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Coldest Bike Commute?

Old 01-14-13, 11:15 AM
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Coldest Bike Commute?

This has likely been discussed before, but given the unusually cold weather we're having on the central coast of California, yesterday was my personal coldest.
32F, and with a wind chill into the mid to upper 20s. 13 mile commute with a few minor climbs. I was well dressed; thermal turtleneck, wool sweater, fleece pullover, and windproof jacket, thermal bottoms under winter cycling tights, poly under-socks, with two pairs of wool socks over Goretex hiking boots... and my toes were numb. Had on two pairs of gloves, fleece earband over a hat and a knit cap on top of that, hnads were not too bad... Pedalled hard the whole way, but I never got warm until I got to a heated coffee shop to have a cup of tea.

So, who's had their coldest commute so far this year or personal record? And how do you stay warm for it? Especially hands and feet?
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Old 01-14-13, 11:25 AM
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And, I just noticed there's a winter cycling forum, never had to consult it before this.
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Old 01-14-13, 11:27 AM
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Windchill at 12 degrees F this morning (probably colder on the downhills). Coldest I have ever biked in Southern Missouri. Wore a dryfit T-shirt, a columbia omnidry mid layer, mountain hardware tech jacket (windproof) outer layer, mountain hardware airshield stocking cap under my helmet, and Pearl iZUMi gloves rated for 40 degrees F (on the bottom I just wore a pair of cheap bike pants and shoes). Needless to say, the only part of me that was super cold was my hands (and they were freezing). I never thought I would need gloves rated lower than 40 degrees F in southern Missouri, as my commute is only 15 min!!!
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Old 01-14-13, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by WPeabody View Post
And, I just noticed there's a winter cycling forum, never had to consult it before this.
32F does not constitute winter cycling. Just saying.
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Old 01-14-13, 11:52 AM
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I guess it's really a matter of what you're used to, but 32F in New England in January is a cake walk: light jacket, light gloves, wool hat, no special protection otherwise. It's not until you get into the low 20s that you need heavier gloves and foot protection.

Personal coldest this year is 18F last week. Patagonia Das Boots on the feets, Giro lobster claws on the mitts, thermal base layer under the chinos, wool jacket, windproof shell, Columbia Omni Heat gaiter = good to go. For $6, the Columbia Omni Heat gaiter was the single best investment I ever made in staying warm in the cold weather, btw.

I did live the first 23 years of my life in California, though, so I do feel your pain, even if it's through the laughing. Your description sounds like you way overdid it.
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Old 01-14-13, 12:22 PM
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It still surprises me sometimes how differently people dress for the weather. I understand everyone's body is different and their acclimation to their geographic location plays a big part in it, but it still surprises me sometimes.
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Old 01-14-13, 12:25 PM
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My coldest commute was about 15 F but the coldest so far this winter is about 25. When it gets down to 20 or lower, my water bottle freezes solid by the time I get to work. Fortunately that doesn't happen very often around here.
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Old 01-14-13, 12:44 PM
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My coldest has been around -17 F, but I now live in tropical IA, so I doubt I'll get much opportunity to beat it. I learned that the grease in your flywheel can become sticky and make you spin as if the chain was missing. A fun day that one was...
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Old 01-14-13, 12:46 PM
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I am also in SoCal (zip 92064), and biked to work this morning, didn't check the temp or wind chill though. Wore about the same as I have been lately, chamois/liner + basketball shorts, smartwool socks & mtn shoes, 3 layers up top: synthetic short-sleeve for sweat, cotton mid-sleeve for layering, synthetic long-sleeve pullover for more layering, and visibility (bright red with reflective patches). The only thing I did different was switch to full-on ski gloves (so warm!) and a sweatband pulled down over my ears, which really helped.

Here's a post on winter cycling from one of my favorite websites, Mr. Money Mustache.

Oh, and a tip my wife read for keeping toesies toasty on the cheap, use a plastic grocery bag as an air-barrier between socks and shoes. Just scissors the surplus off around your ankles. I used to live 26mi from work; I only occasionally bike-commuted from that distance, but it kept my feet warm until mile 20 or so, as opposed to numb toes almost the whole ride, in the chilly SoCal winter dawn.

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Old 01-14-13, 01:10 PM
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Ah, yeah. I used to live in central Maine, and lower New York for many years, so yes, it would be a cake walk here compared to winters there, but I've been in CA for 20 years and now am acclimated to what is pretty much two seasons. Fog, 50s and 60s, and rain, 50s and 60s. I didn't overdo it with the clothing, trust me, I was still cold, not that I was going to get hypothermia, unless I sat still for too long...
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Old 01-14-13, 01:13 PM
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Around here, I see some co-workers commute in the winter: about -5C to -10C, or about 14F to 23F. The other week, I was out riding and it was about the same.

