You're getting the same crazy weather I am, I'm on the far side of Illinois from you not too far from the Mississippi river. I picked a Helluva a year to start Winter riding! :twitchy:
I have to say that I hope I never hit a new low, since I have ridden a couple of commutes in -20F weather. It has been around 0 F here a couple of times recently, that's cold enough. I find anything below the mid-teens is obnoxiously cold.
This is definitely my coldest winter riding. Only four times in January, but twice last week, once so far this week (today). It was around 0F when I left the house. I think I've got most of the problems (clothing, gear) solved. The one disappointment is that with
- extra navigational care (crazy Chicago drivers!)
- studded tires (woo hoo!)
- extra clothing (toasty)
- a couple extra pounds around the midsection (*sigh*)
I am definitely slower than during the spring/summer/fall. Will be nice to see how things improve when I can shed some of those extras in the spring.
Speaking of extras, when do people switch away from their studded tires, when there's no chance of an overnight freeze, or when the probability gets low enough to chance it?
There is one other guy that commutes from the country like I do (about 12 miles). He doesn't have a car, so he doesn't have a lot of choice. I ride down to about 10 degrees.
Today my truck said it was -15 when I came across him halfway to town. I stopped, threw his bike in the back and gave him a ride to work.
I've ridden my bike a few winters now, but sparingly--when the weather was ok. This year I've improved my cold weather gear and decided to toughen it out. So far I've been in temps down to -25c, light snow on the ground, and I often ride when it's dark. I'm really enjoying these rides, knowing that 99% of the cyclists in my area are on their trainers.
The pieces I've added which have really helped: conti winter tires (not studded, but grippy), ski goggles, chemical toe warmers (good for 1.5hrs), thin gloves under ski gloves. Also, I use a cross bike that I got for a great deal. I now have four bikes and I don't mind putting this bike through the ringer. I wipe it down and dry the chain after every wet ride. Still looks ok.
My lowest temperature ride was as low as -16 F, it seems, on January 28. (-12 F when I departed, but I rode to an open area that was cooler.)
I don't normally winter bike, but I had car trouble caused by the cold, so I went for the insane route.
Typically I cruise in 4th or 5th gear on level ground, on my recumbent trike, which is about 13-15 mph.
I didn't get past 2nd gear, which meant around a 10 mph cruise. And, the bike trail was impassable, so I was doing this on the streets.
Propulsive traction wasn't great (on Schwalbe Trykers (so, nothing at all suited to winter) at 85 psi when in my warm apartment), and I was riding unplowed side streets to bypass a narrow (2 lane, no shoulder), very busy (no room for motorists to pass due to oncoming traffic) street. It was cold enough that the street was fairly hard packed ice, though, so at least I wasn't pushing through snow. The return trip, at 6 F, was harder due to the ice being a little softer, but I managed it by not stopping at the eleventy billion stop signs in that section unless there was actually traffic to stop for.
Comfort was decent despite riding over the ice on these tires at max pressure, and cornering traction was fine.
Clothing... Balaclava and a hat, a fairly heavy jacket (which is what I normally wear in all weather that is cold or wet enough to call for any more than a shirt), leather gloves, and nothing special below that. If I ever set out to winter cycle again, I'll definitely wear thicker gloves, add a layer to the legs and figure out something for the feet (I was wearing my clipless shoes that are fairly well ventilated, which wasn't the greatest idea, but I don't ride this trike without clipless). On the 6 F return trip, the jacket was actually a little hot and I had to open it some.
Only other issue I can think of is that my headlight lost power pretty quickly, the NiMH cells couldn't handle the extreme cold I guess.