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Surviving the Cold??

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Surviving the Cold??

Old 04-13-11, 08:49 PM
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Surviving the Cold??

I am from northwestern Minnesota and just started commuting to work (about 30 mile round trip). So far this spring has not been great for biking as far as temperatures are concerned (10-25 F deg in the morning). Rode in twice last week and ended up coming down with a terrible cold. I wore a hat under my helmet, my snowmobile coat, thin gloves over my bike gloves, and bike shorts. Is there any thing I can do to keep my lower body covered and warm without restricting movement too much?

Please help; I know I could wait a few weeks (or months) for it to warm up to start riding, but seeing everyone on the forums out and about is making me jealous!!
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Old 04-13-11, 09:01 PM
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Layering, layering.
when the temps are 10-20 F I will typically wear my warm tights (not cycling specific - mine are winter running tights) with a wind layer on the outside. My wind layer is also a rain layer - I wear Pearl Izumi rain pants. The wind break is crucial to keeping the wind from coming through and chilling you to the bone.
Same goes for up top. I don't wear anything bulky. In those temps I wear a medium weight polar fleece top (long sleeve), perhaps a thin layer underneath, and my Showers Pass rain jacket on the outside.
I wear a thin balaclava that covers my head and neck, leaving only my face exposed, and a polar fleece headband that does not interfere with my helmet.

You can use duct tape to cover your helmet vents.
Clear lens (or yellow lens) glasses help to keep your eyes from tearing and also provide a wind break for your cheeks.

For my hands I wear good gloves (mine are winter cycling gloves by Sugoi, but ski/snowboard/mountaineering gloves will do). If it is really cold, I will wear my mid-weight gloves with a gore tex overmitt as the outer layer.

I wear smartwool hiking socks and leather "casual" shoes that are made to accept cycling cleats (if you are into that sort of thing).

If you have gone skiing, snowshoeing, or other active outdoor winter activities, the concept is very similar for winter cycling. I would put it in a different category than snowmobiling, which tends to utilize bulkier outerwear when compared to the active sports.

It is best to start out feeling perhaps a little chilly - the body will warm things up within a mile or so.
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Old 04-13-11, 09:02 PM
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At those temps, you have to block the wind. I wear rain pants:
http://www.campmor.com/marmot-mens-p...4&ci_sku=53408

You'll also need a bit of layering for warmth, I wear a regular cycling tights.

So I wear the tights for warmth and the rain pants to block out the wind.
Here's the combo in action:
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Old 04-13-11, 09:27 PM
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Originally Posted by icyj View Post
I am from northwestern Minnesota and just started commuting to work (about 30 mile round trip). So far this spring has not been great for biking as far as temperatures are concerned (10-25 F deg in the morning). Rode in twice last week and ended up coming down with a terrible cold. I wore a hat under my helmet, my snowmobile coat, thin gloves over my bike gloves, and bike shorts. Is there any thing I can do to keep my lower body covered and warm without restricting movement too much?

Please help; I know I could wait a few weeks (or months) for it to warm up to start riding, but seeing everyone on the forums out and about is making me jealous!!
You caught a cold because you were exposed to a virus, not because you were out in the cold.

I don't live as far North as you but I ride year round in Minneapolis. This is what I wear from the 20s down to the -20s:

1. Balaclava and helmet on head
2. Base layer (like underarmor), fleece pullover, and wind proof shell on torso
3. basic cycling tights under XC Skiing tights with wind proof front panels on legs
4. Wool socks, cycling shoes or sneakers, fleece lined neoprene shoe covers on feet
5. Various ski gloves or ice fishing mitts if it's really cold
6. Ski goggles if it's single digits or colder

For the legs you don't need cycling tights but they work for me. They're like padded long underwear. Basically you need a close fitting base layer like long underwear (or winter weight cycling tights) under something wind proof. For the top layer, think of something you might wear running in the winter.

It can be really tough on your knees to leave them completely exposed to cold temps so you need to put something on them.

The snowmobiling jacket was probably overkill. It's meant for riding on something in the cold, not pedaling where you're generating a lot more heat. Sweat, if it's not wicked away from your skin, will end up chilling you even more.

Feet and Hands are a very individual thing as far as keeping them warm. Some people have a real hard time with one or the other so it's hard to make general recommendations.

Even in NW Minnesota, it's going to warm up pretty soon. You're not going to want to wear the snowmobiling jacket home when it's 65 in the afternoon after only being 25 in the morning. That's why multiple thinner layers are nice. You can wear less on the way home without needing a hockey bag to carry the rest of your clothes back.

Last edited by tjspiel; 04-13-11 at 09:34 PM.
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Old 04-13-11, 09:51 PM
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I'm across the river from Fargo, so probably not too far from you and I rode all winter.

