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My coldest commute

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Old 01-20-07, 09:47 PM
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cccorlew
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My coldest commute

OK. It's only Northern California, and I've only been commuting a few months. I'm sure many of you will laugh at my pride in doing my 8 miles at 27 degrees, But it was a huge deal for me. I never thought I'd ride below 60. Really.
Here's my trick, and advice for my friends who are amazed when I wheel into work:
Don't think of it as cycling. Think of it as skiing. Heck, we ski when it's colder. I wear layers, tights, ski mittens and glove liners and feel pretty good. I'm still working on the toes.

So go on, make me feel like a wimp. Brag about your cold cold life, and tell me how you survive.
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Old 01-20-07, 10:08 PM
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The only person you have to prove yourself to watches you brush his teeth every morning. Beyond that, it's all gravy.

PS: Coldest commute ever was -25F.
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Old 01-20-07, 10:09 PM
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I think for most, if you can keep the hands and toes warm, you have it nailed. Especially if you are able to get your heart rate up. My commute starts with a steep climb. While that isn't necessarily good for warming up the muscles, it gets the body warm in a hurry.

Congratulations on your accomplishment.
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Old 01-20-07, 10:43 PM
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Dobber: -25? Holy smokes. I've never even been in that kind of cold. I think breathing would be my only goal. But you're right; looking in the mirror has been easier lately. I've lost over 30 pounds, I look not-fat, feel better and am LOVING my bike ride.
But -25 might have me changing my mind about the whole process.
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Old 01-21-07, 01:45 AM
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Congratulations! Each accomplishment leads to satisfaction, confidence, empowerment, and freedom!

When we lived in Colorado I accumulated gear to keep me comfortable down to around -5F, depending upon wind, climbing vs. descending, precipitation, etc. In that realm you start using tricks like inverting your water bottle in its cage because it freezes first at the top. Here's a photo my wife took as I headed out for work one beautiful morning. Learn more at the IceBike website and email list.

When we moved to Northern California I gave away my studded tires. Like you the coldest I've ridden since we got here was last week's +27F. I used my warm tights with no windproof nylon overpants, shoe covers to keep the wind off my toes but with only one layer of SmartWool socks, my warm gloves but without liners or windproof overmitts, and my Polartec skullcap instead of a balaclava.

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Old 01-21-07, 04:12 AM
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Originally Posted by dobber
The only person you have to prove yourself to watches you brush his teeth every morning. Beyond that, it's all gravy.

PS: Coldest commute ever was -25F.
Agreed. My coldest commute was -1/0/+1F depending on which source I consulted. -25F seems as crazy to me as 0F must seem to the OP, so I guess it's all relative.
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Old 01-21-07, 06:39 AM
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-7f is the coldest I ever rode in. I didn't have a problem but my bike did. About half way to work the grease/oil in the rear hub thickened up and did not let the cog engage.
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Old 01-21-07, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by awagner109
-7f is the coldest I ever rode in. I didn't have a problem but my bike did. About half way to work the grease/oil in the rear hub thickened up and did not let the cog engage.
That's when you go fixed gear. I've got the Swiss Army knives of bikes, a Surly 1x1. That thing has morphed into more configurations over the year. When winter sets in, it sheds everything and is currently set up fixed 36:18 with 2" knobbies. No brakes, can't get going fast enough to need em.
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Old 01-21-07, 08:44 AM
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Dude, for a bay area rider, 27 is definitely super cold. My bro moved there from Chicago and after a couple years, he needs a full on winter coat at 45-50 degrees. And I agree with others that the hardest thing I've had in cold commuting is the breathing, it stings the lungs around the teens for me (though we technically have only had that with wind chill in nyc so far).
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Old 01-21-07, 10:30 AM
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I quit carrying a water bottle all together. I can handle 14 miles with nothing to drink, at least in this weather. Hey, at least I don't have to worry about it freezing! Although I doubt my gatorade would freeze in an hour, even at -5f.

When it gets back above 90 degrees I'll carry one again, I'm sure.

