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Thread: Cold weather advice thread

  1. #1
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    Default Cold weather advice thread

    I did a thread on this topic last year but too lazy to bump it so starting new.

    I get a lot of questions on this, so here are some ideas, and others can add in/refute etc.

    1. Slow Down a Little. My main advice for new winter riders is to add a few minutes to their commutes, on purpose. Just give yourself that extra 5 or 10 minutes so you can take your time when it's cold or the weather's poor. I've found that my main problems in winter usually have stemmed from trying to be in a hurry. Trying to ride too fast I get too sweaty and then chilled if I have to stop for a flat tire or something. Trying to be in a hurry and go too fast over an icy patch. Trying to be in a hurry around brain-frozen drivers who don't expect cyclists when it's cold because they would never go out in the cold like that and didn't even bother to clear the frost off their windshield because it was cold and they're late to drop their kids off at school, and so on.

    2. Good Gear Pays Off. On short commutes, you can just throw on a coat and tough it out, but on longer commutes (especially if you're as old as I am) having good quality gear is essential to being comfortable, which is, in turn, essential to being able to slow down a little and enjoy the ride. A "Buff" or two for face and head and neck, good boots or at least shoe covers (buy at least one size larger than you'd think), wool ski socks and base layers, extra-large bulky gloves that are easy to get on and off to grab a phone call or turn on your lights etc. I don't usually use a winter jacket -- I just use my windbreaker with lots of layers under. Generally a wicking layer (or two) a wool base layer, a fleece, then a windbreaker is plenty on top for me. Winter ride tights usually sufficient for legs. On really snowy or cold heavy rain days, I have Gore-tex rain pants and a Gore-tex jacket.

    3. Get Dry and Stay Dry. At work, having a good place to dry your gear and shoes is pretty critical. Shoe inserts can help; boot warmers can help; lots of coat racks that you can hang gear on in a warm place somewhere at your workplace. Putting on still-damp clothes for the ride home is super chilling and just sucks. Always try to either bring dry gear or get it dry while you work. A sub-point on the dry thing, I usually bring a change of dry clothes even for group social rides, so that I don't get chilled at the stop. Maybe I'm a bit over the top on that, but I could ride all day in the coldest weather if I could change into dry clothes often enough.

    4. Hydrate. The air loses humidity in the winter, and just by breathing I seem to lose a lot of fluid. Insulated water bottles can keep room temp water from freezing for quite a long time. Mixing in some warm tea is also kind of nice. On the other hand, frozen water bottles are pretty worthless for hydration.

    5. Don't Suffer! If it's too nasty, and you're not feeling the whole adventure of it, better safe than sorry. Freezing Saddles is won by teams who don't get sick or injured. So please don't get sick or injured! That includes maybe hopping on the bus or Metro or working from home when it's really horrible out. (But still get in your 1 mile sleaze ride, because that's just essential...)

    6. Practice your Snot Rockets in advance, on flat dry level ground, so you don't swerve, with no one around. Check the wind. Please be polite around other cyclists -- no one should ever see you shoot a rocket, it's a private thing, never to be seen or heard by others. Or even see evidence of. A mis-shot snot rocket frozen stuck in a blob on your shoulder is sort of a mark of incompetence, not a badge of honor. So practice, practice, practice!

    What else? -Jeff
    Last edited by Greenbelt; 12-20-2018 at 09:10 PM.

  2. #2
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    Check your tires, because they have a tendency to flat on the coldest day possible.

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  4. #3
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    Thanks for the starting list -- this is my first winter biking, and I'm so far, basically content with the gear I've got, up to this point -- but I've not had a single ride below, perhaps, 28f yet... I suspect I will find that my gear needs some augmentation when the 20's arrive.

