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How cold is too cold?

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How cold is too cold?

Old 10-21-20, 02:42 PM
  #26  
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I can go colder with winter gear, but under 35 and the potential for ice, dry exertion "asthma" just make it miserable.

I've ridden in 20 and its... miserable. frozen fingers and toes no matter how many or what kind of layers, plus the clammy cold outer skin and cold clammy sweat. It's just not much fun at all.

Maybe mountain bike trails with a fat bike would be fun (even bare trees calm the wind a lot), and the gear can be me more practical. But I havent really tried yet.
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Old 10-21-20, 02:45 PM
  #27  
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Originally Posted by rivers View Post
.... Merino wool gloves with some cycling specific gloves over them....
Iíve never managed to find gloves/mitts that really work for winter riding for me. Itís been a catch-22, all that are windproof enough to keep my hands warm, have also been windproof enough not to ventilate as required.
Before I went to Bar Mitts I used to put on surgical gloves first. Soaked hands are better than soaked insulation.
Originally Posted by rivers View Post
..... The bar mitts have been a game changer because they keep the wind off..
+1
With the bar mitts, almost any glove will do the job.
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Old 10-21-20, 02:52 PM
  #28  
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Originally Posted by rsbob View Post
Used to bike commute in my 30s and 40s when the temps were in the high 20s and low 30s and it was not comfortable even with tons of cycling specific cold weather gear. I knew it was cold when the pavement reflected ice crystals from my headlight. I would sweat through one pair of ski gloves and switch half way with a fresh set for the remaining eight miles.

One ice crystal morning in the dark I was being super careful at 15 MPH because of the slick path. Another commuter passed me doing about 2-3 faster and when he got about 50’ ahead of me, going perfectly straight, WHAM, his bike came out from under him and down he went. I checked that he was ok and then slowed to 13.

Now that I’m in my mid 60s, the mid 40s are about as cold as I will go for training rides. What about you?
How cold is too cold? IDK I'm still trying to find out .. this was Jan 30, 2019 in Minneapolis - Temps reported for my morning training ride was -28F (this is AIR TEMP - I don't pay attention to wind chill since there's no exposed skin). I was out for about 80 minutes on a 13-mile loop.



This past Sunday, I did a 100-mile gravel/adventure race/ride with temps that never got above freezing ... My toes were cold but I was sweating under my CamelBak.

In Minneapolis, we have a great winter bike culture. Shops carry quality bike-specific winter gear. Lots of folks riding through the winter sharing experience and knowledge.

For icy morning, you need studded tires. I get that shorter winters make the price of studded tires tough to chew ... but we can have icy conditions for 6 months a year so it's a basic investment if you like to ride:
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Old 10-21-20, 03:03 PM
  #29  
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Originally Posted by dabac View Post
Our bodies don’t all work the same way WRT temperature management. Mine runs on a simplified program: pulse up = sweat on
And that’s it really.
If I dress down to the level where I don’t sweat, I get hypothermic.
I usually don’t notice while I’m moving though, it hits me when I stop. It’s been so bad I’ve had to be helped inside, couldn’t manage the key.
My modified approach is to dress so that I don’t soak EVERYTHING, and to swap out the sacrificial base layer at every longer stop.
I spent years chasing the holy grail of just right clothing, got into a couple of nasty situations due to being underdressed. Now, I pick a different approach of moisture management and is generally both more comfortable and safer during winter exercise.
I would suggest that you're a bit of an exception, then, and that most people can follow the previously mentioned rules of thumb.
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Old 10-21-20, 03:29 PM
  #30  
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Originally Posted by dabac View Post
Our bodies donít all work the same way WRT temperature management. Mine runs on a simplified program: pulse up = sweat on
And thatís it really.
If I dress down to the level where I donít sweat, I get hypothermic.
I usually donít notice while Iím moving though, it hits me when I stop. Itís been so bad Iíve had to be helped inside, couldnít manage the key.
My modified approach is to dress so that I donít soak EVERYTHING, and to swap out the sacrificial base layer at every longer stop.
I spent years chasing the holy grail of just right clothing, got into a couple of nasty situations due to being underdressed. Now, I pick a different approach of moisture management and is generally both more comfortable and safer during winter exercise.
For what it's worth, this is a game changer if you overheat with exertion but still need some warmth and protection.
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Old 10-21-20, 04:06 PM
  #31  
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For me it depends a lot on how long the ride is. I ride down to freezing for an hour give or take 10 minutes with a heavy base layer, thermal tights and long sleeve thermal jersey plus good gloves and a balaclava. If I had to extend it another hour, this would not be adequate but that is about as long a ride as I'm going to do at those temps.
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Old 10-21-20, 04:16 PM
  #32  
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I've noticed my willingness to ride in winter change as I age. Used to be I'd ride down to -10 if the roads were dry. Then my limit crept up to -5. After a while I said to myself, frig it, I'm not riding below freezing. Now I find myself losing motivation when it's +5 or lower, making it harder to get out there with November coming around.

Pretty sure my Zwift season is going to be longer this winter than last.
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Old 10-21-20, 04:20 PM
  #33  
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I'm in Minnesota so if I didn't ride when it was cold, that would knock out of a number of months I could ride. I typically will be on the road bike starting in the middle of March and continue on through the beginning of December. That means low temps in the 20's but the piece that is the the determining factor for me is whether there is ice or not. That means, here, that the ground is not frozen in the fall and then that's bounded first by the road not having ice and then by getting the salt off the road in the spring so I don't destroy my bikes. In the intervening time, I'm usually skiing and riding my fat bike. I'll ride the fatbike down to -5F depending on the windchill. Below that, it just gets to be too much work getting dressed and I'd rather be skiing anyhow (my other obsession).

The biggest issue for me is clothes. It is really tricky to get it right and I seem to be overheating of freezing if I'm not careful. It has gotten to the point that I've created a spreadsheet of temps vs clothing to wear and I refer to that whenever the temp is 55F or lower, it seems. I've also found a source to make clothing to my specification and that has really been helpful. I have a jacket that's neoshell in the front and highly breathable power stretch in the back to shed heat. I also have tights made out of heavyweight power stretch that breath very well but are virtually windproof. Those work great from freezing down to -10F. Gloves in a layered system and feet are the big issues for me and I've spent a fortune on both until I got to some solutions that work well. I have winter road shoes and mtb boots that are both amazing. Otherwise, for clothing layering is key and it seems to me that on top its some combination of thermal jersey, a wicking base layer that's either light weight or medium weight thermal. A very key piece of clothing for me that gets used in a wide range of temperatures is this windproof thermal chest protector I get from Warmfront. Add to all of that a collection of knee and arm warmers that can be work under winter specific tights and my only excuse for not riding is laziness.

As far as being outside in cold temps - I haven't seen a temp too low yet for me to be out in. Every year, it seems I wind up skiing at or near -30F. It's not a matter of too cold it's a case of improper clothing.

I stud the tires on my fat bike. They work great and I've never ever felt like they were going to slip out from underneath me. I also have studded MTB tires, and they're solid too, but not anywhere near as sure footed at the fat bike tires are. A fat bike with studded tires is the cycling equivalent of a monster truck. If you have the legs and the cardio, there is pretty much nothing you can't ride in. I typically ride snow packed trails, slushy roads, frozen lakes and even on a long sand beach

J.
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Old 10-21-20, 05:00 PM
  #34  
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A quick thread-jack question for the heartier-than-me Minnesotans, Hypno Toad and JohnJ80 - would it be worthwhile to get studded tires for my gravel bike (I'm thinking along the lines of 45Nrth Gravdals) or is that a waste of money that should go towards a budget fattie?

This would mostly be for recreational riding, with the odd run to the liquor or grocery store thrown in to the mix.
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Old 10-21-20, 05:43 PM
  #35  
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
A quick thread-jack question for the heartier-than-me Minnesotans, Hypno Toad and JohnJ80 - would it be worthwhile to get studded tires for my gravel bike (I'm thinking along the lines of 45Nrth Gravdals) or is that a waste of money that should go towards a budget fattie?

This would mostly be for recreational riding, with the odd run to the liquor or grocery store thrown in to the mix.
That’s a tough one. Our son used studded mtb tires all winter around the U. I’ve used them but I didn’t like the feel on a smaller/narrower tire because if you wind up on the side of the tire on ice, you’re going to go down. Also, my experience riding like that was that there is often much riding on pavement and less on ice but when you hit ice, you need them. For me, studs were actually more slippery on pavement than a normal tire. I didn’t like that.. When you hit the area near a curb where the slush/loose snow can be found, that’s challenging on even an MTB tire. With a fattie, you roll right through or even over it.

That’s where the fatbike excels. You have a giant patch on the ground no matter what. You can’t really turn the bike and lay it over enough to ever get to a non studded part. My bike is a 27.5” trek farley with the 3.8” Barbegazi’s on it which I’ve studded myself and they’re set up tubeless. I put less studs in than the available pockets and I have zero issues and have never felt like I’d spin out. Too, if you hit a frozen rut the monster truck nature of the whole rig goes up and over and even if you do get a little bit off center, you’re not going to spin out or let the bike get away from you. If you pump up the tires to higher pressures for a fatbike (i.e. 10-12lbs or a bit more) it rides decently on pavement. With the giant patch, you don’t get the slipperiness that you’d get from a thinner studded tire. Also, make sure you get carbide studs - they hold up well if you’re on pavement. And when it’s all over, a fatbike is really a lot of fun in the winter - it’s a hoot.
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Old 10-21-20, 05:53 PM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post

(Winter days here are either 40-45 and raining, or < 32 and dry and clear, icey roads happen but not that often.)
I have had more than a few scary rides in the Seattle area with ice on the roads. Itís those spots that you donít see that are bad. Spots of Lake Washington Blvd can have some bad spots due to the never ending runoff from the hill. Also Rainier Ave can be b as bad due to the lack of sun hitting it.
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Old 10-21-20, 05:55 PM
  #37  
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I'd say freezing. There might be one or two days per year that actually touch down that low in San Diego.

But that was last year. I have a smart trainer now (Saris H3) so it might be a lot higher than it was. I already refuse to start rides in the dark before work anymore.... I'll Zwift until it gets light out then head out.
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Old 10-21-20, 05:58 PM
  #38  
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Originally Posted by Hypno Toad View Post
How cold is too cold? IDK I'm still trying to find out .. this was Jan 30, 2019 in Minneapolis - Temps reported for my morning training ride was -28F (this is AIR TEMP - I don't pay attention to wind chill since there's no exposed skin). I was out for about 80 minutes on a 13-mile loop.



This past Sunday, I did a 100-mile gravel/adventure race/ride with temps that never got above freezing ... My toes were cold but I was sweating under my CamelBak.

In Minneapolis, we have a great winter bike culture. Shops carry quality bike-specific winter gear. Lots of folks riding through the winter sharing experience and knowledge.

For icy morning, you need studded tires. I get that shorter winters make the price of studded tires tough to chew ... but we can have icy conditions for 6 months a year so it's a basic investment if you like to ride:

i believe we we have a winner!
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Old 10-21-20, 06:05 PM
  #39  
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Originally Posted by rsbob View Post
i believe we we have a winner!
Thanks!