I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta though, and I remember classmates in university showing up after riding from the place they were renting. That was typically -20C or -4F, often with hard packed snow - never mind the wind chill. Now that would be pretty cold on a regular basis.
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Old 01-14-13, 01:20 PM
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The coldest I have biked in is about -6C which would be about 21F. Below that I would need better winter gear.
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Old 01-14-13, 01:30 PM
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The coldest I've ever commuted in was -28C / -18F a couple years ago. The trip took over an hour and my fingers and toes were not protected nearly enough. No frostbite, but there was a very painful and prolonged warmup period once I got to my destination. I don't ride much in the winter, but I wanted to try a really cold commute at least once. Since then, the coldest I've ridden in is about -15C / 5F.
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Old 01-14-13, 01:34 PM
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This whole winter has been unusually warm here in the Southeast. Two or three days below 30 and that's about it. I think I'd only wear any two of "thermal turtleneck, wool sweater, fleece pullover and windproof jacket" at 32 degrees. It's probably a matter of acclimatization.
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Old 01-14-13, 01:42 PM
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Coldest I have ever done is -38c (-20f). With winds that day that would be -42c (-45f) and add anywhere between another 5-30kph to the winds given it was a headwind that day and you have one cold commute. One of the few times I had to thaw one of my eyes at work to open it. I have a roughly 45 min commute of 8km(about 5 miles).

This year the coldest was a -19c (-2 f) day. Most days have been around 0c (-32f)

All I can say is I love summer .

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Old 01-14-13, 01:53 PM
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I'm in Minneapolis, and I just had my coldest commute so far: 3 degrees fahrenheit this morning (this is my first winter commuting). It seems to be all about keeping your head, hands and feet warm.
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Old 01-14-13, 01:56 PM
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It was around 28F when I rode in this morning. I don't think that's the lowest I've commuted in, but it's pretty close.

And, yes, I am aware how relatively warm that is. The Weather Channel is projecting a high of 54F on Friday.
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Old 01-14-13, 02:20 PM
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High teens this year, coldest was -2, and then windchill down into the negative teens. Normally in my area you get 1-2 days that flirt with 0, a handful in the single digits, and the rest sit in the teens and twenties for the winter season.
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Old 01-14-13, 02:25 PM
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-52 f
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Old 01-14-13, 02:25 PM
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this morning was my record for the season so far at 14F. I usually go to low single digits before I say, 'forget it.. I'll drive'.
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Old 01-14-13, 02:28 PM
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At -52 F I should add I was wearing the same gear I wear for anything under -40 with boots rated for this kind of cold and double layered wool one my hands with gloves and flip mitts.

I did not know how cold it was until the drivetrain on my bike started to skip.
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Old 01-14-13, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by PennyTheDog View Post
I'm in Minneapolis, and I just had my coldest commute so far: 3 degrees fahrenheit this morning (this is my first winter commuting). It seems to be all about keeping your head, hands and feet warm.
Agree - I moved to CA from Maine, and if you keep your head, hands and feet warm, you will be comfortable. I would commute in Maine at temps down to 0F (below 0F my water bottle would freeze before I got to work).
A few tips:
Wear a ski/snowboard helmet rather than a bike helmet - a thin balaclava under the helmet makes a big difference.
Warm gloves and glove liners (I wear a pair that I got from Cabellas, marketed to snowmobilers)
I wore Lake winter cycling boots, 1/2 size larger than normal with heavy wool hiking socks under them.

Put your water bottle in the cage upside down - it will freeze from the top down, so this will let you continue to drink when the bottle is half ice.

Dress for the last mile of your ride, not the first, you can regulate your temperature by how hard you pedal, if too hot, just slow down a little, if cold, crank a little harder. My commute to work in Maine started with a mile long downhill - I was always anxious to hit the bottom of that hill in the winter!, I always was plenty warm when I got home though .
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Old 01-14-13, 02:50 PM
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My coldest ever was around -25F but gears would not shift anymore. This year I have had just -1F, mild year so far and were just getting over a thaw right now. Predicted to go back into the 20's tonight and tomorrow. Still mild. I may add an extra shirt of dry wicking material for the below 0 stuff but not much more than maybe two of those under a cycling jacket. Any more than that and I start to sweat which your worst enemy in these conditions. Feet, Hands, Face is what needs special attention.
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Old 01-14-13, 03:02 PM
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I used to in St.Lous, MO and the coldest bicycle commute I remember there was Neg. 6 F. However, that was a long time (17 years) ago. Since movinig to SoCal my coldest commutes have been the last few days at 37 Deg.F.

Only my hands were cold on the commute his morning, so I will try heavier gloves tomorrow.

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Old 01-14-13, 03:18 PM
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I've found riding in the cold quite easy lately, except for my hands. I just bought some serious mittens, stuffed with goose down. We'll see how they do. Oddly enough, I have summery shoes with a light mesh over my toes, and I don't get cold there. The only body parts giving me trouble are my hands.

When it's cold and windy, it can help to put Vaseline on the cheeks if not wearing a face mask. I avoid masks until they're completely necessary.

Remember what they say in Minnesota, there's no bad weather, only bad clothing.

I've been buying shoes a size or more larger so I can fit extra socks under them. I also have neoprene socks which are great. I haven't used them in the worst conditions yet, but I'm optimistic.
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