Thursday, November 18, 2010

Short commute cold weather clothing.

The temps are dropping. People who bike are all discussing what they should wear and at what temps. As Mod so eloquently put it, "Dressing for the cold is like the black arts." I have a case in point for this very suggestion.

But first, a disclaimer. My discussion is for my own ride type and acclimation. Anyone who knows Bryan knows that he can ride in bike shorts and a jersey only down to 40 degrees or something ridiculous like that. Well, that's an exaggeration, but still, cold doesn't bother him much. I also know some aren't bothered by cold if their hands and toes are properly warmed. Others have to wear Goretex everything from head to foot in 50 degrees. It's all about acclimation.

The other caveat I have in my discussion is that I'm riding my bike a whopping 3 miles to work in plain-ish looking clothes. I have a couple hills and I ride a single speed. So if the ride you're thinking of dressing for is drastically different than this, my input will not be helpful. I made the mistake last year of suggesting that a low pressure slick road tire is all you need for bad weather riding and good buddy Mr. Steel Cut tried my tactic on a crazy gravel road ride. At least I think that's where he got the idea to run a road tire on a gravel ride. I'm truly sorry, Brady, if my random tidbits of "knowledge" came across as gospel. I may act like I know a lot, but I'm still learning every day. Since we're talking, by the way, (we are talking right?) I wanted to thank you for your tidbit of knowledge about using a blinky light mounted on your fork shining on your front wheel's spokes. This simple setup is highly visible from all all 180° in front of you. Ever since using that and my dynamo hub powered front light on steady, I've had cars wait a block or so for me to pass before they turn in my path. In other words, they really see me coming.

So, on to the clothing discussion. I mentioned that I dress in plainish looking clothes. I do this since I want to encourage anyone and everyone to hop on a bike to get where they want to go. To the rest of the non-biking world, dressing up like superman really is not appealing. But if they see someone day in, day out riding in a button down shirt and shorts or pants, maybe they could dust off their bike and give it a go. I can dream, can't I?

So for 60°+ I wear short sleeve button down shirt, made of a polyester/cotton blend since cotton doesn't breath at all once soaked in sweat. For shorts, I wear, um, shorts also made of a polyester/cotton blend. I used to always wear bike shorts under them, but what's the point for 3 miles? Less wear and tear on the expensive bike stuff is a good thing. Now I just wear some boxer briefs

For 50-60° I may add a cycling cap under the helmet or a long sleeve button down, but it generally has to be a North wind and cloudy.

Now in the 40s is when you start adding layers. Upper 40s means a short sleeve base layer under a long sleeve button down shirt. For the legs, I'll generally wear some knickers that cover the knees until it gets down to the 30s - then I go with some light cotton pants that look kinda like tan scrubs. Lower 40s and below is what I consider cold requires the black arts that Mark had mentioned. It mostly comes down to your core at this point so what you wear between your knees and your neck is vital.

My example of the black arts is as follows: yesterday when I rode into work at 10:30am it was 38° with a 5-10 mph North wind and lots of clouds/no sun. I left my cycling cap off and I wore a lighter weight short sleeve base layer under my long sleeve button down since hey, it was near 40°. I was FROZEN by the time I got to work. My wool glove covered hands could barely move since my core was desperately hoarding heat. After that experience, I over compensated this morning. It was 34° so I dressed much warmer with a long sleeve wool base layer under my long sleeve button down and a cycling cap to keep my head toasty. I was purdy schweaty when I pulled up to my building since the sun was out and there was a light South wind. So even though I could see my breath this morning at 34° unlike yesterday's 38°, it was much colder yesterday. Again, it's all in the black arts. I probably would have been perfect both days had I just swapped layering setups.

I haven't gotten to the low 30s and into the 20s, but it's coming. Plus this post is already stretching it, even from Munson rambling perspective.

In other news - Things I'm going to miss that I'm really not happy about - this evening's 6:30pm neighborhood association meeting discussing the lane diet on Leavenworth. I work till 8pm, but would love to support the lane diet all up and down Leavenworth. Also, this weekend is the Lincoln cyclocross races. I'm going to miss the shenanigans on Hooligan hill. If you can make it, racing or just watching, I'd highly recommend it. I'm also going to miss the Ladies' and Gentlemens' ride on Sunday. It ends right by my house. But I'll be with my family having lunch with my piano teacher who's in her mid 90's.


Chris G. said...

I must run hot. My commute is 5 miles and I've been doing it in dress pants, shoes, and a shirt and tie. In the morning, I add a jacket, but these 50 degree afternoon/evenings have been too warm for the jacket. When it's 30-ish, I wear an ear warmer thing under the helmet. I also use Gavia gloves as needed.

When the evenings were in the upper 50's and 60's, I'd get pretty warm in my shirt and tie. But my evening commute is up hill.

munsoned said...

Yeah, another caveat I should also add is that this cooler weather has started in November just as my work schedule changed to 11am to 8pm. So in the morning, it's still not really warme yet and in the evening is about the same temp, but without the sun. So both of my commutes will be about the same.

One of my biggest hurdles is deciding how I want to feel during my commute, since it takes me all of 15 minutes. The old saying, start your ride cool so you can be comfortable after you warm up doesn't apply to my short ride. So basically I can either be cold the whole ride, or be sweaty by the time I get there.

Maybe I should try doing jumping jacks before I hop on the bike to be warmed up before I ride? Or maybe a short bout of push-ups and other calisthenics since that would do a body good anyway?

brady said...

Good post Munson.

In cold weather, the "feels like" temperature is far more important than the real temperature. Dress according to that mark and you'll be more happy on the bike.

Hey thanks for reminding me about the blinky light on the spokes. I forgot about that one.

erik said...

+1 for regular clothes, a good way to go.

Ben Wiz said...

A 7am ride in and a 6pm ride home makes the temp about the same for me on these colder days.
I think its also worth noting that trail riding 'feels' colder than street riding and that wind and direction make a huge difference. Also, while 5 deg may not feel like much when its 75 out, you can really feel an extra 5 degrees when its only 25 out.

Shameless plug: More info on my clothing guide: