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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We all have our coping mechanisms, but I'd always thought yours was beer.

notoriousDUG said:

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

I also wear very little bike specific clothing for cold weather commuting. From the bottom up, on my feet I wear regular snow boots that I got from a general outdoors store years ago. On extremely cold days I'll wear wool socks as well. On my legs I'll wear whatever pants my destination calls for, and on real cold days I'll throw a pair of wind pants on over that. On extremely cold days I'll wear long underwear. On my torso I wear a wool sweater over a normal button down dress shirt for work. Most dress shirts are thin enough that even though they're cotton they don't hold moisture against the skin and make an OK base layer under a sweater. I have a variety of weights of sweaters depending on the temperature. On really cold days I'll wear a windbreaker over my sweater. On extremly cold days I'll wear a Carhartt work coat. I like the Carhartt better than most coats because the way the sleeves are cut doesn't pull at the sholders when reaching into the drops, unlike most coats I've tried. On my hands I'll wear normal ski gloves. On my face I go with a nice thick beard and ski goggles. I'll either wear 180's or a knit stocking cap under my normal helmet depending on how cold it is.

That's just out in public, at home I resort to weeping openly.

Cameron Puetz said:

We all have our coping mechanisms, but I'd always thought yours was beer.

notoriousDUG said:

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

+1 for goggles (they actually do something), and I have a Bern as well, but when it gets crazy cold, balaclava + snowboarding helmet is great.

notoriousDUG said:

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.

I'd recommend a fleece-lined neoprene face mask to solve the problem of cold-weather fogging.  I've been using one for years, even down to -17° F, with no trouble.  

Joe Studer said:

...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.... 

Cheap ski goggles, lobster gloves, balaklava, head band.  I'm as snug as a bug in a rug.  

Huge props to that whole crew who came out last night at 7 degrees!  It had dropped to 5 by the time they kicked us out.  Bar Night bandits were ready.  

I've mentioned these, as have others, in previous posts, but i am a huge fan of Bar Mitts. My hands get unbearably cold when biking, even when wearing wind break gloves with a liner, and i don't like wearing big bulky gloves/mittens. Bar Mitts do a great job of blocking the wind/rain/snow/lightning and everything else. You still need to wear gloves to stay warm but i've found that i can get by mostly with just wearing liners or at most my thin gloves with liners. I highly recommend. Plus when you need to grab your keys or do something with your hands you don't have to take off your gloves completely.

And for my feet, two pairs of socks. Well pretty much two pairs of everything when it's really cold. 

It really is not difficult. That being said...I only wear "regular people" clothes when I ride. I'm not concerned about speed. Basketball shorts in the summer, ski pants in the winter.

I bartend, and go about 5 miles each way. The gear I have has kept me perfectly warm and comfy down to ~5 degrees so far (i often ride home at 11pm or later).

I'll go from the top down

Head - lightest weight balaklava + a lightweight stocking hat. Cheap safety glasses to protect eyes

torso - dress shirt (or sub t-shirt...whatever...cotton/lightweight), fleece, single ply cheap windbreaker

pants - dress pants (again.....bartending uniform...jeans work too) lightweight ski-pants

feet - dress shoes (sub anything leathery/windproof), thin socks

remember....you are exercising, even if it is a mellow pace. You will generate more than enough heat to stay warm. You need only be concerned about trying to cover every square inch of your body with something windproof. I've found the biggest challenge is with the face....my glasses fog up terribly and then literally become coated with a thin sheet of ice. Breathing with the balaklava is a pain. Moisture builds up in there. But as far as staying WARM...just wear regular indoor clothes + a completely windproof layer from head to toe and you will be toasty warm without sweating.

Best thing ever--vist any Army Surplus store and get a few pair of "Trigger Finger Mittens." They're cheap, mostly wool and on the single-digit days you can double them up for perfect comfort and still be flexible enough to change a flat.  

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Iagree with folks who reccomend integrating non-biking gear for winter.   It's a different mind set, but I think it's worth the ability to ride through winter.  I have a winter bike (single speed = less parts to get gummed with wintry mix) with old fashioned flat pedals.  I ride them with a pair of waterproof -25 degree rated lace up boots which i wear with a combo of wool and wicking socks.  The boots were pricey, but have lasted me for 3 winters so far and look to have 2 or 3 left in them.  My other not-so aerodynamic and totally dorktastic trick is buying pairs of those fine weave wind resistant athletic pants with ankle zips or velcro (in horrible team colors if neccessary) 1 size too big from the Village Discount Outlet (or Unique if you prefer) to throw over other layers (eg. wool long underwear and pants).  I wear a balaclava and then i have the straight tube face covers out of the same thin wicking cloth.  That way i can layer over my nose in a way  that facilitates breathing, works under a helmet, and gets two layers over the ears.  Those are my tricks; i'm not winning any races in this stuff, but it at least keeps me out and about all year. 

That's why i use the straight tubes over the balaclava.  You can pull down the balaclava to cover your chin and use the tube over nose and mouth.  When moisture builds up you just rotate the tube to a dry section. 


Evan Arena said:

I'll go from the top down

Head - lightest weight balaklava + a lightweight stocking hat. Cheap safety glasses to protect eyes

Breathing with the balaklava is a pain. Moisture builds up in there. But as far as staying WARM...just wear regular indoor clothes + a completely windproof layer from head to toe and you will be toasty warm without sweating.

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