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How cold is too cold to ride ?

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How cold is too cold to ride ?

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Old 10-31-12, 05:22 PM
  #51  
RGNY
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i'm good to about 0F. after that, or lots of glare ice, i start making hard decisions.
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Old 10-31-12, 06:00 PM
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At slightly below zero its definately getting harder to motivate myself to ride at 3am. Still, once the sun comes out its all good. Come January I'm going to need a way to keep my nose and ears from freezing off.
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Old 10-31-12, 06:55 PM
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thin balaclava (ex: Underarmor), w/ merino balaclava over it. not going to say it's fun, but it's do-able....
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Old 11-02-12, 04:35 AM
  #54  
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Got bored at 11:30 PM and went out for an hours ride tonight. Full moon or nearly so. -10F but calm. Nice riding. The shoulder has been cleaned well on most of road I was on. Required a thicker balaclava and another layer as compared to yesterday at 0F. Every 10F or so I note the need for another layer or some change. Still just biking shorts and one outer layer of Craft biking pants.
here I am after returning yesterday
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Old 11-10-12, 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Surfer34 View Post
So none of you guys have died from cycling in -20 below, right ? lol
I did! But I got better

Personal record low: -30C (That was kind of by mistake)

But as Machka says - if people will ski in a given set of weather conditions, we might as well bike! It's not that different!
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Old 11-10-12, 07:22 PM
  #56  
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I agree with Buglady, if a person can dress for skiing (or snowshoeing) then winter cycling is doable. Last week I rode my bike in the rain to pick up groceries and the cashier said she was impressed I rode in the rain on such a chilly day. I really didn't notice the rain, it was drizzly but not pouring down and I had a rain jacket on so it wasn't a big deal. The easiest way to get used to less than nice weather is to ride in it and get used to it. Pretty soon, 12șC is a mild day, and a rainy 5șC is chilly but doable, and a snowy -5șC is no big deal, and -15șC means you are fine while you pass miserable people standing around at bus stops
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Old 11-10-12, 09:04 PM
  #57  
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Actually i think winter cycling is worst than skiing in matter of garments. I currently use cross country skiing boots as transitional boots toward winter. I'm comfortable at least 10C lower in these boots at cross country skiing than winter cycling.
Same thing at the hands level. The pressure on the handlebars limit the blood flow more than what could be when skiing
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Old 11-11-12, 11:25 AM
  #58  
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While skiing you are moving your entire body. While biking it's just the legs and that alone is a real problem. You have to have enough layers on top to stay warm while you are essentially just sitting there but your legs are moving hard and require a different amount of clothing. It's hard to dress properly and the colder it gets the harder it is to stay warm and get rid of the perspiration. I've learned that part of the skill is learning to be just a bit chilly and to either start the ride quite cold or be prepared to remove a layer. If you are comfortable for the first 15minutes (assuming you're riding reasonably hard) you'll be overly hot very soon.
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Old 11-11-12, 11:33 AM
  #59  
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Although I have ridden below 0F, when the temps get below 10F in the morning, I'm checking out the bus schedule.
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Old 11-11-12, 12:23 PM
  #60  
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I'm lucky that here in the New York City area,
it rarely goes below the low teens(F).


Biking during winter by 1nterceptor, on Flickr
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Old 11-11-12, 02:17 PM
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first cold snap this week. i was actually surprised by how much 19F did -not- bother me this year. we humans are amazing creatures.

of course my buddy from Alaska chops wood outside in a polypro t-shirt and insulated pants in -20F to avoid sweating and is convinced everyone down here is soft and fragile.
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Old 11-13-12, 06:28 AM
  #62  
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From my own experience I'd say that anything warmer than 5 degrees below freezing is still very doable provided you have the appropriate gear. I train for hours in weather like that and the cold never gets to me. Having the right gear can be quite an investment though. Still cheaper than going to the gym during the cold months (closest gym is 60 euros a month).
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Old 11-13-12, 07:18 AM
  #63  
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Originally Posted by RGNY View Post
first cold snap this week. i was actually surprised by how much 19F did -not- bother me this year. we humans are amazing creatures.
I'm assuming your mask kept you warm...
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Old 11-13-12, 09:55 PM
  #64  
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Originally Posted by Shamrock View Post
I ride 20*F to 95*F.I have no interest in getting frostbite or heat stroke.
I've run and ridden well below 20F and well above 95F and have suffered neither frostbite nor heat stroke.

Dress appropriately and exert yourself accordingly.
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Old 11-22-12, 10:39 PM
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Originally Posted by scroca View Post
I don't know how cold is too cold for me. I've been down to 0F with vastly inferior gear than what I have now. It wasn't pleasant but I survived.