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  6. #4
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    Should have added, as Greenbelt pointed out later: here's my current gear,
    With cold here, I wear a long-sleeve SmartWool undershirt (the lighter-gram-weight version) plus an REI rather light windbreaker (reminds me of parachute material.)
    I'm surprised by how far that combo has got me as fall has advanced and temps drop. This morning was the coldest ride yet for me (28 I think) and while it is only 7-8 miles to work, I work up a little sweat of course...
    I'm wondering if it would be a good idea to add the "summer" REI synthetic t-shirt under the merino layer now?
    Or, better off adding a second merino layer? (I also have the same gram-weight SmartWool in a short-sleeve variety.)
    For legs - work days I tend to wear the merino long-johns under my office khakis (and because our office HVAC is out of control, I leave them on at work!)
    For leisure rides, I'll usually go with pearl izumi leg warmers along with padded cycle shorts - and my legs have been fine thus far (longest "cold" ride so far was about 2 hours Sunday in 38f.)
    On toes... recently added a pair of ShowersPass waterproof 3-layer socks, on an REI recommendation... While I don't think I need the waterproof element so much, the staff folks said they'd help with keeping my feet warm (I'm wearing clip shoes with some tiny perforations.) I've taken to wearing over-shoe rain booties as well, starting this week, more to help cut the wind intrusion into those shoes...
    I added a Smith ski-goggle (fits over my prescription glasses) and that is REALLY a nice upgrade.
    I wear a half-balaclava (nose-tip, down to neck) and have some pre-biking goretex winter gloves that I've adopted now, once the pearl izumi winter gloves seemed not to be handling the cold wind well enough.

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  8. #5
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    First off, don't ride like I do.

    Head: Helmet liner from ~40F down to ~15F, fleece hat or beanie below that.

    Face: Sunglasses.

    Top: A waterproof-ish softshell pretty much all winter, with a poly T-shirt and either a thin long-sleeved poly or a midweight fleece, depending on temps. If it gets below about 20F, a heavier fleece.

    Legs: Light tights and MTB cycling shorts over top once the temps get down toward freezing. Heavier tights a couple of times a winter; they need to be used.

    Feet: Shoes and wool socks. Shoe covers if in the twenties or raining/snowing. Nice Shimano MW-5 (or something) winter boots if it gets down in the teens.

    Hands: 43F+ fingerless gloves, 32F-42F fingered gloves, 10F-32F Pearl Izumi Barrier lobster gloves, <10F ski mittens. (Silly specificity on this one, but I've learned from experience, and even so, I sometimes have to stop and get blood back in the fingers.)

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    Ride hills, ride them hard.

  11. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crickey7 View Post
    Check your tires, because they have a tendency to flat on the coldest day possible.
    Parking garages are by far not the worst place to change a flat on a crummy day. I realize this isn't always an option, but it's a corollary of the "know your bailout route" rules. Keep a list of places you can get warm, change a flat, get out of an ice storm, etc.

  12. #8
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    My tips for winter time:

    1 - Layers made of Full-Zip shirts are easier to remove than half-zip, or no-zip shirts, and so worth the extra investment.

    2 - Many don't dry their legs, and leave few minutes after taking a shower when it's icy outside. If it's below 32 F, I wait 15 minutes before leaving, or 5 minutes if I remember to dry my legs.

    3 - Some advice circulating(including by me) suggest using plastic bags over socks as a wind breaker, or plastic kitchen gloves under cycling gloves. Please don't do this. Your feet and hand will get sweaty, and if you get distracted and hit something and becoming unconscious, you might wake up in a hospital with your feet/hands/fingers amputated because of frost bite.

    4 - Hot water damages skin, especially if you are older or diabetic. I use this shower head with temperature display to make it more predictable.

    5 - Sometimes, I put a heater next to the bathroom to warm it to a toasty 75-80 Degrees, I actually look forward to take a shower because it's warmer there. You could use a 24/7 Timer to turn it on 30 Minutes before you use the shower.

    6 - I use this electric shaver(Bestbuy, Amazon), which shaves my beard in 90 Seconds(I have medium to heavy beard), compared to 5 Minutes with the blade method, and I get almost the same result. I can do it while on the coach, while someone else is using the shower, so both the shower head and the shaver cut my shower time by 6 to 7 Minutes. Previously I used this shaver from Philips Norelco and it took 3 Minutes to shave, but it's not as close as the Panasonic one.

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  14. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by n18 View Post
    I use this electric shaver(Bestbuy, Amazon), which shaves my beard in 90 Seconds(I have medium to heavy beard), compared to 5 Minutes with the blade method, and I get almost the same result. I can do it while on the coach, while someone else is using the shower, so both the shower head and the shaver cut my shower time by 6 to 7 Minutes. Previously I used this shaver from Philips Norelco and it took 3 Minutes to shave, but it's not as close as the Panasonic one.
    Please tell me you're not trying to shave while riding your bike!

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  16. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by cvcalhoun View Post
    Please tell me you're not trying to shave while riding your bike!
    Iím offering a pointless prize for the best Danger Panda while shaving picture.

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