Wednesday, December 3, 2008

so you want to ride your bike in the winter?

So on to the subject of riding a bicycle in winter conditions...
snowy but warm foot

Dressing is what's most important to me. When dressed smartly, you'll be a hell of a lot warmer than those people you ride by who are waiting at the bus stop.

Pack extras: keep a pair or two of extra gloves, glove liners, socks, sock liners, a few plastic bags, hat, face mask, neck gaiter/scarve, that sort of thing in your bag from now on - until a few weeks ago I'd never failed that advice, but I'm properly equipped now, I'm happy to say. It's no big deal to stop or slow down to add a layer when it's situated at arms length, but a lot more difficult to do the same when you left it at home that morning - as I did a few Friday's ago with my gloves.

Extremities - For me the most crucial aspect for proper dressing is to keep my fingers and toes warm - don't overly restrict your digits in your clothing choice or you'll freeze right away. Wear a liner of some sort and a bit heavier thing on top of that - wool is an awesome base layer and doesn't melt when standing around a campfire. I use basic riding shoes but sometimes use a pair of neoprene cycling booties on top of my shoes when it gets too cold for my liking. Some people use winter boots with platform pedals while others prefer the winter insulated cycling shoes by Lake and Sidi, but I can't afford those so I have no opinion on their performance. My favorite very cold weather riding mittens were eaten by my brothers dog last winter, so I'm experimenting with a new pair I recently picked up at Kaplan's for 14-bucks - have to wait a month or two for that sort of cold to hit, however. It is nice to have the glove liners on under the thicker pair, especially when you have to take the thicker gloves/mittens off to work a U-lock and key, for instance.

Legs - I usually just wear a pair of long-johns under pants, but this year I'm going to try a flannel lined pair of Carhartt's, again from Kaplan's. My legs are hot (I'm told), so this is about all I need - some can't seem to put enough on, so you'll have to experiment to find what works best for you.

Torso - for me it's a very light t-shirt style layer, a long sleeved sweatshirt style on top of that, followed by a light weight breathable full-zippered jacket for temperature control. I usually have this outer zipper down one-third to one-half during even cold rides, as I'm generating enough heat by my pedaling to compensate the dry-bulb temperature. It's nice to have zippers under the arms on this jacket to allow further temperature control. Don't let yourself sweat because that water is going to make you colder - this is what the zippers are for.

Head - Cover your ears, that's crucial for comfortable riding. I wear a thin hat that goes down over my ears and down to just above my eyes, but allows for my helmet to fit nicely. I like to cover the helmet with a rain cover, which blocks out the cold and allows a thinner hat for comfort (a garbage bag cut and taped to your helmet also works.) I wear glasses, so that blocks the wind from my eyes. Get a neck-gaiter or scarf, to your preference, to keep your neck warm while also being there to pull up over your mouth and nose. Grow a beard if this applies to you, it certainly helps. This year I'm going to experiment with a thin turtleneck shirt I just picked up cheap - it's technical or something and I'm not sure if it's going to burn or not. It's a pretty good idea to always have a beer in your bag in case a fire breaks out or you get thirsty, though.

Gear selection.

Lights: Wear at least one red blinkie light on your back side and a white one up front - it gets dark early and cars are less likely to think there are cyclists riding during this time of year.

Fenders: Come on, put some fenders on your bike - not cool for school, but you're past riding around with a stripe of wet, black, road grime on your ass by now, right? Go to the CRC, he's got them on sale until X-mas, knowwhatimean?
no fenders on the steamroller

Tires: Some people swear by studded tires, but I've successfully ridden more than one winter on slicks without falling, minus the times I was screwing around, of course. I believe it's more about confidence and experience than anything else, but then again there are those times I tend to screw around:
Wrexican down

Ice: The most important thing to keep in mind while riding in the winter is that you're likely riding on something slippery, and it isn't always this obvious:
icy Minneapolis streets

Riding style: When you go around a corner; do it slower than you would normally, without leaning into that corner as if you were the solo breakaway of a cat-5 crit race. When you start from a stop, do your best not to stand up and slam down on the pedals - it's not a race getting to work or school, it's just a job or an education - not worth the weeks of back pain when you slam down onto the street after your rear wheel slips out from under your body.

I already mentioned this part: As far as riding on the snow, keep in mind that there might be ice under that fluffy fresh layer, as was the occasion here:
sheer ice under this fresh snow

Keep it slow and get off and walk if you have to keep from falling.

Oh yeah, and grow a beard and always wear your helmet:
morning commute

And don't end up like this guy, and always wear your helmet:
Fleck Down - self derbied

Enjoy the upcoming winter, it's a great time to ride!


fxdwhl said...

good how to write up. I caved in last year and bought a pair of lakes. had some stitching issues but other than that they're pretty bomber. No more dealing with layer upon layer of socks or shifting booties. 22 this morning with just a light sock and feet were toasty; save your pennies, they're worth it.

TOMMY GUN said...

danguh. That's a long post, did you grow that beard in the time it took to construct it? CRC east will be open this afternoon/evening if you're looking for a diversion....

Patch O'Houli said...

"That guy" is a choad.

Good info.