Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cold Weather Victories

ANT Bathroom ART
When I saw this poster it made me laugh, reminding me of a street scene from the previous day: A woman bundled up in a shearling coat and hat waited for a taxi, while a cyclist in a long sleeve jersey and tights waited at a red light. The woman looked cold and uncomfortable. The cyclist looked ruddy and relaxed, checking his phone for messages with one unclipped toe on the ground.

In the short time window before the cyclist's light turned green and the woman's taxi arrived, somehow the two ended up in a conversation. As I walked past, I caught bits of their exchange. "But how can you... in the cold?," and so forth. By the time the cyclist replied, I was out of earshot. But whatever it was he said to her, they both laughed that special laugh that rings with anticipation. And when I looked back over my shoulder discreetly (I hope), sure enough the woman had her phone out and it looked like they were exchanging numbers. His light had turned green. Her taxi was waiting. They were on the side of the road smiling. "Stay warm!" I thought I heard him yell when he finally took off on his bike. More laughter.

Briskly walking down the street as I fiddled with my scarf, I experienced a moment of longing for my roadbike, and for my technical layers of cycling clothes! It's just so much nicer to be on the bike in cold weather, I caught myself thinking...

53 comments:

  1. Charmant! People often ask if I am cold. "Aren't you cold?" as if I am just sitting still in a cold arctic blast. Even in the heavy rain if I have all my gear on, it's usually fine. I have poor lady circulation so it's one way to get the blood flowing and warm up-except for my feet. For whatever reason the blood does not reach my feet and have had very white and painful feet after long rides in cold weather. I'd have to be pushing very hard to warm them up. so have taken to wearing winter boots even if it isn't that cold. I don't know what I would do if I was riding clipless. But for the rest of me, I overdress and regret it within minutes and have to take things off. Always a conversation starter, but wish more people would just believe me and ride.
    Because, waiting at the bus stop is cold/freezing/horrible/boring. Especially close to the ocean on cold late november nights! Nobody stops and asks if I am cold and would I like a ride in their nice warm car.(people have offered to drive me home with the bike in back!)

    My mom just sent photos of a park with all the snow in her city, and my first thought was that I would love to ride my bike on the bike paths in the photo! I used to ride in winter snow on those paths so I felt nostalgic.

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  2. Most definitely. I was out riding around (up and down steep hills here in Pittsburgh's Dirty Dozen) Saturday and didn't feel cold at all, except when waiting for everyone to finish trying to ascend the 37% grade Canton Ave. Meanwhile, a friend of mine was at a rally protesting drones, and complained of the bitter cold.

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  3. Absolutely. I was suited up to ride the bike to work this morning when I double-checked schedule and found a re-scheduled meeting I had forgotten about. My commute can be almost two hours each way, so I really need to plan and prepare. My schedule sometimes gets the best of me. This morning had to undress and drive. Was not happy.

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  4. I ride to and from work every day all winter. I also talk a half hour walk at lunch in my work clothes and sweater/coat. Guess when I'm cold?

    Somebody ran a twitter contest recently about the best advice for new bike commuters dealing with the weather. Mine was: "start riding at the time of the year when you are most comfortable doing so, then keep going." You figure the rest out on the way, and it turns out dressing for the cold on a bike isn't too hard at all.

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    1. As a beginner, the gradual transition to winter only helped me so much. The real difference came when I made the switch away from a mostly cotton wardrobe.

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    2. Actually, my winter "regular clothes" wardrobe is all cotton (I love my flannel shirts) with wool or fleece vests or sweaters, but when it gets below 20 or so I add long underwear. I use technical undershirts, but for the bottoms I've actually found cheap flannel pajamas under my pants to be the most comfortable. They're a little bulkier and a little more windproof, and they don't hang up on my legs when I pedal like the combination of cycling tights and regular pants tends to. And when it's that cold I don't generally sweat in them enough for it to be a problem.

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    3. Emily: so cotton under wool above 20F does not cause a soggy/cold problem with the base layer? Or did I misunderstand you? I've tried regular cotton T-shirts under wool jerseys down to about 40-45F for shorter rides, but fear to wear cotton for longer rides lest the T-shirt get soggy, I get cold, and expire in figid agonies from hypothermia along an unfrequented road. OTHO, I don't use an impermeable layer until it gets below 20F, just layers of wool (and in the event, cotton) knits, so perhaps the ventilation will obviate the collection of moisture in the cotton? Any advice welcome.