If it's below 20 I need to cover my face, or my asthma will get me. I use a neck gaiter I picked up at Walmart for $3, keeps me nice 'n toasty.
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Old 01-21-07, 10:36 AM
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I've never wimped out due to temp, but the coldest it's been around here since I started commuting was about -5. I'm thinking about getting some fleece; so far I just ride with a couple of poly layers and a windbreaker.
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Old 01-21-07, 10:39 AM
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My coldest is about -10F. We were right around 0F last week and I drastically overdressed (even had to shed a fleece midride). I have to re-learn every year that as long as you keep ears, fingers, and toes pretty warm you really don't need much on your legs or torso. I also have to remember that it's not the temperature, it's the road surface.

On a related note, I love riding by bus stops in really cold weather. I'm looking at people standing there thinking, "wow, that guy on a bicycle is probably cold" and I'm thinking "wow, I know those people are cold."
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Old 01-21-07, 02:30 PM
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hey cccorlew,
+1 on only having to prove yourself to the one in the mirror. My lowest was -14F, Pittsburgh in 93-94. The trick to keeping toes warm is to use booties w/cycling socks(they're usually poly-pro), one pair of thick 100% wool crewe length(or longer) socks and a pair of shoes one size too big. This gives your toes room to move around. Been using this combo for years to great effect. A fleece headband in addition to a balaclava and/or hoody for your head. Wind/waterproof mittens and liners for your hands and you're set. Oh yeah, a bowl of oatmeal or a powerbar before leaving will help generate heat from digestion on real cold commutes...learned that trick from my grandmother. It works! Congrats on lowering your 'will ride' temp.
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Old 01-21-07, 02:43 PM
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What has been a pain is this. It takes me 10 more minutes each morning to put on all the layers. Then 5 more minutes when I get two work to remove them and hang them up. In the afternoon, I have to figure out which morning layers I need and which ones I don't.I've also had headwinds going to work, which is annoying. On the way home, an extra 5-10 min due to wind doesn't bug me, but in the morning I need every minute I can spare before I start teaching.I just hope this wind dies down by tomorrow morning.
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Old 01-21-07, 02:50 PM
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25F is a respectable temp. Heck, before commuting through last winter my previous low was 45F. Anyhow..... I'd post my low temp but don't see the point. No matter where you have ridden someone has been out in a colder temp than you.
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Old 01-21-07, 04:26 PM
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Earlier this week I did -1F according to the weather (my neighbor's thermometer said -2F but it doesn't make much difference). I think I could handle pretty much any temperature, as I'm still kind of chubby and I have an infinite pile of clothing to toss on. I could go thermal base layer + 2 layers of sweat pants + flannels + jeans if I had to, and similar on shirts. I've been snow skiing in -15F and my goggles and ski mask did just fine even at speed, so I would bet those same goggles, balaclava and helmet would be sufficient.

Kudos, though, on riding through a difficult change in weather. There's no bad weather, just bad clothing choices. In the end, it's about passion and dedication. You've got both.
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Old 01-21-07, 07:49 PM
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Good for you It beats all the the others sitting around just talking about riding, never going out when it's cold
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Old 01-21-07, 08:58 PM
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Originally Posted by MrCjolsen
What has been a pain is this. It takes me 10 more minutes each morning to put on all the layers. Then 5 more minutes when I get two work to remove them and hang them up. In the afternoon, I have to figure out which morning layers I need and which ones I don't.I've also had headwinds going to work, which is annoying. On the way home, an extra 5-10 min due to wind doesn't bug me, but in the morning I need every minute I can spare before I start teaching.I just hope this wind dies down by tomorrow morning.
I go throught the same thing and all that clothing is a pain. My wife complains about the clothes everywhere.

Just rearrange your schedule and bed time to accomodate it all. I start putting my clothes on first thing while I'm having my coffee and checking out the weather forecast. It really doesn't take much longer than putting on regular work clothes. I don't change what I wear much between 0-30. Maybe one layer on the upper torso.

It's all worth it though.
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Old 01-22-07, 12:44 AM
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BigMacFu was right about where you are from making a difference.

I spent 17 years working on the Railroad in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota. I've worked outside at temps down to -30.

The coldest I rode my bike was -6. It's too hard on the lungs to suck in the air you need when it gets much below -10.

Last year I nearly got myself killed at 10 above. The temp had fallen while at work and I had gotten overconfident in how I was dressing for my 6-mile rural road commute home. I had been wearing just a windbreaker, sweatshirt and jeans and relying on sprinting for the first 1/4 - 1/2 mile to get warmed up.

