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Riding in the PNW winters.

Old 10-12-12, 08:11 PM
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Gunga Dan
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Riding in the PNW winters.

I've biked fairly extensively for the last couple decades, but having spent most of my life in the Midwest, I pretty much would just put the bike away come winter. It's a bit warmer here (if wetter & darker), so I would like to try continuing to ride in the upcoming wet/cold/dark period. This may sound stupid, but what is the best clothing to wear for such biking? In Ohio, when I did ride in the winter (on those occasional warmer days w/no snow), I would typically wear sweat pants & some layering on top, but such clothes would likely be too warm for the PNW, after one gets up to speed, and if caught in the rain, they'd get soaked. So, any suggestions for winter riding attire (and good sources) would be appreciated. I ride a Trek hybrid to which I have already added fenders, I typically ride either BG/Sammamish river trails, or Centennial trail. I should add that my current cash resources are a bit limited...

TIA!

Dan
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Old 10-12-12, 10:34 PM
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Other than the obvious (many lighter layers are better than fewer thick ones and avoid anything with cotton or similar water-holding properties), I find my most important clothing items for winter are
1. wool or synthetic cap that covers my ears
2. shoe covers (home-made from foil-covered bubble-wrap type insulation for my size 51 feet)
3. appropriate gloves
4. highly reflective jacket (It is dark, after all. I buy this at Sanderson Safety.)

Of the four, the hardest to come by for me is the gloves. I have used diving gloves (neoprene from a fishing shop) covered by a second layer of wool and even a third layer of treated nylon mittens for those wonderful days of 33F rain, but it's just difficult to keep my hands warm when it is cold and wet. If it is just cold, then chemical hand warmers inside wool gloves inside wind-repellent mittens works okay. I hope someone chimes in with a better glove solution for large hands. (Most manufacturers seem to think hands are much smaller than mine.)

Lucky for me, I often get to ride stoker on a tandem. It's usually plenty warm back there in any weather. In fact, we stopped for me to put snow in my helmet last Spring on a climb because I was getting too hot. The captain wondered what I was doing since it was just above freezing.
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Old 10-12-12, 11:35 PM
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For the bike,
Add flexible tails on your fenders. You don't need the pretty leather mudflaps; plastic milk jugs, or sections of rubber or vinyl "base" (used at the floor/wall joint in commercial construction) are good sources of material. The less spray, the dryer your feet (and following cyclists) will be.

Lighting, for when it is dark. Cascade Bicycle Club's message board will have some links to various "how bright is your bike" gatherings they have had.

Chain lubrication. If your brakes are disks, good; if pads on rims, check for grit often.


For you,
A motel/hotel shower cap under your helmet, or a (not black! - may take some looking) http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...category=10000 helmet cover (out of stock it says, but the yellow is a good idea), will help keep your head dry.

My ears get cold easily, so an ear band/head band is nice all winter long. Colder, a cap or balaclava.

The Showers Pass rain jackets are nice. Designed by Portlanders, so you know they know about rain, and especially about ventilation openings to let your sweat out. On the other hand, there is a reasonably effective, and very visible in the "Solar Orange" color, Canari jacket for less.

Rainlegs, for the top of your legs. Kind of like chaps that go from your waist down to just below the knee. Good ventilation (nothing on the back of your leg - don't need it there since you have fenders; nothing on your calves (don't need it there, fenders again). They roll up and can be stored at your waist, ready to deploy when it gets wet.

For the rest of your legs, tights. I like the non-chamois style, over cycling shorts with chamois. An extra layer of fabric in the front can be welcome. The ones with zippers are handy for taking off/putting on. The Nashbar "Mansfield" ones have terrible zippers.

Gloves. The ones that keep you warm are often not very waterproof. Plastic "exam" gloves will keep the water off your skin, and double up on keeping grease off of you if you have to fiddle with your chain or wheels (but you probably won't want to put them back into the over-gloves). The exam gloves, and some I-Vis gloves over them, have worked for me; bright orange fingers for following motorists to see when signalling turns.

Better than gloves, for about $60 or so, are BarMits. Put them on for the winter, take them off in llater spring. Protect your hands from the wind, and add a fair amount of wind-catching surface up front (I wouldn't do much no-hands riding with them on the bars).

Booties if it is cold; fenders take care of the "if it's wet" part.

