Monday, March 12, 2012

Transitional Weather

Transitional Weather
Last week we had our first real day of spring. The sun had that special gentle quality to it and overnight an army of crocuses tore through blankets of dried leaves. All around nature seemed to be smiling. Riding my bike in a skirt, tights, long sleeve top and wool blazer, I was pretty comfortable in the 56°F temperature. And I was also amazed how many cyclists I saw out in t-shirts and shorts!

When finally it is warm and sunny after a long winter, it's tempting to dress as if it is summer. But with the transitional weather in March and April, this is also the time of the year a lot of people tend to get sick. After all, 50-60°F is not really that balmy. And even with the kinder temperatures, Spring (in New England at least) tends to be windy - and the wind hits cyclists directly in the face and chest with more force than it does pedestrians.

Wool Blazer
It took me a while to find a comfortable balance dressing for Spring's faux warmth, but after a couple of years I've more or less settled on a system. The trick for me is to keep it light, but windproof in the torso and to keep my neck covered. I find windbreakers too casual for everyday wear, and I also tend to sweat in them. But I like lightweight wool blazers and thin (unlined) trench coats. They are breathable, and the fabric is dense enough to protect from the wind without being too heavy. 

My eyes are sensitive to the sun and wind, and Spring brings a powerful mixture of both. On the bike, my sunglasses pretty much stay on most of the time and I smear moisturiser or vaseline around my eyes on windy days. 

Silk Scarf
As far as keeping my neck covered, lightweight silk scarves work well once big wool scarves get too warm and bulky. They also fold up very small if it gets too hot for them in the middle of the day. Recently a friend introduced me to the amazing world of inexpensive "cowboy" scarves. She has a collection of silk scarves in every colour and pattern imaginable, and she buys them from these online cowboy stores for like $20 each. Done! 

Dressing for work on the bike can be tricky in the springtime, and of course different strategies will work for different people. I don't like being too hot or too cold, but I also don't want to stuff my pannier with pounds of "just in case" layers when I leave the house, so I like a system without too much bulk. What's your method of dressing for transitional weather? 

56 comments:

  1. Wool blazers have become my spring uniform for exactly this reason. Even with the warmest wool sweater, when I am biking the wind goes right through it and chills me to the bone. Brrr.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think the whole cold air making people sick thing has (supposedly) been debunked.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cold air in itself doesn't make people sick and I am not suggesting that it does. But it's a little more complicated than that.

      Delete
    2. not a Doc but play one on TVMarch 12, 2012 at 11:27 AM

      Being cold lowers the immune system, which makes you more susceptible to viruses once you get indoors. This is the origin of the misconception that cold air makes you sick.

      Delete
    3. "Being cold lowers the immune system"

      Actually, I believe that's what supposedly has been debunked. It's my understanding that viruses to move more easily through colder air, and we come into contact with more germs when we're trapped indoors with others avoiding the cold; but it's the notion that the cold lowers our immune system, or that the number of layers one wears protects him or herself from the cold, that doctors today believe to be false.

      Delete
    4. Being cold does lower the immune system as it forces your body to allocate crucial internal resources to the warming of your body. You start shivering, all your blood starts concentrating in the vital triangle etc. This is a great open door for viruses that take your system over.

      While viruses become a tad more active when it is cold, that is NOT the reason we catch cold. Otherwise, people would get more sick in the winter which is NOT the case. People catch the most colds in Spring and Fall. That's because those are the seasons in which we are not always properly dressed: we always under/over estimate the temperature (we try to drag summer into fall and pull summer into spring) while in the winter we dress constistantly.

      Delete
    5. @Montrealize I'd like to know what evidence there is that people do not get more sick in the winter. Is flu season a myth?

      Delete
    6. I'm just going to stop. Everyone just keeps coming into the thread in adding more wrong information; and honestly, I may be just as guilty as the rest of you.

      Delete
    7. Right, this is why I didn't want to get into it.