This night I had a bad headwind that was really making me work to the point of a light sweat. About 2 miles into the ride I had a flat tire. It seemed to take forever to change the flat, the rubber was stiff and so were my fingers. I had the shakes from the wind and my damp clothes by the time I had popped the co2.

When I got back on the bike I just couldn't warm up. I didn't have any energy. I thought about stopping at the farm a mile from my house and calling my wife but I kept thinking, "it's just another mile." Anyway I kept peddling and then I just plain pedaled right into the ditch. I was so disoriented I wasn't paying attention. If there hadn't been some woods to break the wind the last half mile I think I'd have frozen to death.


I'm a lot more careful now.
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Old 01-22-07, 01:59 AM
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For the last month, I've been riding to work in temperatures between 0 and 10F. It's been cold, and unusually snowy along the Colorado front range. I've ridden, on a number of occassions, in temperatures below zero. This has never been much of a problem, but with 20-30 MPH winds, it can feel a lot colder.
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Old 01-22-07, 02:19 AM
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Originally Posted by silversmith
Last year I nearly got myself killed at 10 above.... wearing just a windbreaker, sweatshirt and jeans ... a light sweat...
Yowza! That's a scary story. Glad you're here to tell it.

That's why they say "cotton kills."
 
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Old 01-22-07, 08:26 AM
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Congrats, cccorlew! Any temperature below freezing counts in my book! Brag away to your SoCal friends!
You know what they say: There's no bad weather, just the wrong clothing. Cotton may kill, but I've got friends who swear by wool. I just wear my dress slacks or blue jeans in the winter for my 5-mile commute and they work fine (down to about 0 or 5F, then I can add an underlayer). As has been mentioned, the things to pay the most attention to are hands, feet, and face. On my face, I wear, at various times (warmest to coldest) a headband, headband with mouth mask, balaclava, or for the really frigid days (< 10F) head sock. I find the freezing point to be the limit underneath which I need something over my nose, and mittens instead of gloves on my hands (thin fingers).

Silversmith: You do know how close a call you had, right?! You're a lucky man(?)! Disorientation is a very bad sign.

I once set out less than adequately dressed at about 0F, and also was recovering from illness. On top of that, my components must have had water in, and began freezing up. Fortunately I had the sense to turn around after about a mile, but it was still a struggle to get back home. I staggered through the front door and (voluntarily) rested on the floor for a minute before dragging myself to the couch, where my wife brought me blankets and hot tea! After 20 more minutes, I drove the car to work with the seat warmers on!
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Old 01-22-07, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by dobber
The only person you have to prove yourself to watches you brush his teeth every morning.
Who? My dog? I will never let him down.

OP: That's the kind of ride that sucked me into commuting. At first I wondered if I could ride to work on a nice day and that was easy. Then I wondered if I could ride to the store on a questionable day and that ended up being easy also. Getting over each small hurdle sets me up to push myself and ride farther, more often, and in even the worse weather.
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Old 01-22-07, 08:45 AM
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Agree with GTcommuter. The first year, I specifically did not set out to ride all winter, because I didn't want to set any unrealistic goals. But each small hurdle was a challenge that I wanted to meet, and before I knew it, it was March and I thought "Hey, I could actually do this!" Much to my surprise!
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Old 01-22-07, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by dobber
The only person you have to prove yourself to watches you brush his teeth every morning. Beyond that, it's all gravy.
I have to prove myself to my puppy? Man, this is gonna be tough...

Originally Posted by dobber
PS: Coldest commute ever was -25F.
Dang! That's really cold. I've done -15*F as my worst cold ride, and that was only 8 miles (one way) then I chumped out and got a ride home with a co-worker.

Hey cccorlew, don't think of cold as an absolute scale, where people who routinely ride in sub-freezing temps can make fun of you for being cold when it's mid 20s by you. Cold is a relative thing. Heck, it went to 43 degrees here (Seattle) today and I ditched my helmet liner, gloves, booties and long base layer because I grew up with single-digit winter temps on the east coast and midwest. I saw club riders out yesterday (low 50s) wearing balaclavas and full long wool kit. People that grew up here look at me like I'm a freak because I wear shorts and a tee-shirt when it hits 50 degrees out. (I wore my Utilikilt and a t-shirt yesterday when I was out exercising my puppy.)
How many people didn't ride because it is that cold by you? That's your true measure of how hardcore you are.
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