Head: Fleece Balacava/Helmet (taped vents)/Goggles
Torso: Champion C9 wicking shirt from Target/Fleece pullover/Cycling shell jacket
Legs: Merino Wool Long Johns/Jeans or Sweats/Track Pants
Feet: Wool cycling socks/Wool ski socks/Merrill Tundra Waterproof Boots
Hands: Merino Wool liner gloves/Wool thinsulate flip mittens

I took the cheaper approach to winter gear, with not much being cycling specific. There's a lot of good tips over at the winter cycling forum too.
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Old 04-15-11, 07:44 AM
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions. Now I need to do some comparisons and talk my wife into letting me go shopping
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Old 04-15-11, 10:00 AM
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As we have known for over a hundred years, you do not catch cold because you got cold, you caught cold because you were exposed to a virus that you couldn't fight off.

My advice, make sure you're getting vitamins, particularly D, I take a cod liver oil supplement too, it appears to help my immune system, and wash your hands. Try to be aware of when you are touching your face with your hands, and think about whether they're currently clean or not.

As for staying warm, layer. I've ridden down to -25*F and while it was very cold, it was bearable. I only really have trouble in extremities at very low temps. On hands, I wear a pair of $10 hunting gloves which are basically cheap, thinsulate lined ski gloves. On the feet, thinsulate lined hunting boots (I buy this stuff for cheap after hunting season) and use platform pedals. On my face, in the extreme cold, I use a neoprene face mask, eBay is a good source, and my normal balaclava over the top of that to keep my ears warm. The neoprene is only really needed (for me) below about -10 or -15*F.

YMMV. Some people wear layers 20* warmer than I do to stay warm (the same stuff I wear at 0*F, they're wearing at 20*F).
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Old 04-15-11, 11:20 AM
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Do some calisthetics in the morning, before you leave for the ride. I find that whenever I go cycling/running, the first 5 minutes or so are really chilly, but then as my body starts producing heat (and it does...you give off 1000-1500W or so when exercising strenuously) things warm up rather quickly. You can jump-start this process by exercising for a bit before you leave the house.
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Old 04-15-11, 11:25 AM
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Canyoneagle brought up a good point regarding wind resistant clothing. I cannot imagine doing my winter commute and runs without an outside layer of wind resistance; makes a world of difference.

The only unfortunate bit about fully water/wind resistant clothing is that it's exactly that, water and wind resistant, so a layer of sweat can form on the inside of the jacket if not properly ventilated.
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Old 04-15-11, 11:33 AM
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+1 on the goggles for single digits and lower.

fingers and toes don't seem to benefit from all of the other heat generation going on in your body so protect them from the wind at all costs (neoprene shoe booties if you use cycling footwear/winter boots if you don't).

I take a warm bottle of sports drink as well (sounds nasty, but I got used to it) - my commute is usually 40-60 minutes, so the drink isn't warm the whole ride, but it helps to get a squirt of warm drink and you need hydration, even when you're freezing your ass off
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Old 04-15-11, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by ZManT View Post
I take a warm bottle of sports drink as well (sounds nasty, but I got used to it) - my commute is usually 40-60 minutes, so the drink isn't warm the whole ride, but it helps to get a squirt of warm drink and you need hydration, even when you're freezing your ass off
I gave up on drinks. At really cold temps, even in a Polar bottle, even if I started with a fairly warm drink, the nozzle froze solid within the first 1/2 of my ride, and the whole drink was frozen by the end (55 minute rides).

I agree that the first 5 minutes is really cold, it's surprising how you can feel like you're heading for frostbite 5 minutes in, then 5 minutes later you realize that you're actually warm.

Watch out for the skin between goggles and face mask, that's the only place I've ever gotten frost nip. Still no frostbite, thankfully.
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Old 04-15-11, 12:27 PM
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cheap motel style shower cap over helmet
and or thin knit cap under helmet
chemical toe warmers
glove liners and loose fitting winter gloves
base layer
fleece shirt
cycling specific wind breaker or better yet "rain" jacket
full length cycling tights or long under wear over your bike shorts, covered by a wind layer such as rain pants of some kind
check out the thread in commuting labeled what do you guys look like
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Old 04-18-11, 07:34 AM
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Well I am fairly certain that I got sick due to riding into work that morning, most likely due to my body working too hard to stay warm that it no longer could fight off a virus I was exposed too (the virus being the root cause, the cold a contributing factor). It was about 24 degrees out and freezing fog. I had only biking shorts to cover my thighs, the rest of my legs were exposed (stupid of me, I know). I had to stop three times to literally scrap the frost off of my legs. I came down with a soar throat by evening and it was all downhill from there.

