The Chainlink

The title says it all. It seems like when the temps begin to dip into sub-20F then all of my so-called "technical apparel" seems to be almost useless, not that it pretty much all sucks at just about any temperature anyway. I've gotta bike 11.5 miles all on the LFP - out there completely exposed for pretty much my entire ride. I didn't ride the last couple days because I was a bit concerned about ice on the LFP, mainly because it doesn't seem to get salted very thoroughly. I was also concerned because I don't have any gear for super-cold weather unless I start dipping into regular people clothes which are not necessarily breathable, don't have pit zips, not made of wool, etc. I have a 100 percent wool commando sweater that would probably work well as a mid layer under a winter coat and I was thinking I could double up with my thinner tights underneath my thicker windproof/waterproof tights. Feet are a problem though. If I keep riding clipless I can only fit a thin pair of wicking socks under some Wigwam Merino wool socks, all crammed into my cycling shoes with some neoprene booties over the outside. My feet can get cold even on days in the higher teens or even low 20s, let alone single digits or minus single digits. I don't want to have to keep riding the bus and train because I REALLY HATE THE BUS! Once I get my car fixed that's always an option, but I would prefer to ride if only I can just find some way to do it an not be miserable.

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When it gets this cold you are riding for challenge and love of riding. If you are miserable from sweating than maybe don't ride. I don't that almost blasphemy but you should be happy on your ride. I prefer when it gets super cold to super warm cause i love layering and i change clothes when i get to work. But yeah the way to get through super cold weather usually doesn't involve the super expensive clothing and high tech gear. it requires layers and smart riding. ;-)

Thre really is a lot written on this topic, and much of it addresses how to deal with cold temps using regular clothing.  Not so much dealing with cycling "performance" gear.

There is "performance" gear that works well at this low temperature.  It ain't cheap, though.  I use the Pearl Izumi Amfib tights, and they really work well.  I used them today, solo layer, and my legs were fine.  When the temps go below zero I'll pair these with baselayer long underwear and am fine.

For upperbody, I use a nice base layer, a thermal long-sleeved jersey, and a windproof winter shell.  Most cycling specific jackets have zippers that allow you to vent heat, which I typically need for the upper torso, as my upper torso is often sweating.  (While not cycling specific, the North Face soft shells also work real well.

I ride clipped year round.  Shoes with wool socks and neoprene booties are fine until the temps drop below 20.  Then I break out the Lake winter boots.  Those things have kept my feet the warmest.  (Other boots may work as well or better, but Lake is one of the few companies that makes a winter cycling boot in my size.  (I got big feet.)

Hands were a real bitch until I discovered the BarMits.  They can get restrictive on long rides, but man, they keep my hands warm, and allow me to wear a much thinner glove than I otherwise would. 

The biggest problem I have is with my face.  For most days, I'll use a thin balaclava. (Underarmour makes one that breathes really well and keeps me quite warm.)  But on really cold days, I need something that covers my nose without covering my mouth and nostrils (if I cover my mouth and nostrils, my breath ends up fogging up my glasses so that I can't see).  So I have took a couple of the underarmour balaclavas and cut holes in them so that when I pull it up over my nose my nostrils and mouth are exposed.  Kind of like a gas-station-stick-up ski mask.  Or a luchadore helmet.  Generall works OK.

Dressed like this, and assuming I stay dry and active, I am usually pretty comfortable for for at least a couple of hours, and certainly can stay comfortable enough for my commute (8 miles on the exposed LFP). 

kilty, if your feet are "crammed" into your shoes I think I can only responsibly recommend that you not ride 11 miles on single digit days, because if your toes can't wiggle they're much more likely to freeze.

It's very tough to give one-size-fits-all advice about this sort of thing because we're all different ages, ride different bikes, are in different states of health with our own individual challenges.

Personally, I wouldn't survive an 11-mile commute in single digit weather and still be able to function at work.  I'd need to know a warm bathtub and a nap was at the other end.

joe, i have that same balaclava ( i always want to spell it baklava, because that is delicious) and it gives me the same problem. i will certainly try your solution. anyone have a preferred anti fog spray for goggles? it got a little ridiculous tonight.

I would love to wear a baklava for riding.  When you get to where you are gong you simply eat it!

This is brilliant -if a bit expensive and hard on the waistband. 

I've found that this particular balaclava works best for not fogging goggles/glasses, and still keeping my head very toasty

http://www.duluthtrading.com/store/mens/mens-accessories/hats-and-c...

ive surprised myself this year by not busting out the heavy artillery. normally i would have all these layer options i would carry with me, as i am sucker as soon as it hits 40. this year has been mild, yes, but even on a morning like today, im good with a light thermal, work shirt, cotton hoodie, and a northface shoftshell. i was good. maybe chiacgo has finally toughened me, dunno.

+1 on the lake boots.  I got them a size up so I can wear two socks if I need to.  What are people's favorite winter pants?  I have a decent base layer, but my legs were still cold last night coming home.

I think it's partly because I'm not riding clipped in so I'm not using my hamstrings, but I layered jeans over my Amfib tights yesterday and the backs of my legs were numb from my butt to my knee.  I've only got a 4 mile commute, but 2.5 miles in, I looked like a crazy person on a bike smacking at my legs to keep the blood flowing.  

The rest of me was fine with just a merino base layer/tshirt/LL Bean shell (part of a 3and1, I've yet to add the fleece to it).  I love my lobster claw gloves and my sheepskin boots!  My fingers and toes were nice and cozy!