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    4. I think it just comes down to individual differences. I am miserable riding in the cold wearing cotton base layers, but for others it must not be an issue.

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    5. If it's a "bike ride" I wear the same old synthetic bike clothes that everyone else does.
      For regular clothes, yes, it's cotton on the bottom except for the addition of a technical undershirt when it gets really cold. But otherwise, I like my flannel button-down shirts and they don't need anything underneath most of the time.
      Sometimes I'm sweaty when I get where I'm going, and then I'm often chilly until my shirt dries, but with a wool or fleece vest and maybe some fingerless gloves if necessary, I'm fine until my clothes dry. But there's still nothing like nice cotton flannel for all-day, every-day comfort, if you ask me. :)

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  5. Of course Napoleon was a "big winner" at one point in his career. But that unfortunate invasion of Russia kind of took the wind out of his sails. I'm curious: Was Peugeot having fun by making a tongue-in-cheek comparison? (See? We've compiled more victories than Bonaparte himself!) Or were they trying to make a serious statement about French ingenuity?

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    1. You mean that's not a woman in a fur coat on the poster?..

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    2. I really enjoy old cycling posters, and this is one of the better ones I've seen. (A reproduction?) No doubt the French have trouble coming to grips with their feelings about one of history's most beloved and reviled characters.
      You're right. He does look a bit like a woman in a fur coat taking her mini dog for a walk

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  6. Twenty seven this morning for the commute. Polite conversations at various stop lights, as always, but no phone numbers exchanged :( But, then, I don't have tights and the nasal drip was probably not too sexy, either :)

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  7. Some guys have all the luck. I asked a woman like that on a date once, but she smacked me with her purse.

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  8. Wearing cycling clothes is easier, because it is basically a uniform. Once I figure out what works, I don't need to think about it.

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  9. I have never found men in bike clothing attractive. But I looove to see men biking in suits!

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    1. Two very different looks. I think men can look great in cycling clothes actually. Tall and skinny men have the advantage there. But as with wearing a suit, a lot depends on the cut, colour, how it sits on the body. Cycling clothes are not all the same. And I've seen some terrible-looking suits.

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  10. I finally broke down and bought an actual winter jersey along with some UnderArmor and some thermal bike tights to go over my shorts - got it all used at the thrift store for a few bucks a piece and had the first nice ride of my life in chilly weather. Having wind resistant materials really makes a HUGE difference!

    But my feet are still freezing. I ride with toe clips (contemplating upgrading to clipless, but the though still frightens me...) Anyhow, in warm weather I generally ride with light lace-free tennis shoes, but my feet are getting REALLY cold - any suggestions?

    Plus... how do people keep their ears from freezing? Do you wear a skull cap or some other sort of hat under your helmet?

    Any suggestions for the newbie would be greatly appreciated!
    :-)
    Cat

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    1. You might try shoes that are slightly bigger(clips, clipless, whatever), wool socks and a plastic bag over the sock to keep the wind out. It's my favorite method now and better than the dang near impossible to put on, sweaty hot half the time, $130.00 winter riding boots I wore last year...

      Spindizzy

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    2. I cycled all last winter in tennis shoes and Power Grips, wearing 2 pairs of thin wool socks. My feet only felt cold in sub-20F temps.

      Ears: yes, wool beanie type hat that covers the ears. They also make wool cycling caps with ear flaps.

      Let me know if you need more details than this and I can post some links to products. I am also planning to writ a comprehensive post on both commuting and roadie winter dressing.

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    3. Air movement from wind plus the cyclist's motion is a large factor in chilling, and the feet move relatively faster than the cyclist as they come up over the top of the pedal stroke. It's hard to insulate them practically, but neoprene cycling shoe covers help a lot without impeding pedal motion. I use a windstopper fleece ear band under my helmet when needed for the ears.

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    4. Thanks so much for your thoughts everyone! I think I have one of those ear bands somewhere... perhaps I should try it.

      Also, I thought those neoprene shoe covers only worked with clipless pedals, am I wrong?

      I think bigger shoes with more socks and/or plastic bags would be a good first step - especially since I'm... er... um... kinda cheap! :-)

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    5. re: keeping ears from freezing -> look for "belgian cycling cap".