To elaborate on my original post, the snowmobile jacket is more or less a wind-breaker, I took the insulation liner out. My fingers faired the cold well, I am fairly used to winter activities.
I really need some good suggestions on pants. Are track pants to baggy? I have never owned a pair, but I would be afraid they would get caught in the chain. Are the full length cycling tights meant to hold the heat or just block the wind? Does anyone have any suggestions?
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Old 04-18-11, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by JAG410 View Post
I'm across the river from Fargo, so probably not too far from you and I rode all winter.
Would that be Moorhead? I live in New York Mills, MN and cycle to work in Perham, MN (Hwy 10). If you are ever in the area you will have to look me up and we could go for a spin. I don't know anyone in the area that enjoys cycling. How long of a commute do you have? I can't image my commute on bike in the winter, but maybe that will change.
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Old 04-18-11, 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by icyj View Post
Would that be Moorhead? I live in New York Mills, MN and cycle to work in Perham, MN (Hwy 10). If you are ever in the area you will have to look me up and we could go for a spin. I don't know anyone in the area that enjoys cycling. How long of a commute do you have? I can't image my commute on bike in the winter, but maybe that will change.
Yup, Moorhead. I haven't made it further into MN than Detroit Lakes yet (moved here from Phoenix in October), but if I head your way I'll let ya know. My commute is usually 5 miles round trip, and that's stretched out. Could be 3 miles round trip if I went the direct route. I don't think I would enjoy winter commuting nearly as much if I didn't have a Pugsley. I have too much fun to worry about the cold.
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Old 04-18-11, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by icyj View Post
Would that be Moorhead? I live in New York Mills, MN and cycle to work in Perham, MN (Hwy 10). If you are ever in the area you will have to look me up and we could go for a spin. I don't know anyone in the area that enjoys cycling. How long of a commute do you have? I can't image my commute on bike in the winter, but maybe that will change.
Perham? Know any Borgerdings?

I've found some track pants to be too baggy, others not. I used some for years.

There are a variety of cycling tights. Some are thin and aren't meant to do much more than keep the sun off your legs. Others are designed for cold temps. Not all are designed to block the wind. The Amfibs by Pearl Izumi are pretty heavy duty, - almost like a wetsuit. They have wind blocking material in the front and fleece lined spandex all the way around. I only wear them when it's below zero. I wear them over a base layer.

REI sells something call the Novara Headwind pant. It's sort of cross between Track pants and cycling tights. Fits fairly close but not as form fitting as tights.

What I wear this time of year on the colder mornings is a "middle weight" tight. They're good for the 30's and 40's. By themselves they're marginal if the temp dips down into the 20s and they can get a little warm in the 50s.

Last edited by tjspiel; 04-18-11 at 10:17 AM.
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Old 04-19-11, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by JAG410 View Post
Perham? Know any Borgerdings?
I can't say I do. I am probably not as sociable as I should be.

Novara Headwind pants look like they are a hard to find item but look about like what I would want. I will have to check out the LBS in Alex. or Fargo, or maybe Scheels.
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Old 04-20-11, 02:57 AM
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Don't forget to hydrate well - when commuting in the cold we seem to forget about fluids. I start out with hot water in my bottle & make sure to consume some before it freezes.
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Old 04-20-11, 03:13 AM
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The biking shorts were a mistake.

You need a two layer solution. The inner layer should provide low bulk insulation and sweat management. It can be either merino or a synthetic baselayer. I prefer merino because it doesn't grow bacteria: if you change when you get to work and keep the merino in a breathable container to de-sweat, you can re-use the same shorts/tights for a week or two.

The outer layer should be windproof and breathable. So NOT sweat pants. Pertex is great, goretex is good enough. I buy army issue goretex overtrousers on ebay. You can add some velcro at the bottom to cinch the ankles as needed for cycling, or maybe cut them to 3/4 length and wear heavy socks. (Sealskinz?) Or if you have more money, there are mountain biking pants that do the same thing but look cooler.

Last edited by meanwhile; 04-20-11 at 03:25 AM.
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Old 04-20-11, 03:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Aloe View Post
Canyoneagle brought up a good point regarding wind resistant clothing. I cannot imagine doing my winter commute and runs without an outside layer of wind resistance; makes a world of difference.

The only unfortunate bit about fully water/wind resistant clothing is that it's exactly that, water and wind resistant, so a layer of sweat can form on the inside of the jacket if not properly ventilated.
Depends on the technology used.

- Pertex is VERY wind resistant, but breathes like cotton. Manages sweat very well.

- Paramo Analogy (not sure if you can get it in the US?) is waterproof and windproof but wicks like crazy. So it pumps out sweat under all conditions.

- Goretex and (better) Event are micropored. The modern Goretexes - Paclite, etc - and Event handle sweat very well as long as the air around them is dry.
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Old 04-20-11, 08:22 AM
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I use ski gloves, wool socks and a wool hat on truly nippy mornings - on the ride in, which is mostly a steep downhill descent, a cheap windbreaker + lightweight polartec fleece does well down to around 20 degrees or so. (Lower than 20 degrees, and my wife yells at me, as I have cold-induced asthma and it was a problem this year... gonna try some breath-warming options next year, as I want to get into x-country skiing.)

On the way back, just the fleece, as I'll be climbing all the way, and wind isn't as much of an issue as overheating and perspiration. If the ride were more evenly mixed, a modern high-tech fabric shell or quality wool outdoor jacket or sweater would probably be called for, and don't skrimp on either option.
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