Joe Studer said:

Thre really is a lot written on this topic, and much of it addresses how to deal with cold temps using regular clothing.  Not so much dealing with cycling "performance" gear.

There is "performance" gear that works well at this low temperature.  It ain't cheap, though.  I use the Pearl Izumi Amfib tights, and they really work well.  I used them today, solo layer, and my legs were fine.  When the temps go below zero I'll pair these with baselayer long underwear and am fine.

For upperbody, I use a nice base layer, a thermal long-sleeved jersey, and a windproof winter shell.  Most cycling specific jackets have zippers that allow you to vent heat, which I typically need for the upper torso, as my upper torso is often sweating.  (While not cycling specific, the North Face soft shells also work real well.

I ride clipped year round.  Shoes with wool socks and neoprene booties are fine until the temps drop below 20.  Then I break out the Lake winter boots.  Those things have kept my feet the warmest.  (Other boots may work as well or better, but Lake is one of the few companies that makes a winter cycling boot in my size.  (I got big feet.)

Hands were a real bitch until I discovered the BarMits.  They can get restrictive on long rides, but man, they keep my hands warm, and allow me to wear a much thinner glove than I otherwise would. 

The biggest problem I have is with my face.  For most days, I'll use a thin balaclava. (Underarmour makes one that breathes really well and keeps me quite warm.)  But on really cold days, I need something that covers my nose without covering my mouth and nostrils (if I cover my mouth and nostrils, my breath ends up fogging up my glasses so that I can't see).  So I have took a couple of the underarmour balaclavas and cut holes in them so that when I pull it up over my nose my nostrils and mouth are exposed.  Kind of like a gas-station-stick-up ski mask.  Or a luchadore helmet.  Generall works OK.

Dressed like this, and assuming I stay dry and active, I am usually pretty comfortable for for at least a couple of hours, and certainly can stay comfortable enough for my commute (8 miles on the exposed LFP). 

If you're not so hooked on "technical" gear, try wearing normal winter clothing and just ride slower. Take your time and you won't sweat as much. Like Gabe said, winter riding calls for a change in your mindset.

I suggest getting big flat platform pedals and wearing insulated boots.

 Well put, Sir. I wear jeans and only add a layer underneath for the deep cold, (i.e. 15 degrees and down). Still need to find a better over-glove, though.

I switched to a wider platform BMX pedal this year and they've been great with my toasty Kamik boots.

 And I salute all of you LFP commuters out there- I'll put up w/ the Damen Ave. car doors vs. that lakefront wind any time.

Kelvin Mulcky said:

If you're not so hooked on "technical" gear, try wearing normal winter clothing and just ride slower. Take your time and you won't sweat as much. Like Gabe said, winter riding calls for a change in your mindset.

I suggest getting big flat platform pedals and wearing insulated boots.

Does cowering in a corner sobbing and trying to warm up my fingers count as coping?

When I started biking for transportation on of my goals was to ride year round using as little specialized or expensive clothing as possible.  For the most part I have been successful are that and with few exceptions I have been pretty successful at this.  Up until this season I have been 100% successful with that but a much longer commute has forced me to suck it up and buy a couple pieces of special gear.  I used to work outside in all conditions for years in conditions in which expensive high performance cold weather gear ends up destroyed pretty quickly.  Here's what I have learned about keeping warm over the years.

Starting at the bottom with the feet I wear a pair of Goretex insulated boots I picked up on clearance at an outdoor goods store some years ago; they were still pretty expensive but have lasted forever because they are quality boots and I only wear them when it is very cold or very wet.  I wear them over two pairs of socks, if I have enough clean ones I go for at least one pair of wool otherwise I just use white athletic socks.  The key to warm feet is to keep out the wind and the wet; if you have that covered and some decent layers you will stay warm and toasty.  Also if you are going to have your feet on the ground a lot thick soles are good because the insulate your feet from the cold ground more.

Legs wise I keep it simple just long underwear and whatever pants I would normally wear.  For long underwear I just use old school cheap ass cotton/poly stuff and it works just fine.  If it is really cold I will wear my rain pants over that for an extra layer and to keep the wind out.

Core and arms I rely on layers, layers and more layers. I usually wear a t-shirt and long underwear or a long sleeve t-shirt with a flannel shirt or some kind of sweater or other shirt over it.  Over that I wear a mid weight coat I got for free from some vendor years ago; it's not water proof but water resistant enough it's OK in snow.  If it really nuts cold, below zero and such, or I am going to be out a long time and not active I wear a hoodie under that or a parka. 

For my hands I also rely on layers.  I have used all form of glove liner, cotton, wool and synthetic and, in my opinion, what the layer is made of is less important than having the layer regardless of what it is.  If you have small hands buy larger good insulated gloves and wear a couple of liners under them.  I, sadly, cannot do this because my hands are large enough it's hard enough finding gloves that fit will with one liner.  For the outer I had been using good water proof insulated gloves, having good dexterity has always been important to me in my glove choices,  but this year have moved to lobster gloves and the difference is huge.  I highly recommend lobster gloves or mittens.

For the head I use a Bern helmet with a winter liner and a fleece head band from the bike winter folks for my ears and for head.  Up until this year I just used a scarf and safety glasses but my new longer commute showed that to be insufficient so I have gone and picked up some special gear.  I got a face mask and some ski goggles.  With that setup I have a warm head and face and it rocks.

Outside the bike stuff I have found that if you have to be outside for along period of time the above combinations (wool hat instead of a helmet) plus a set over insulated coveralls will keep you warm outside for ridiculous amounts of time.

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