      In medicine, like in science, it is not as simple as "debunking" something in one fell swoop; cause and effect relationships are very difficult to tease out. So when something is "debunked," it's something specific about the causality, but not the gist of the thing. We do not know why exactly some people tend to get sick after they underdress for the whether. It is likely not the cold air in itself; it is likely something complicated. But it's something.

      Delete
  3. My grandmother, a former southern belle, taught me the vaseline around the eyes trick. Works like a charm! What moisturizers do you use?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My skin is very sensitive and I get chemical burn from most moisturisers, drug store and designer alike. When I can afford it, I use Dr Hauschka - the Quince and Rose both work well for me and last all day. When I can't afford it, it's vaseline, b/c other moisturisers wreak havoc on my skin.

      Delete
    2. I'm certainly no southern belle (he said, snarling misanthropically into his grizzled beard) but I am curious about the Vaseline: what does it do? By any chance does it help keep dust and pollen from the eyes? I ask because out here (ABQ, NM) in the high desert spring winds, my eyes suffer from serious itching after rides; and I'd prefer to avoid the hassle of sunglasses.

      Delete
    3. Vanicream was recently featured in the WSJ as a moisturizer for sensitive skin--recommended by dermatologists and it's cheap.

      Product here:
      http://preview.tinyurl.com/6rk5z6x

      Article here:
      http://tinyurl.com/6vfngj4

      Delete
    4. "I'm certainly no southern belle (he said, snarling misanthropically into his grizzled beard) but I am curious about the Vaseline"

      Filed under "potential opening lines for my novel"

      Delete
    5. V

      (shameless promotion coming)

      You can learn to make your own creams. Find any herbalism school around you and you'll be surprised to see you can make your very own affordable skincare with top quality organic raw materials. You'll outdo all the Dr. Hauschkas in no time, I promise!

      Delete
    6. The recipes I've heard/read about have been greasy and made my face break out, but they were through friends and not a herbalism school.

      I don't get what the shameless self promotion is - do you mean that you make face creams yourself? Would love to hear about it.

      Delete
    7. Actually I was promoting herbalism which I practice. So yes I do make my own creams and I do formulate for my patients.
      That's the reason I was recomending going to a Herbalism School: they always offer general purpose classes among which "Make your own creams" is a classic.
      The point is you actually learn how to make (fabricate) and formulate your own skincare. You lean about the different oils and butters, what they do to your skin (you'd be surprise how different they are and how some oils actually dry your skin up). Same with the emulsifiers, the essential oils etc.
      So you can cook up a formula for your OWN skin, with you own chosen ingredients, top quality, organic etc. You can make at home ANY cream you want once you understand how they work and believe me, they are nothing but elaborate mayonnaise (I am serious).

      I don't live in the US so I cannot recommand anything but there sure is an organisation (guild or society) that can point you to such a school. Worse comes worse a qualify herbalist with formulate for you but it is worth to learn for yourself, you know, idependance...

      Delete
    8. I want to add:
      Once you know the technique, you can simply replicate the Dr. Hauschka creams that have worked for you. The ingredients are written on the box. You'd figure the proportions in no time to get the consistency you want.

      Delete
    9. Thanks M, I am going to look into it... and I believe mayonnaise may actually have been involved in the cream I've made in the past!

      Delete
  4. Now I am of course very interesed to know the name of the cowboy store you mentioned. My wardrobe lacks inexpensive silk scarves :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I got mine from here. But there are loads of these places.

      Delete
    2. What a cool idea!

      Delete
  5. Agree big time on moisturizer.

    Cooler air holds less water. Even a relatively short spring ride I get windburn if I do not slather on the lotion big time.

    What are the ocean breezes like in Boston area this time of the year? Spring through early summer close to Lake Michigan can be signficantly more cool and windy than inland. Almost have to dress for two seasons if the ride alternates near and away from the Lake.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I wear thermal cotton long johns (by themselves) and the same for the top. Then I wear a waterproof sporty jacket, a toque, and mittens!
    I'll probably bike home with my jacket unzipped..it's going from +1C to +10C today!