Last edited by Hypno Toad; 10-22-20 at 07:13 AM. Reason: emoji didn't work - updated
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Old 10-21-20, 06:10 PM
  #40  
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Originally Posted by dabac View Post
Our bodies donít all work the same way WRT temperature management. Mine runs on a simplified program: pulse up = sweat on
And thatís it really.
If I dress down to the level where I donít sweat, I get hypothermic.
I usually donít notice while Iím moving though, it hits me when I stop. Itís been so bad Iíve had to be helped inside, couldnít manage the key.
My modified approach is to dress so that I donít soak EVERYTHING, and to swap out the sacrificial base layer at every longer stop.
I spent years chasing the holy grail of just right clothing, got into a couple of nasty situations due to being underdressed. Now, I pick a different approach of moisture management and is generally both more comfortable and safer during winter exercise.
Very true about different body types. Am 6í2Ē and when the temps are sub 50s I have a tough time keeping extremities warm. If they get cold they stay cold and never seem to warm up on a bike. The exception was when I was a dedicated runner. After 15 minutes my hands would warm but with cycling or downhill skiing, nada. So I will over dress my hands and feet, cause too warm is better than cold and miserable. When cycle commuting at or below freezing I would use those iron oxide pads under my thick socks, cycling shoes and neoprene booties. Does get expensive 5 days a week. No electric socks back then. Which reminds me, need to look into them. YMMV
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Old 10-21-20, 09:23 PM
  #41  
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I won't ride in anything below 0 c. Even around 1 or 2 degrees celsius is pushing it for me since black ice can form at those temperatures.
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Old 10-22-20, 07:30 AM
  #42  
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Originally Posted by NoWhammies View Post
I won't ride in anything below 0 c. Even around 1 or 2 degrees celsius is pushing it for me since black ice can form at those temperatures.
OH NO! I'm going to do it (bad Toad) ... "black ice" is not "refreeze".

At temps around freezing, you'll get refreeze. Refreeze is melt water that will freeze up in the shadows or after sunset. Here's an example of a Toad that didn't feel like he needed the studded tires on refreeze ice:


Black ice is ice that forms on the road surface where cars are idling at temps below 0F. The cars exhaust will melt snow and ice on the road surface, when the car moves away it quickly freezes into a thin layer of ice. For example, you'll find black ice a problem at stoplights where cars sit and idle frequently. This creates a very dangerous issue with vehicles having a hard time stopping for a red light because of black ice as they approach the light. Black ice is less of an issue in recent years with improved deicing agents, for example cities in my area will treat the road surface with a liquid deicer.
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Old 10-22-20, 08:08 AM
  #43  
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Originally Posted by NoWhammies View Post
I won't ride in anything below 0 c. Even around 1 or 2 degrees celsius is pushing it for me since black ice can form at those temperatures.
black ice only forms at when the ground is frozen. It happens when water vapor hits the surface that is frozen and well below freezing. It’s easy enough to to find the ground temp. What that means is that you can easily and safely ride if the air temp is below freezing if the ground temp is above.

Typically, here in Minnesota, black ice forms when it is deep cold below the temp that road salt works at (above -8F) and when water vapor from car exhausts hits the very cold ground - not the other way around. The issue with “black ice” is that you can’t see it.

for example, yesterday we got 6” of new snow but the ground temp is in the high 40’s F. There is no chance that black ice can form.

The real issue with true black ice is that it is very hard to see so if you hit it, it’s slippery and you have no warning. That’s because of the manner it which it was formed - repeated light applications of water vapor freezing in a microscopically thin ice sheet. In the condition you mentioned, a couple of degrees above freezing, they only way that black ice could occur is in the brief period after a severe deep subzero fahrenheit cold snap followed by a rapid warm up where the surface was still severely cold (well below freezing) enough to freeze water vapor. So that’s probably not ever going to realistically happen,

However, what can happen in that event and presuming that the ground was well below freezing, water runoff can get to the pavement and freeze. That’s a decidedly different event because it’s very easy to see that ice has formed. It’s completely visible but yet slippery. But that still requires that the ground is very cold and deeply frozen. For example, here in Minnesota in a normal winter, it’s not unusual to have the ground frozen down maybe 1.5m or about 4’ and can be even deeper in a cold winter with little insulating snowfall. But that is not going to be the normal case in much that is south of us.

Bottom line - if you watch the ground temp and as long as it’s above freezing, you have little to worry about with ice formation. Any water that hits the ground when it’s above freezing will remain as water and not ice.

Here in Minnesota, you develop an eye to constantly be evaluating the road surface. It’s kind of funny, we get pretty good at this and do it almost subconsciously always steering the car to make sure you have one wheel on the “best” surface. It’s not unusual to have patches of ice on freeways a number of days after a midwinter snow storm when the temp has dropped subzero yet traffic will move at a regular speed. On backroads, it’s not unusual for them to remain ice or snow covered most of the winter. I live in a rural area and our roads generally have ice on them from the first real snowfall in early December through the middle of March.

Last edited by JohnJ80; 10-22-20 at 08:30 AM.
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Old 10-22-20, 08:27 AM
  #44  
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For those that are interested in true cold ultra endurance biking, I have the Arrowhead 135 on my list of rides to do ... so my post above about riding at -28F was testing me and my gear for what could be 20+ hours at these kinda temps.

My buddy Beef rode it back in 2018, here's his blog on the event:

https://surlybikes.com/blog/the_arro..._rookies_guide
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Old 10-22-20, 08:27 AM
  #45  
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I THINK it's ground < 0c and air > 0c, so the humidity condenses and freezes.

When both are below above or both are below freezing, it won't (usually) form black ice.
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Old 10-22-20, 08:38 AM
  #46  
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Doesn't really matter what kind of ice it is, how it forms or why it forms.

When you are riding, you are either prepared for it or you aren't. If you see it, you'll avoid it. If you don't, you hope you make it across without ruining your day.
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Old 10-22-20, 08:59 AM
  #47  
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Doesn't really matter what kind of ice it is, how it forms or why it forms.

When you are riding, you are either prepared for it or you aren't. If you see it, you'll avoid it. If you don't, you hope you make it across without ruining your day.
Honestly, in these northern climates, knowing that refreeze will happen on a mild day in the shade and black ice will happen in a sub-zero day ... both form in different places on the road, in different conditions. For example, you'll rarely find black ice on the shoulder of the road, but when you need to move into the traffic lane for a stoplight, you need to know that you could have limited traction. OTOH, refreeze is more common on the shoulder and lightly used roads - car tires tend to warm up the traffic lane enough to melt refreeze. Fresh dusting of snow can make refreeze especially difficult, both hiding the ice and making is more slippery. Both black ice and refreeze can be difficult to see, that's why most of us up north preach the gospel of studded tires.
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Old 10-22-20, 09:42 AM
  #48  
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Doesn't really matter what kind of ice it is, how it forms or why it forms.

When you are riding, you are either prepared for it or you aren't. If you see it, you'll avoid it. If you don't, you hope you make it across without ruining your day.
Yeah, it does. Some of us would have substantially shorter cycling seasons if we didnít understand the differences. Iíd miss maybe 2-3 months of cycling per year if I didnít.
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Old 10-22-20, 11:56 AM
  #49  
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Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Doesn't really matter what kind of ice it is, how it forms or why it forms.

When you are riding, you are either prepared for it or you aren't. If you see it, you'll avoid it. If you don't, you hope you make it across without ruining your day.
Yeah, it does. Some of us would have substantially shorter cycling seasons if we didn’t understand the differences. I’d miss maybe 2-3 months of cycling per year if I didn’t.
You might have to enlighten me how knowing about how and why ice forms and all the different types of ice are important for actually riding at times when ice might be present.

Seems to me that seeing ice and when possible avoiding ice is most important. Also being prepared for ice with proper equipment and knowing how to deal with it.

Are you saying that if I know all about how black ice and all the other ices are formed and what weather tends to create more of one than the other that I can just go out and not have to care whether ice is or isn't in front of me?
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Old 10-22-20, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
You might have to enlighten me how knowing about how and why ice forms and all the different types of ice are important for actually riding at times when ice might be present.

Seems to me that seeing ice and when possible avoiding ice is most important. Also being prepared for ice with proper equipment and knowing how to deal with it.

Are you saying that if I know all about how black ice and all the other ices are formed and what weather tends to create more of one than the other that I can just go out and not have to care whether ice is or isn't in front of me?

If you live in the cold winter conditions, you learn a lot about different ice conditions. And we haven't started talking about different snow: mashed potatoes, sugary, powder, crusty ...

To be clear, when you live up here ... you learn to enjoy riding on ice:

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