That said, I moved to central Montana this summer after living my whole life in the Midwest and I've never been through a winter like is possible around here. Nobody around here thinks I can ride throughout the winter. I don't know if I can or not, but I won't give up easily. If anything stops me, I'm wondering if it will be the wind rather than the cold since my winter bike is a fixed gear. Yesterday the wind was blowing at 40mph and gusting over 50mph (but with mild temperature).

I'm also not sure how cold is too cold to start my car. I may have no alternative than to ride the bike.

I'm awed by some of the posts here. I did courier work in DC including during Reagan inauguration which started out sub-zero F. Many cars would not start. I put on an extra layer or two but nothing special for feet/hands. The surprising bit was how easy it was to get chilled when not moving & that was without much wind. Mid-day warmed up to sunny 10 F & even had the gloves off for a while.
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Old 12-01-12, 10:53 AM
  #66  
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Let's see last winter I left home on January 16th. It was -5 F. By the time I got home in the PM it around 20 above F. I rode 104.58 miles that day. Don't fret the cold just ride it. Let your body get acclimated to riding in cold weather and you won't find it a problem. You will have to acclimate to it though since you aren't use to seeing it that cold. It may actually take you a year or so to start getting use to cold conditions like that. Your body will have to build up body fat to help you tolerate the colder condition which your body doesn't currently have because you have been living in a warm climate.
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Old 12-01-12, 11:57 AM
  #67  
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Originally Posted by bikenh View Post
Let's see last winter I left home on January 16th. It was -5 F. By the time I got home in the PM it around 20 above F. I rode 104.58 miles that day. Don't fret the cold just ride it. Let your body get acclimated to riding in cold weather and you won't find it a problem. You will have to acclimate to it though since you aren't use to seeing it that cold. It may actually take you a year or so to start getting use to cold conditions like that. Your body will have to build up body fat to help you tolerate the colder condition which your body doesn't currently have because you have been living in a warm climate.
I ride in the cold a lot and I have to say the above poster is full of it. Absolute nonsense. 105miles in temps of -5 to +20F ? The OP is just plain tough! Tough guy! Seriously. Very few people will get to the point of being able to ride that distance in those conditions so my hat is off to that accomplishment. Of course, by "absolute nonsense" I mean that it's NOT just a simple thing to "just ride it". Those temps take experience with clothing, pace, hydration and making that work in temps that are far removed from most folks day to day riding experience. So my hat's off to the OP here. Well done.
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Old 12-02-12, 02:28 PM
  #68  
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The secret to riding that kind of distance in those kinds of conditions is first being able to ride that kind of distance in any kind of condition, even 75 degrees and sunny with no wind. If you can't ride the distance then you surely wouldn't be able to ride that kind of distance in cold weather.

The worst part of it...this marks my third winter of winter biking. I learnt out of force. I don't own a car anymore, I haven't driven since May 2010. I have no other option. I don't fall back on friends/neighbors to get me around, I ride my bike. Granted I've been unemployeed since December 2009 so I don't have to go anymore...at least not for work. I don't have running water at my house so between going to get water, 25 miles roundtrip, and groceries, get online, etc I still have to get out.

This past winter I had gotten so possessed by the bike that I couldn't get my darn arse off the bike. Most of the winter was snowfree and I only had two weeks or so of cold weather in mid January...pretty much the usual, so I just kept riding everyday. With the exception of a couple of days back in mid September this year, thanks to the stomach flu, I've averaged 50+ miles a day for a 60 day stretch ever since September 21, 2011. I'm out everyday. I ride big miles all the time, irregardless of the weather(at least warm vs cold, I am a ***** with the rain but I'm becoming much less of ***** to the snow...it's just not as wet as the rain is). I had 6 days I wasn't on the bike between January 1st and July 17th this year. A couple of days were because of being sick(stomach flu hit hard around Presidents Day and then I had a BAD case of dehydration on the 200 mile ride I did on the day of the Boston Marathon and the next day I was laid up completely recovering from the dehydration...DUMB

I've learnt how to create my own challenges. I don't need racing to get me to ride. I just need my own challenges to keep me going. My first challenge was trying to see if I could manage to ride at least one 100 mile day each week for 52 consecutive weeks. I started July 27, 2011 and managed to make it. I also got caught up in the darn personal challenge of trying to ride 1500 miles a month for 12 consecutive months. November marked #16 of over 1500 miles each month. Yes, all on the road. I do no indoor training whatsoever. I've ridden over 19,800 miles so far this year, essentially most of it for the pleasure and the challenge/education of how to do it...including how to ride in the cold weather and stay safe and comfortable. Last winter was the most tepid winter I've seen in the 12 winters I've lived in New Hampshire. Nonetheless I've taken the chance and I've also asked the questions here on the forum and tried out the different things I was told on how to stay warm until I found what worked. I got lucky in November last year. I left the library one evening and I knew it was chilly out. I rode home thinking if I had the fleece sweatband on which I bought a couple of days earlier but didn't have with me at the time, and if I had on the fleece mittens I could ride all night long. It was after sunset as I was riding home. I got home and looked out my kitchen window at the thermometer hanging outside the window and saw it was only 36 degrees. I about froze to death. I was riding home in the Varitherm top, no wind jacket, and cycling shorts. That experience started to teach me that you don't need much to stay warm. The most important thing is to start correctly and keep riding. Don't start warm, start cold and let the biking warm you up.

I use standard summer road equipment during the winter. I don't change tires, I use 700x25s all winter long. I do prefer to have a rack on during the winter so I can keep the sweat down on the back. I use a day/backpack during the summer. I have finally managed to get the homemade front fender put on and am trying to change the rack/rear fender around now so that I have it in place. Boy, I sure wish I would have had it in place the past two days, DRATS! I do stick to highway travel only during the winter and stay off side roads unless their hasn't been any new snowfall for a while.

The hardest thing the original poster will have is getting his body to adjust since he is use to living in a warm climate year round. After a couple of years if he is constantly out riding in the cold weather and if he is smart in choosing clothing he will have no trouble riding long distances in cold weather. You just have to do it. I don't take long breaks on my long rides...I can't...their isn't enough daylight to waste taking long breaks.

Just like riding in hot arid/desert environments, or riding in high altitudes is quite easy to do after you have adjusted to the environment at hand, winter riding is the same way. You have to adjust and get use to being outdoors in the cold air and let your body adjust to it and then you will have no trouble staying warm while out in the cold air.

I did ride twice more last winter in cycling shorts. First time temperature was 36 and the next morning it was 32. The snow had melted off. I wouldn't try it at 50 degrees if their was snow on the ground. Without snow I would do it again and probably will do it again come next spring. By the time spring arrives my body will be so use to riding in far colder temperatures that it will seem warm enough to ride in shorts even when the temperature is at the freezing point.

Let the body adjust and you will be surprised.
Most of the winter all I wear is a thermal, Duofold Varitherm, long sleeve neck zip top with a two layer nylon(inner and out layer are nylon) wind jacket on top. Until it gets down into the teens I don't bother to put anything else on. I end up sweating with just that little bit on. I always end up with a sweaty back even if I don't have a pack on my back.
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Old 12-02-12, 02:39 PM
  #69  
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It's all about mental toughness. Every extreme outdoor challenege requires mental toughness..some people have it and some don't. The best way to become mentally tougher is to go outdoors in extreme weather conditions and push yourself...that way you'll learn where the limits are.
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Old 12-03-12, 12:00 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
It's all about mental toughness. Every extreme outdoor challenege requires mental toughness..some people have it and some don't. The best way to become mentally tougher is to go outdoors in extreme weather conditions and push yourself...that way you'll learn where the limits are.
Yes, mental toughness & just taking some time to get used to the cold. Bikenh mentions a couple winters to get fully adjusted but even after a few days I think the body starts to adapt a lot. After a cold snap the regular temps feel a lot more comfortable. I've been on hikes at windy 27 F where my fingers got cold w/o gloves but been biking at 15 F where I felt comfortable taking gloves off. Another note on attitude: in DC area most folks wuss out & don't exercise outside below 40 F but in Germany & Netherlands ordinary folks go out biking & walking etc even in sub-freezing temps w/o special clothes, just a jacket & scarf & sometimes gloves. On a Sunday morning in Amsterdam the sidewalks were thronged with folks going to french-fry stands, sipping coffee at outdoor cafe tables...it was 25 F & windy. Saw this big guy rollerblading with orange shorts & t-shirt...did a double-take & damn, those weren't shorts, he was wearing a THONG (the orange glow was his butt-cheeks LOL).

OT: stopped into a cafe to warm up with coffee & saw a young couple with a cute dog--the cafe owners' cat was unhappy about that & went over to threaten the dog which was twice it's size. Wonderfully crazy city.
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Old 12-03-12, 12:51 PM
  #71  
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I first got used to extreme cold when growing up in Northern Maine. I have been an avid and extreme snowmobiler all my life until more recently had to quit that sport due to gas prices. I enjoy cycle commuting year round now and like others have mentioned, your body gets accustomed to colder weather as it creeps up on you. I use a dry tech first layer then my breathable outer cycling jacket all the way down to 30degF then as it gets colder, I add an additional dry tech layer under the same jacket which is good all the way to 0degF. Any colder than that, I have to resort to replacing the cycling jacket with a an LLBean jacket like the weather guys wear on the weather channel. Hands, feet, face are something else to consider. These are your outer extremities that get cold faster and won't warm up once cold. Anything below 10degF calls for thicker warm gloves or mitts, wool socks in hiking boots or any warm winter boots. Balaclava is needed for wind chill levels at 10degF also. I have to commend BikeNH for his 19k miles, that is really extreme and your a good example of a tough guy indeed.

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Old 12-03-12, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
Yes, mental toughness & just taking some time to get used to the cold. Bikenh mentions a couple winters to get fully adjusted but even after a few days I think the body starts to adapt a lot. After a cold snap the regular temps feel a lot more comfortable. I've been on hikes at windy 27 F where my fingers got cold w/o gloves but been biking at 15 F where I felt comfortable taking gloves off.
I will have to agree on this one after a ride about a month ago. I headed out planning a 100 mile day and cut it short. Not only did the wind pick up earlier than forecast but I found myself riding with temps in the lower 20s, if I remember correctly, and my hands were freezing. I'm not use to having cold hands anymore since I started using pop top wool mittens. The new mittens I bought this fall work far better than the ones I bought last fall that held up most of the winter before holes worked their way into the palms of both mittens. Hopefully this years selection will hold up longer, they do seem to be a bit better made. I have removed all that stupid velcro they love to put on the pop top.

I'm not sure if I agree with it being mental toughness. I would say its more about getting used to being out in the cold. The body can adjust if you give it a chance. I will agree you have to put yourself out there so you can get use to it but I don't know if I call that mental toughness or not.

I definitely don't call myself a tough guy. I just consider myself to be someone that comes up with crazy, err stupid ideas and goes after them. I do have one thing that always...so far, helps me out and that is I have multiple challenges that all support each other so that as I'm accomplishing one goal I'm accomplishing all goals. Each goal feeds off the others. The more I see myself do the more I propel myself on to continue achieving the goals...no matter stupid/brain dead they are.
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Old 12-04-12, 07:39 AM
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I think using 'mental toughness' as a way of 'beating the cold' is a very risky approach.

Mental toughness will help you get going. It will help you keep attention sharp when conditions are bad.

It will not help prevent you from getting too cold, dangerously cold. Only appropriate clothing and food will do that.
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Old 12-04-12, 10:48 PM
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Salt-Snow!

Below 20F, salt has no ... strike that, has bad affect!
Upstate NY uses salt on the roads, Salt allows snow and ice to melt, as low as 20F.

Problem is, below 20F, salt will not melt snow, in fact it tends to mix with the snow forming a brownish salt snow, similar in consistency to moist sugar.
Worse! At road contact it is slightly warmer. This produces a semi-packable crust, on top of a slick surface. If less than 1/2" deep a thin tire with aggressive tread can contact solid road surface.
More, and it's like walking on marbles. If deeper, or wide tire, there is no way to ride safely.

So ... Teens F and lower, I am very hesitant to ride, unless road is clear or ice, even normal studs won't help on "salt-snow".

With clear roads, I do "garb up" and make 2-3 mile "jaunts, ... down towards single digits.

Below zero I tend to hunker down just "survive".

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Old 12-05-12, 01:52 PM
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I find there are a few distinct "cold thresholds" that require different approaches.

From -5 to -10 C, not really a big deal. It feels chilly, but I can keep my mouth and nose exposed and I'm not too worried.

From -10 to -15, I'm probably going to cover my face, but I might uncover it to breathe hard going up a hill. I tend to overdress in these conditions.

From -15 to -20, I will try to limit my trips to less than an hour. These are the temperatures where you can still work up a sweat when active, but get cold very fast.

From -20 to -25, I'll ride to the grocery store (flat, less than a kilometre), but that's about it. Too cold for me to handle the variable temperatures of riding up and down hills. This is also my cutoff for skiing after getting frostbite on my face.

From -25 to -30, I'll walk to the grocery store and take a bus to work, and bundle up very carefully. This is about the temperature where eyelashes start freezing together, and breathing gets uncomfortable.

Below -30: I do everything in my power to stay indoors. Fortunately, this only happens about 5 times a year.
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