    Hopefully all the frozen ice and snow I encountered on my way in will be gone...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For me, cotton base layers on the bike = wet rag against my skin. I love the feel of cotton, but had to move to silk and wool once I started cycling.

      Delete
  7. I have never heard of the vasaline under the eyes; Sure might come in hanfy here in Chicago. I struggle with how to dress for a full day of riding, where it might be 60's when I leave, but will drop into the 30's by the time I'm heading home- LAYERS!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I could be wrong here, but something tells me green is you're favorite color ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can't imagine what would make you think that. Must be those sunglasses.

      Delete
    2. SAGE green ;?)

      Delete
    3. Actually I like sage green, slate blue and dusty lilac pretty much equally, but the former is easiest of the 3 to find. And I hate bright and neon greens, like kelly or lime. So I wouldn't really say green per se is my favourite colour.

      Delete
  9. I don't think cold air makes you sick, but it's very easy to get so thoroughly chilled when the weather goes back and forth like this--it's a terrible feeling and sometimes seems to take hours to shake off.

    My approach to chilly spring days is a few core layers that can be easily shifted once I warm up--cotton, woolly cardigans and a lot of portable bits to keep extremities warm, since those are the parts that take the brunt of the cold! I still have my Ibex hat and gloves on hand, usually in my bag and find on a day like yesterday that I have to adjust every once in a while depending on the wind or sun--such a good feeling to realize that your hands are actually too warm. I'm also a fan of enormous, pashmina-type scarves since they're light to carry,protect your neck and chest but can be flung around your shoulders too if you get really chilly.

    ReplyDelete
  10. PS re use of vaseline: Beware that some believe it is bad for you to use petroleum jelly, so you might want to read up on that. I am okay with vaseline and will take my chances, because at least I have no sensitivity to it like I do to almost everything else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The theory is not about sensetivity, it is more about being harmful for you. All the stuff we apply on the skin goes trough the skin and is absorbed by the body. Just think about how a patch is used instead of pills as a painkiller, nicotine patches, contraseptive patches and so on. My policy is: If you do not want to eat it dont apply it on your skin. It is said (a doctor researched it) to cause arthritis. Jusat sayin.
      badmother

      Delete
    2. Right, I understand that. What I meant was I'll take my chances on the potential harmfulness, because the alternatives are blatantly harmful (sensitivity = chemical burn, scar tissue).

      Delete
  11. It was a pretty nice day yesterday and I went for a nice ride up to Marblehead, but this year at least it's hard to think of the weather as "transitional" when there hasn't been any real winter to transition from.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, we had snow and a few days in the 30s just the other weeek! : )

      Delete
  12. A bit like your silk scarves I find a Buff invaluable. I find them very warm, they can be used around the neck, a face mask, or as a skull cap. And they fold up really small.
    The rest is just layering; although I began to get too hot in my windtop yesterday so it may be time to break out the long sleeved jersey.

    ReplyDelete
  13. $20 silk cowboy scarves... the anti-Rapha? I like it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not anti-Rapha and have a few things from them now that work well for me. But no, I would not buy a $70 silk Rapha scarf... though, to be fair it's dirt cheap in comparison to a $400 Hermes silk scarf!

      Delete
  14. This outfit looks very Swiss/Austrian to me. Did you get the blazer in Vienna?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nope, Anthropology c.2010

      But I know what you mean. I think it's the silk scarf tucked into the blazer thing. No self-respecting Swiss or Austrian would wear clothing this wrinkled though; that's more of a holdover from England.