A piece of tyvek (like, one of those tear-proof mailing envelopes) to slide up under the front of your jersey to cut the wind there -- better than the newspapers used in days of yore by the European racers. Fits in your back pocket.
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Old 10-13-12, 07:17 PM
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From top to bottom:

1. Raincap on helmet
2. wool skullcap under helmet if it's cold
3. really, really good rain jacket. I like Showers Pass (expensive, but worth it).
4. Underneath - layer up depending on the temperature
5. Gloves -- what I finally figured out is there is no perfect glove. What I really, really like is very thin wool Ibis glove liners under Specialized winter gloves if it's cold....I wear waterproof ski gloves if it's cold...wear open finger cycling gloves if it's not that cold.
6. One or two layers of tights on my legs, depending on temperature. Got a pair of Ibis wool knickers a couple of winters ago, that's my favorite if it's not too cold. Full length tights if it's colder.
7. Cyclocross boots on my feet. Cycling shoes + rain booties if it's not that cold.

The 4 key things for me are:
- cycling cap
- super high quality rain jacket
- glove liners
- warm feet
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Old 10-13-12, 08:47 PM
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Another Showers Pass recommendation from me.

Hey BengeBoy, you still in China?
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Old 10-14-12, 11:59 PM
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No doubt. When you can afford it -- step into a Showers Pass jacket. eVent technology at about $240 but you can ride anytime. Cold? Wear another layer or two underneath. I own 3 of them and outside the great light i bought my bike, it's the best investment(s) I've made. I stand by them and I've done a lot of winter riding. As for gloves, they're kinda like matresses. You sorta just have to try them out. I also own a pair of waterproof pants that come in handy but I claim the jacket is the most important thing. And if it snows here, call it good and stay home! This isn't the midwest -- we all take the day off. Heh.
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Old 10-15-12, 09:18 AM
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I think I read Fietsbob saying he has studded tires on one of his bikes. He lives at the coast! I live in the coast range but get snow rarely enough that it's not worth keeping a studded-tired bike.

I can't remember the brand of my bicycling rain jacket. It was made in Portland. I don't know if they are as good as Showers Pass because I don't have a Showers Pass jacket. ...yet, anyway. None of the jackets have as much rear reflective material as I like. By the end of this month I'll be riding in the dark morning and night.
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Old 10-15-12, 01:09 PM
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Merino base layer (top and bottom), insulating mid layer, appropriate wind breaker and parka, something to cover the ears, a pair of merino glove liners, and the knowledge that a hot shower and dry clothes are waiting at home; these are what you need to ride in the winter here.
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Old 10-15-12, 10:24 PM
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Good recommendations on clothing.

For me it's toes & fingers that become problems first. A mudflap on the front fender is a big plus. Winter booties or rain covers & toe covers - I've successfully used those chemical packs under rain covers to keep toes warm. Find the right combination of gloves + liners for finger tips.

The endless gray, damp, cold-ish, short winter days become more of a mental challenge than physical, if you are dressed right.
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Old 10-16-12, 04:25 PM
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No doubt Showers Pass makes the best cycling rain jackets out there. Next best is Canadian company Mountain Equipment Co-op's (MEC) Derecho cycling rain jacket. It's made out of a heavier breathable waterproof material, so it might be a little bit warmer, but it doesn't pack as neatly when you're not wearing it. However, it's probably a little more rugged, and you won't feel as bad if you crash on the ice while wearing it.

The coastal Pac NW doesn't often get below freezing, but the dampness actually makes it feel colder than in a drier interior area. And when it snows, you have to remember that it's usually a very WET snow, which is much more slippery than the dry snow prevalent in the interior regions. One of my pet peeves here on the west coast of Canada is that you get a lot of drivers from the interior or the prairies of Canada who think they're real hotshots driving in snow, so they tend to be very critical of how slowly coastal residents drive when it snows. But I suspect that most of the collisions that occur in snowy conditions on the coast are attributable to aggressive drivers from the interior who think they're great on the snow and find out too late that wet snow is very slippery, hence, the slow speeds.

It's possible to ride all year here on the coast. Just watch out for the drivers when it snows. Find a quiet route, even if it's not plowed as well, or even plowed; the snow never gets that high. Although with all this global warming, you never know.

