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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 12-13-10, 06:08 PM   #1
hobkirk
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Why do my arms sweat so much? OR, help me layer better...

I'm sure this is a dopey question, but this forum isn't "Road Cycling" so I can probably survive the responses. I fairly new to cycling and very new to cold weather cycling, although I've done a lot of cold weather running years ago.

I went on a 30-mile ride when it was 19 F. I wore:
  • ski socks with a plastic bag over them (no room in my shoes for two pairs of socks)
  • long underwear bottoms (some synthetic, 30 years old), leg warmers, bib shorts
  • thermal top, long-sleeved jersey, PI rain jacket
  • thin neck gaiter with a mountaineering under-helmet cap (fleece), safety glasses
  • down mitten (mountaineering, really serious, with fur patch on back, on one hand (an experiment), and a ski glove with a nylon overmitt (mountaineering) on the other hand
Only my feet and cheeks got cold - I knew they would. The cheeks weren't really a problem but the feet would be if it had been a longer ride. I think I need to set up my 35 year old Lotus with platform pedals and wear winter boots.

But (I finally get to the point), my arms were pretty sweaty. I assume I should have been wearing a vest instead of the jacket (plus it's always reassuring to have another piece of clothing in reserve in the cold), but it doesn't seem that the arms should get so warm. I've ridden in the high 20's dressed as above w/o the jacket and my belly area got cold.
  1. So, why do my arms get sweaty? Does cycling actually use the arm muscles a lot?
  2. Any alternative to a vest? A trash bag under the front of my jersey?
Thanks.
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Old 12-13-10, 06:11 PM   #2
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Why don't you want to wear a vest? You're the perfect candidate for a vest.
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Old 12-13-10, 06:46 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by hobkirk View Post
I'm sure this is a dopey question, but this forum isn't "Road Cycling" so I can probably survive the responses. I fairly new to cycling and very new to cold weather cycling, although I've done a lot of cold weather running years ago.

I went on a 30-mile ride when it was 19 F. I wore:
  • ski socks with a plastic bag over them (no room in my shoes for two pairs of socks)
  • long underwear bottoms (some synthetic, 30 years old), leg warmers, bib shorts
  • thermal top, long-sleeved jersey, PI rain jacket
  • thin neck gaiter with a mountaineering under-helmet cap (fleece), safety glasses
  • down mitten (mountaineering, really serious, with fur patch on back, on one hand (an experiment), and a ski glove with a nylon overmitt (mountaineering) on the other hand
Only my feet and cheeks got cold - I knew they would. The cheeks weren't really a problem but the feet would be if it had been a longer ride. I think I need to set up my 35 year old Lotus with platform pedals and wear winter boots.

But (I finally get to the point), my arms were pretty sweaty. I assume I should have been wearing a vest instead of the jacket (plus it's always reassuring to have another piece of clothing in reserve in the cold), but it doesn't seem that the arms should get so warm. I've ridden in the high 20's dressed as above w/o the jacket and my belly area got cold.
  1. So, why do my arms get sweaty? Does cycling actually use the arm muscles a lot?
  2. Any alternative to a vest? A trash bag under the front of my jersey?
Thanks.
Sounds to me like you have things pretty close but need a little adjustment. First, check and make sure that the PI rain jacket is breathable type. Some cycling rain jackets are not breathable. Or are not breathable enough. Some riders naturally have warm arms. If you are this type of rider you may find that one less layer on the arms than body works for you.

Three possible approaches to this layering problem: Get one of the inexpensive cycling wind breakers. They are sometimes sold as cycling jackets but are really just wind breakers. Generally in the 40-50 dollar price range they are made from a tight weave polyester material. These are more breathable but not as warm as a membrane (Gore-tex or equivalent) cycling jacket. Use this instead of a cycling jacket and if the torso gets cold get a gore-tex vest to wear over the windbreaker. This will let your arms breath better and stay cooler but will keep them warm enough.

Second, you might also try to use a medium thick first layer of long sleeve polypro with a very open knit weave and a cheap fleece vest of whatever thickness you need to keep your torso warm. I would try this second approach first if your jacket is the breathable type because then you shouldn't have to buy anything expensive to try it out. Wear this under your jacket and our arms will only have two layers on them. Base layer and jacket.

Third, get a Gore-tex or equivalent cycling vest and try it without the jacket to see how cold you can go with this combination. Some riders can ride down to 15-20 F with just a good cycling vest with a wind proof front over the other layers.
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Old 12-13-10, 08:15 PM   #4
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Everybody's body dissipates heat differently. Yours uses the arms, so wear a vest as your outer layer.

My arms are the first place that gets cold. I'm a reverse candidate for a vest. I have to add extra layers to my arms first. I'll add armwarmers before I'll add another shirt/jersey/jacket/whatever.

My body sweats from the head. Tonight, 13°F coming home from work, I'm feeling nice and toasty all over, except my head, which is sweating like it's July. Go figure.
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Old 12-13-10, 08:59 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by tsl View Post
...My body sweats from the head. Tonight, 13°F coming home from work, I'm feeling nice and toasty all over, except my head, which is sweating like it's July. Go figure.
Well, I didn't mention it but my head sweats too. My cap is always wet when I get home, even at 19. Unless I don't wear a cap (it was 44°F today). So I guess I sweat at my useless extremities, my arms and head!

Your approach to cold cycling seems pretty mentally sick, BTW. I happen to think that crazy people like you make the world much more interesting, so I applaud.

As an aside, I doubt if I will become such a zealot. I may limit myself to daylight hours without rain or ice (although ice can appear any time it's cold, so far there's only been a tiny amount and I can see it before I hit it). I'm still learning (826 miles in November, but I expect that may drop by half in the coming months).
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Old 12-13-10, 10:04 PM   #6
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Zealot? Nah, not me. I'll take fanatic, committed, dedicated, or what have you, but zealot carries negative connotations that just don't fit me. And BTW, you were 500 miles ahead of me for November.

As far as interesting goes, at least four others--including another guy in our age group--showed up in a snowstorm on bikes tonight for a public meeting on the city's Bike Master Plan. It warmed my heart.
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Old 12-14-10, 06:45 AM   #7
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The problem is your rain jacket. If it isnt raining, dont wear it. NO rain jacket is ever breathable enough.
Its much better to wear a non-waterproof windproof jacket. Avoid the membrane windproofs, go for a cheaper one with tight-weave cloth and no membrane.
Once you have a base layer and outer layer sorted, you just adjust the mid-layer to suit. You should start the ride a bit cold. Carry extra insulation for stops and if rain is immenent, carry a waterproof.
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Old 12-14-10, 03:17 PM   #8
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Zealot? Nah, not me. I'll take fanatic, committed, dedicated, or what have you, but zealot carries negative connotations that just don't fit me.
Yup.

Yeah, I like my arms warm too if it's very cold but I sweat a lot! So I will sweat down the arms like crazy if the jacket is not breathable. The key is to have either proper vents under the arms, or even along the arms or just try some combination of sweaters and windproof, but breathable, vests.
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Old 12-14-10, 04:28 PM   #9
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Do you think it was sweat or condensation? I agree with the others about changing the rain jacket for something that is more breathable.

The same thing applies to your feet. I think the plastic bag over your feet did not allow your feet to breathe keeping them cold. Look for some wool socks and get rid of the plastic bag.

For your face, can the neck gaiter be pulled up? If not you might want to look into a neoprene mask or a gaiter that can be pulled up. I also use a fleece lined bandanna that makes me look like an old west bank robber.
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