      Delete
  15. Yep,it sure is (a good potential fro getting sick)...a couple weeks back I was one of those out riding in sorts and T,and I had the head-cold for a solid week before it turned into this chest cold I've suffered for 9 days now :( LOL! :)

    The Disabled Cyclist

    ReplyDelete
  16. Newspaper over the chest to block the wind. Used by racers on mountain descents since forever. Also used by bums on the park bench. It works. Unprinted newspaper in 10# bundles from movers supply house won't get ink on your clothes and lasts a long time. Crumple before placing under top jersey or jacket to provide extra insulation, transport moisture, and help keep it in place. Fold up and put in your back pocket or saddlebag when the sun comes out.

    This is seriously un-chic. Have a plan for how you remove and stow the paper at your destination. Even more un-chic: When the weather catches you by surprise you can almost always find something, anything, discarded roadside to protect your chest from the wind.

    A sheet of paper inside the helmet also blocks wind. When really cold you can insert paper into tights over thighs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A small plastic trash bag also does the trick and can double as a cover for your saddle.

      Delete
    2. I once saw a woman cycling in the rain who looked like she was wearing a puritan costume: a long black trash bag worn as a dress with some sort of rope or belt around the waist, and a smaller white trash bag tied around her head like a little hat/bonnet. Wish I could have photographed it, but I just wasn't quick enough on the draw. Looked beautiful though, on her black vintage 3-speed.

      Delete
  17. This is a fun post today. It is always fun and interesting but I just thought I would mention that I like hearing about scarfs and newsprint for insulation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am determined to try the newspaper thing en route to my next meeting! But will it match my blazer?..

      Delete
  18. .....hmm, i trim my winter beard down to a spring beard, keep the smart wool on and debate about gloves or no gloves...:)

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'm with anon above -- just trimmed the beard.

    For the not-sure cold I tend to wear gloves, and maybe keep a thin sock hat handy for my ears. Tend to wear a wool shirt, just because that deals well with both light cold and light sweat. Everything else tends to warm up enough with use.

    Wore clogs-no-socks the other day, my ankles did get a little chilly, but it was not painful.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I often feel a moments pity as I whiz by cyclists struggling on a "granny" bike when its cold outside. One of the advantages of cat6-style utility cycling is that you rarely stay cold for long!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am much more comfortable riding an upright bike in the winter than a roadbike, no need to feel pity I assure you!

      Delete
    2. I have found that in any weather, breathabiity and wicking ability are the two best attributes in cycle clothing. Wool wins hands-down in both categories. The best part is that you really don't have to wear many or heavy layers to stay warm while riding.

      I find that if I have wool next to my skin, I don't have to add or subtract layers very often. Plus, it wicks moisture away. Having a wet layer on your skin in all but warm weather will render other clothing choices meaningless.

      I, too, like to wear blazers when I ride to work at this time of year. (I did that both in my previous and current lives.) I have also found that if my torso is warm enough and protected from the wind, I don't have to wear much else on the rest of my body. I used to wear shorts even in fairly cold weather; now I find that I can ride in fairly light wool trousers or a skirt with tights. With the latter, I'll sometimes wear an additional pair of tights if the weather's cold. But most of the time, I don't need that.

      Delete
  21. Your hair is getting longer and your bangs are growing out! Do you plan to maintain this haircut or let it all grow?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am trying to grow out my bangs, so that I can scoop it all up into one pony tail and never get a haircut again. I hate complicated hair maintenance! The bangs are taking their sweet time to grow out, but hopefully in a few months I'll get there.

      Delete
  22. Surely shorter hair is easier to look after than longer? With the vaseline, does it not feel heavy on the skin? And wouldn't it give the shiny skin look? Most moisturisers give me a breakout, or slightly burn when I apply them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It takes less time to wash, but to my dismay it is not really easier to look after. Before I'd just put it into a bun if I didn't want to bother, but now I can't and it goes in my eyes constantly.

      You don't put the vaseline everywhere, just around the eyes - on that very thin and sensitive skin that surounds the eyes. Should not cause breakouts. Shiny yes, but I can live with that (and wipe it off with a tissue once indoors).

      Delete