      I've got one in merino from Swrve that served me well!

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    6. Yup, plastic bags for the feet are a great value (over wool socks) and a balaclava for the face & ears, when it gets really cold (under 30 degrees F).

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    7. Chicago cycle commuter.

      For feet, wool socks under tennis shoes. On exceptionally cold or windy days (of which we had zero last winter in Chicago) I wear Spatz from Rivendell over my shoes.

      I wear rx glasses which present some challenge to head covering fit. For the past four winters I have used 180s occaisionally suplemented with a light weight balaclava.

      Again, with few exceptions the past four winters in Chicago have seen mainly above average temperatures and below average snow fall. If you live somewhere that actually gets winter weather my solutions may not be adequate.

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    8. Sorry for the double post. Forgot to mention that I do not use cycling jerseys or special riding pants commuting.

      Moderate days I wear merino wool base layer under my dress shirt topped with a merino wool sweater. Colder days I have cashmere sweaters which are lighter and warmer than merino. My one vicuna sweater only goes on if temps go below 15 degrees F. My jacket is a Schoeller fabric windbreaker.

      If there is precipitation I wear loose fitting nylon pants over my regular pants.

      The clothes are lightweight and allow easy movement. It takes less than a minute to remove and stuff in my pannier when I arrive at work. Many of my nearby coworkers have no idea that I cycle commute as I am completely corporate casual by the time I make it to my office.

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    9. Thanks guys! I'm in Denver, so we get our fair share of cold weather, although this year has been unseasonably warm and dry. But I work from home, so cycling is recreation and exercise for me... hence, I don't have to ride if it's too cold... just don't want to spend 2-3 months off the bike!

      Y'all reminded me that I do own a pair of neoprene socks that I purchased years ago for caving... they fit under my tennis shoes OK (although a bit snug) so I think I'll give them a try.

      The Belgian cycling caps look wonderful - especially the brim because the setting sun can be downright blinding in these parts. But I'll have to see if I can find one with a ponytail opening!

      Thanks again for all of your suggestions!
      :-)
      Cat

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  11. My dogs seem to be happiest outside when it's below freezing, they tear around the field leaping and rolling around like they've lost their minds. If there's snow they seem to want to get every flake either back into the air or up their noses. When they've run themselves into a goggle-eyed foaming exhaustion they come in and the plump middle aged Border Collie/Guinea Pig mix falls over in front of the woodstove and the scrawny pure-bred sociopath Border Collie lays around by the back door where there's a bit of a draft.

    I'm more like the draft loving one. Who wants to feel like a biscuit in the oven all winter? This is my favorite time of the year at work as long as the boss is gone and I can turn the heat in the shop down, the machines give off enough that I can just go hang out around them for a bit if I want. The furnace is so stupid loud you have to turn the radio up so far that when the thermostat clicks off suddenly Johannes Bach or Terry Gross or David St. Hubbins is screaming in your ear. I prefer to keep the mechanical manipulation of my environment to a minimum and just put on a sweater, seems more like gracious living to me. Anyway, it sucks to roll out the door on your bike for the ride home when it's 30 outside and you've been inside at 72 all afternoon.

    Spindizzy

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    1. Since moving into my current digs in '04, I've gotten by with the thermostat topped out at 60.

      Last year I replaced the Honeywell thermostat with the new fangled super automated Nest http://www.nest.com/

      The Nest allows you to program graduated temps. Middle of the day or deep of night I can drop the temps to 50 then have it gradually warm up to 60 for when I awake or come home. Pretty swell.

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  12. My big secret is to start with very warm hands and feet, running them under hot water for several minutes if necessary. It takes much longer for them to get cold. Sometimes I use some kind of embrocation on my feet too. The right clothes are essential also. You cant beat the comfort of cycling-specific cold-weather clothes for rides of any length. Winter shoes and/or shoe covers, etc.

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  13. Everyone keeps worrying about me riding my bike as it gets colder..are you STILL riding! they day. My bike is in the shop this week for its winter tune-up and I am in my car. When I walked outside to the parking lot last evening after work it was cold, dark, and rainy. I had an overwhelming desire for my bike. I love riding through the night,on cold streets shining with rain water and reflected lights from the city. I was so jealous of the bike riders who I know would be arriving home with their faces stinging from the cold and that secret deep down happiness you get from cycling. Nothing like winter bike commuting.

