for when its colder.
    I'll go a little cooler than that- high 40s maybe. One of the honchos in my bike club is always on me about protecting my knees, but I don't think he bares is legs at anything less than 65. Wimp.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  7. #7
    staring at the mountains superdex's Avatar
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    leg warmers. Problem solved.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I've heard that 65 degrees is the cut-off point for wearing shorts alone vs wearing tights or leg warmers with your shorts.

    Dave, why not try leg warmers?

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    Using the 60 threshhold would mean I hardly ever get to wear shorts. The average July temperatures where I live are 56 for the low and 72 for the high, although the sun rises very early, so it will probably be warm enough by the time I get out. That rule would restrict shorts for every day wear to July/ August, with the range extended to June-September for an afternoon jaunt. The May high is 63, but there's be too much risk it wasn't above 60 all day. Personally, I would feel thoroughly miserable and hot cycling in a pair of trousers at 59 degrees.
    Aren't the legs also where the heat powerhouse is? They're doing all the work. 60 is barely below room temperature, so combined with vigorous exercise will generate a lot of heat. Also surely sweat soaked trousers will remove heat more quickly than dry air thus increasing damage Please don't tell me the damage I did that morning I cycled in shorts at 35-40, because it would be 50-55 later.
    Sorry to offend anyone on here, but 60 is nowhere near the region I was looking at when I posed the question. Can I have some more realistic answers please?

  10. #10
    Senior Member Jurgen's Avatar
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    Can I have some more realistic answers please?
    Wear shorts everyday--regardless of conditions or even if you're on your bike--and let the world bask in the awesomeness of your bare legs.

  11. #11
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    DD: Don't ask a question and, when people give you their honest answers, come back with "Can I have some more realistic answers please?" If you're trying to justify a position to yourself or others, fine. But this is a question without a definitive answer, so just take opinions for what they are.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  12. #12
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by doohickie View Post
    dd: Don't ask a question and, when people give you their honest answers, come back with "can i have some more realistic answers please?" if you're trying to justify a position to yourself or others, fine. But this is a question without a definitive answer, so just take opinions for what they are.
    +1

  13. #13
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dangerous Dave View Post
    Using the 60 threshhold would mean I hardly ever get to wear shorts. ... Personally, I would feel thoroughly miserable and hot cycling in a pair of trousers at 59 degrees.
    ... Sorry to offend anyone on here, but 60 is nowhere near the region I was looking at when I posed the question. Can I have some more realistic answers please?
    Actually 65 might be a more realistic answer.

    Where I live, I rarely wear just shorts. I almost always wear leg warmers or tights. But that's the thing ... we're also not suggesting you wear "trousers" ... get yourself a pair of knee warmers, leg warmers or tights.

    Like these, for example:
    http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_d...=1230931278385

    Or these:
    http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_d...=1230931278383

  14. #14
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dangerous Dave View Post
    Using the 60 threshhold would mean I hardly ever get to wear shorts. The average July temperatures where I live are 56 for the low and 72 for the high, although the sun rises very early, so it will probably be warm enough by the time I get out. That rule would restrict shorts for every day wear to July/ August, with the range extended to June-September for an afternoon jaunt. The May high is 63, but there's be too much risk it wasn't above 60 all day. Personally, I would feel thoroughly miserable and hot cycling in a pair of trousers at 59 degrees.
    Aren't the legs also where the heat powerhouse is? They're doing all the work. 60 is barely below room temperature, so combined with vigorous exercise will generate a lot of heat. Also surely sweat soaked trousers will remove heat more quickly than dry air thus increasing damage Please don't tell me the damage I did that morning I cycled in shorts at 35-40, because it would be 50-55 later.
    Sorry to offend anyone on here, but 60 is nowhere near the region I was looking at when I posed the question. Can I have some more realistic answers please?
    I've heard the 65 degree cut off before and my first reaction was exactly like yours. The theory behind the number is that the workings of your knee are not well insulated from cold and that the air movement generated by both pedaling and forward motion doesn't allow your knee to warm up properly in cooler temps.

    I've also heard that some cycling coaches require that knees be covered in anything below 70 !

    Now is it something backed by science or just a myth started by cyclists who lived in a climate where 65 is genuinely considered cold?

    I've seen conflicting information so I don't know.

    To me 65 is pretty close to an ideal temp as far as strenuous outdoor activity is concerned so I'm a little skeptical. I can't imagine for example starting a marathon at 8:00 am wearing leg warmers when the temp is 60. That just seems ludicrous. Of course running is different than cycling but does the cooling effect of moving at 15 to 20 mph make that much difference at 60 ?
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Jurgen's Avatar
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    "You're not just telling us what we want to hear?"
    "No, sir, no way."
    "Cause we just want to hear the truth."
    "Well, then I guess I am telling you what you want to hear."
    "Boy, didn't we just tell you not to do that?"

  16. #16
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jurgen View Post
    "You're not just telling us what we want to hear?"
    "No, sir, no way."
    "Cause we just want to hear the truth."
    "Well, then I guess I am telling you what you want to hear."
    "Boy, didn't we just tell you not to do that?"
    I don't know if it's quite that.