Yes to the cap under the helmet, the shoe covers, the thickest gloves you can find. I wouldn't bother with the legs; tights will dry at work. Usually the lights go on when it's too dark to read the bike computer (or earlier). For fenders, race blades work, but even with flaps on the front fender, your legs will get wet from water coming off the top of the front wheel. But definitely use a front flap at least. Without it, your warm dry feet will be soggy wet in 10 to 20 minutes. With a front flap, this will take much longer, depending on what shoe covers you're wearing.

Luis
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Old 10-17-12, 02:50 PM
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http://www.bicycleclothing.com/Water...n-Jackets.html

This is the jacket I have. Does anybody have experience with both this and some Showers Pass models? My wife got a Showers Pass model that is not as good as this, but lighter weight, but S.P. makes some much sturdier ones.
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Old 10-17-12, 03:56 PM
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wear wool and just get wet. Any "breathable" jacket I wear just makes me sweat a ton, and so it's either get wet by the rain, or get wet by the sweat. I choose the rain.
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Old 10-17-12, 10:30 PM
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The really lightweight Shower Pass jacket (I am referring to the old Double Century, I have no experience with the new Double Century Ex) is really not that great of a breathable rain jacket - more of a good windbreak IMO. But the Elite 2.0 jackets are awesome in the rain and very breathable. I own both and have literally hundreds of rides in them both.
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Old 10-18-12, 09:01 PM
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Originally Posted by bizzz111 View Post
wear wool and just get wet. Any "breathable" jacket I wear just makes me sweat a ton, and so it's either get wet by the rain, or get wet by the sweat. I choose the rain.
This is how I roll too. Wool sweater when necessary, over a motocross jersey, over a long sleeve technical undershirt. Wool tights over cut off scrub shorts, all of this over bib shorts. For my hands I've developed a system: motorcycle (Tour Master brand) silk liners, military surplus polyprolene gloves (described as liners as well), fingerless cycling gloves so my hands don't get numb and wool military surplus gloves over all that. If it is REALLY raining than I'll slip on a pair of medical exam gloves under all that.

Now obviously the layers are all modular, so most winter/rainy days I'm only wearing maybe two thirds of the above layers. Here in Seattle I have to climb hills for much of my 8-ish mile commute each way so I usually warm up a fair amount over the ride and can peel a few layers off rather than be trapped in rain pants and a rain jacket sweating a lot and getting too warm. If you are on a budget my system can be put together for not a lot of cash. I'm a big Clyde so I buy my jerseys new, but if you are a normal size these can be bought at thrift stores for very little, the silk glove liners are 10-15$ and can be omitted, both the milsurp gloves I mentioned above are about $5 a pair, and with good fenders and mudflaps I just wear cycling or regular shoes with wool cycling socks. My bib tights were pricey, but a lot of that has to do again with my size, you can get these for less, other than that the most expensive thing was my wool cycling tights from New Zealand which cost me $60.

I do think one of the advantages that I am lucky enough to have that helps this system work for me is that I have a shower at work, so after nearly an hour out in the rain I get a warm shower when I get there. Maybe that's the difference between being wet from the inside out rather than outside in. There are many ways to surmount the problem of cycling in the rain in the northwest, what you choose will not only be dictated by budget and what you discover you prefer, but where exactly you ride, and perhaps to a small degree how your bike is set up. I can't recommend FULL fenders and mudflaps enough, my feet are basically dry as I ride now, and not having cold, wet feet makes all the difference.

Someone mentioned MEC, I wish I could order clothes from MEC, when I have tried before it seems like all the clothes I am interested in online they won't ship out of Canada across the border into the US to me in Seattle.
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Old 10-18-12, 09:07 PM
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Originally Posted by bizzz111 View Post
wear wool and just get wet. Any "breathable" jacket I wear just makes me sweat a ton, and so it's either get wet by the rain, or get wet by the sweat. I choose the rain.
You did read that he is in the Pacific Northwest... it rains enough (incessantly at times) and gets cold enough that you can't do that.

I can ride in -40 weather here where our winters tend to be dry and be very comfortable and with nearly the same gear in Portland I sometimes freeze my butt off.

A wicking base layer following by a layer of middleweight wool and the best waterproof jacket and pants you can find, shoe covers or waterproof shoes, and something to keep your head warm and dry should get you a long ways. For my hands I like wool flip mitts which stay warm when they are damp, often throw a wool liner glove under those and have waterproof covers which also make your hands wind proof.