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  14. Refreshing post to read, even though it pertains to cold weather (ooh, the irony). I am looking forward to riding my bicycle in Ma during the middle-beginning of winter in the next couple of months; this will be a new adventure for me, being a naturalized Floridian. I am looking forward to this new found dare devil like experience, with excitement, thanks to this post.

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  15. We should be edging into the low 80s today in Arizona.

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  16. I know people I've known for ten years who still ask me, when it starts to get cold or snowy, "Did you ride your bicycle in this weather?!?!?" as if I had any other practical option and as if they have ever seen me arrive any other way. Are they expecting me to decide the weather's terrible for cycling, and fly instead?

    If you want to keep your ears warm, have a look at this free downloadable sewing pattern for a cycling cap with ear flaps: http://www.dillpicklegear.com/?p=811
    :)
    It's a fun project, works in a variety of materials, and not too terribly difficult.

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    1. Thanks for sharing this, Emily. Tis, the season for warmth!

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    2. "....Are they expecting me to decide the weather's terrible for cycling, and fly instead?"

      You *do* seem to be a very talented and capable person.
      It might be a mistake to put it past you. ;)

      Thanks for the pattern! Now to go hit the decent fabric store in town for some merino....

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  17. What an imagination! I guess this post keeps the consistent theme of 'for the romance of cycling' going strong. Cyclist being ruddy and relaxed and non cyclist looking uncomfortable and cold--characters defined--anticipation....romance? Maybe...:) I want the next chapter!

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  18. The ending to the story leaves me scratching my head, but maybe that's okay!

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  19. Anon 11:38 and 11:43 - You give me too much credit; this wasn't a fictional story : )

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    1. :) of course not...maybe they knew each other, maybe she wasn't cold and uncomfortable, maybe he was anxiously checking his phone, but your mind created the romantic potential....maybe there's hope between cyclists and non cyclists after all :)

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    2. Wait a minute, are you saying perception is, like, subjective??
      Mind blown.

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    3. i'm saying your posts are entertaining...lovely.

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    4. Thanks, I know - was just trying to make a little joke. Hard to do without smiley faces!

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  20. A useful tip for anyone like me who rides with toe clips and straps is to put duct tape over the front of the cage to keep cold air away from your feet.

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  21. Wow how much fast thoughts are going and how the interpretations are coming. great thinking. i dont have much imagination like this hehe.

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  22. Here in the north-west UK we had our first proper autumn/winter day yesterday. Clear sky and temperatures below zero degrees C - lovely, especially the lack of rain. I did discover though that my bargain cycling gloves (£5 - waterproof and windproof) weren't really up to the job. Time for a thin pair underneath.
    If you can get Sealskinz products in the US they're well worth a look - warm and waterproof socks, gloves, hats etc. Other manufacturers may be available!

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  23. I saw someone go by the house in Dover yesterday morning in shorts!

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  24. What's funny is that people keep saying that stuff to me here in North Carolina, where winter is DEFINITELY not the problem. Yet they don't say it in July. Weird.

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  25. I'm all for the romance of cycling.

    How about secret bicycle relationships anyone? I'm starting to develop a crush on the most charming lady cyclist who passes me almost every day on the trail... and it's driving me crazy. The odd thing is that it happens even when I'm traveling at different times of the day. No matter if it's 9 am or 11 am, Monday or Saturday, she keeps on appearing.

    I said hello with a smile one day, but I don't think it had any effect.

    Then one day I met her going the other direction... so I stopped behind her at a light. I was too shy to say anything or even let her see I was there. I felt like a 3rd grader. I need help! Maybe I'm like a cat who can only chase after the mouse. But it does add fun to my bicycle routine.

    Clearly there is nothing for it but to keep on biking. But I'd do that anyhow. I suppose I like playing cat and mouse... so I guess it'll just keep on.

    Hopeless...

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  26. thanks for sharing.

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  27. Talking about the romance of cycling, I just watched this...

    http://vimeo.com/54507521

    and loved the remark 'it's that initial ten seconds, when I start out and clip in, it doesn't matter what kind of day you're having before that because it just feels good in your heart'.....Oh yes, the romance of cycling!

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  28. This is actually a lot easier on a bicycle than a motorcycle, where you get 70 mph wind chill and no exercise to warm you up.

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