    He's from an area where I'm guessing people routinely wear shorts for physical activity when temps are below 60. Take football or "soccer" for example. To say that wearing shorts below 60 is bad for one's knees runs counter to his experience, -not just his wishes.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

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    Okay just to throw my 2 pennies, cents, whatever in on this. It does go against what I would:
    a)like to hear. the 65 threshhold means I can almost never wear shorts as it gets below that first thing in the morning and hasn't passed 65 by the time I go out to college.
    b)It seems to throw common sense right to the winds and beyond. I have been treated for dehydration, with headache and vomiting on a day where the MAXIMUM temperature was 65. I'd set off into 45 in shorts and t shirt that morning. I had the same again (but slightly less severe) after a long ride where the MAXIMUM was 61, let alone the 45 odd when I set off. If I'm having to be treated for dehydration after wearing shorts and t shirt on a day the HIGH barely scraped 60, and drank 2 litres of fluids during the day, what good is wearing trousers going to do. I thought trying not to sweat was important too. Is it some kind of sado-machistic machoism to see how long you can physically bear to be in long trousers, or do you all live in places where the overnight winter low is in the 50's during a cold snap. Sorry to disappoint you all, but the answers are way off what I would have expected. What I really want to know is when they become dangerously unhealthy, eg. putting myself at risk of getting sick, becoming hypothermic, etc.
    Sorry to be so blunt but I have a mild ASD, so shorts, versus trousers is a sensory issue and the thought of having to wear long trousers all year is horrifying. I would look stupid coming into college with knee warmers, just because it was warm instead of hot and sunny in the morning, so jeans instead of shorts would be the only way.

  18. #18
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dangerous Dave View Post
    Okay just to throw my 2 pennies, cents, whatever in on this. It does go against what I would:
    a)like to hear. the 65 threshhold means I can almost never wear shorts as it gets below that first thing in the morning and hasn't passed 65 by the time I go out to college.

    Yeah, so? Join the club.



    Quote Originally Posted by Dangerous Dave View Post
    b)It seems to throw common sense right to the winds and beyond. I have been treated for dehydration, with headache and vomiting on a day where the MAXIMUM temperature was 65.
    Yeah, so? That just means you didn't drink enough WATER ... perhaps too much alcohol the night before?

    Wearing leg warmers or tights has nothing to do with dehydration ... it has to do with protecting the ligaments in your knees.


    Quote Originally Posted by Dangerous Dave View Post
    I would look stupid coming into college with knee warmers, just because it was warm instead of hot and sunny in the morning, so jeans instead of shorts would be the only way.
    Well, if looks are what matter to you rather than your health .....


    And you can remove knee warmers and put them in your pocket.

  19. #19
    Senior Member RoyIII's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by twilkins9076 View Post
    Standard wisdom that I've always heard is that you should cover your knees at anything below 60 degrees. I'm not sure where that originated, but you see it in a lot of articles. The reasoning behind it is that all the ligaments and tendons in your knee are so close to the surface that they are easily impacted by the cold and become more susceptible to injury.

    The bottom line for me is that I would prefer to be warm than cold, so I tend to overdress when the temps are "between" cold and hot.
    This comes from the sports medicine people so I am inclined to think that it is a good idea. But for short durations it is probably not so critical.

    Your body secretes a fluid in the joint for lubrication called bursa. When it is cold this process does not work as well so during extensive exercise in the cold the joint will actually wear out faster because it gets less lubrication. There are not a lot of muscles surrounding the knee joint to keep it warm. Most of the muscle mass is above or below the knee so it may be more vulnerable to the cold.
    Last edited by Hezz; 01-02-09 at 07:23 PM.

  21. #21
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    Just asked my brother who's a doctor and he says runners can safely wear shorts down to 40 and cyclists to 45. Suspected it must be in that area. When hiking, the temperature feels 20F warmer than standing, and cycling is more vigorous still, so probably more like a 25-30 degree difference running across, so 45 would feel like 70-75.
    Sorry to disappoint you guys but I've talked with a qualified doctor, and the little "60-65" joke's over. I'd thought this was meant to be a sensible forum.

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    lol


    I find that my knees are more comfortable covered up around 60F. Whether it is proper or not I do not care. Whatever a random doctor says matters not to me. What matters is how my legs feel.

    My rough guide. It changes with the wind and how energetic I feel.

    60F: knee warmers
    50F: Leg warmers
    40F: Lite tights
    32F: Lite tights with leg warmers
    25F: Heavyweight tights
    10F: Heavyweight tights with long johns. I rarely ride at this temp.

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    Common sense has been evident in the posts that responded to Dangerous Dave. In initiating the question, he was seeking a precise measure, "... a temperature below which I absolutely ...". There is no precise measure which is why there is a variability in responses including that of Dangerous Dave's brother/doctor. Along with air temperature, consideration must also be given to wind, hence wind chill. The posters who suggested knee and leg warmers are obviously accustomed to the concept of layering of clothes. When temperatures vary greatly during a day, the prepared cyclist/commuter will have a layer of clothes to respond to the situation. Pictures of cyclists together during cool/cold temperatures invariably reveal a variety of clothes for reasons that individuals react subjectively and differently to the weather.

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    There seems to be a bit of a cultural element in this. Runners and cyclists have significantly different cut-off points. I'd say there are some cyclists here who cover their knees at 60 F, most do by 55 F and pretty much all by 50 F. But for runners, the same things probably happen at 50, 45 and 40.

    For what it's worth, if I get to select a "perfect" temperature for strenuous outdoor activities, I'd go for something between 55-60. 65 is hot.

  25. #25
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dangerous Dave View Post
    Just asked my brother who's a doctor and he says runners can safely wear shorts down to 40 and cyclists to 45. Suspected it must be in that area. When hiking, the temperature feels 20F warmer than standing, and cycling is more vigorous still, so probably more like a 25-30 degree difference running across, so 45 would feel like 70-75.
    Sorry to disappoint you guys but I've talked with a qualified doctor, and the little "60-65" joke's over. I'd thought this was meant to be a sensible forum.
    Your brother was talking about runners who typically travel a long slower than cyclists. Factor wind chill into the equation and you might discover that 60F is closer to the right zone, not the 45 he indicated. Of course, I would subscribe to the "whatever works for you" theory... but in my case it's about 60F.

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