Full coverage fenders will be one of your best investments to protect you and your bike from all the water and crud.

I wear a Columbia Omnitech jacket which is wind proof and waterproof... the inner is decently warm and stays very dry but when it gets colder I put on a military wool sweater with a base layer of merino although the heavier military issue sweaters I prefer will suck the moisture out of a cotton under shirt quite well so those work for short trips.
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Old 10-18-12, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by enigmaT120 View Post
http://www.bicycleclothing.com/Water...n-Jackets.html

This is the jacket I have. Does anybody have experience with both this and some Showers Pass models? My wife got a Showers Pass model that is not as good as this, but lighter weight, but S.P. makes some much sturdier ones.
I have the J+G and I really like it a lot. When you look at it you might think it won't breathe but the cape construction and the pit zips lets the air through so the sweat will escape. I've just come to the conclusion I'm gonna get wet somewhere and just make sure if I"m on the way to work I have my waterproof panniers packed with a change of clothes from the skin out. Don't forget the merino wool socks so if your feet get wet they will still be warm. My biggest challenge is trying to keep my glasses clear enough to see other than that its all good.
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Old 10-19-12, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by stringbreaker View Post
My biggest challenge is trying to keep my glasses clear enough to see other than that its all good.
I don't think I could ride in the rain without my contact lenses. Not at any speed, anyway.

Yeah, the ventilation on the J & G is probably better than it's breathability. I, too, carry dry clothes for work.
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Old 10-25-12, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
You did read that he is in the Pacific Northwest... it rains enough (incessantly at times) and gets cold enough that you can't do that.
I'm in the Pac NW as well.
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Old 10-25-12, 10:44 AM
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It has to get raining pretty hard for me to put on my rain-gear. I find that even "breathable" stuff leaves me almost as wet inside as I would be without the rain gear. I am thinking of getting a rain poncho for the simple reason that it's way more ventilated and probably less likely to cause moisture issues. I used to ride more often with a cheap Coleman poncho, but I didn't like it flapping around. A purpose built rain poncho, like the J+G one, might be the ticket.

Fenders that go far enough down to keep my feet dry are a huge key to my happiness. I also often wear work shoes with some sort of Gore-Tex liner, so that helps. Mine are Danners, because they fit my feet well. Your mileage may vary.
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Old 10-25-12, 12:41 PM
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my few recommendations, tried and true thru over a decade of PacNW winter commuting:

1) Sno-sealed leather work gloves . Add nothing, smartwool or raggwool liners inside depending on temperature. Good to below freezing commutes, kept hands warm and dry. Tried all the rest, neoprene, gore, workgloves, etc.. and gravitated to what works for me best working in the mountains also worked best on the bike in full conditions.

2)a front mudflap the size of a gideon's bible extending to near pavement level (it should scrape going round corners at slow speeds) to keep tire spray off feet and drivetrain. I like hommeade leather ones.

3) a Gore cycling cap under the helmet is really, really nice. Not yet a decade of testing these, but excellent performance.

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Old 10-26-12, 01:11 PM
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I bought a headband made from musk ox wool. It keeps my ears nice and toasty. Musk oxen can't live in Anchorage, where the ocean freezes in the winter, because it's too warm for them. In the spring, they shed their under coats, and people spin it into wool.

Besides being unbelievably warm, it's softer than cashmere.
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Old 11-02-12, 02:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
I bought a headband made from musk ox wool. It keeps my ears nice and toasty. Musk oxen can't live in Anchorage, where the ocean freezes in the winter, because it's too warm for them. In the spring, they shed their under coats, and people spin it into wool.

Besides being unbelievably warm, it's softer than cashmere.
Yeah but not quite as hot as Kashmir.
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Old 11-02-12, 10:14 AM
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Well, Indian food is pretty friggen spicy. The place in Queen Anne (Roti) has a bike rack you can see from your table. But Lower QA is a really pleasant spot to ride to and from.
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Old 11-02-12, 01:02 PM
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Roti is pretty good. I used to eat lunch there.
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Old 11-02-12, 01:10 PM
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If you are ever in downtown Portland go and get some food from Taste of India... Mr and Mrs Singh are very nice and she makes the naan while while you wait.

$6.00 - $7.00 can buy you a meal for two people.
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