Commuting during the winter time?

Discussion in 'Commuting and Road Safety' started by Steve7, Sep 12, 2011.

  1. Steve7

    Steve7 New Member

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    I'm just getting started on commuting to and from work. My concerns are that the winter time will be much more challenging than other seasons.

    Do you commute during the winter time or does the weather in your area not allow you to?

    Here in N.M. it gets to the low 30's or so usually, but with being out of shape I'm hoping to get into shape before the temperature starts to drop.
     
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  2. davereo

    davereo Well-Known Member

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    Low 30's is not that hard to deal with. I ride during the winter months in New England and light layers are all you need. A decent windstopper jacket over a long sleeve jersey. Full lenght tights over cycling shorts work well. If it warms up you can remove the tights. Skull cap worn under your helmet will keep your head nice and warm. I use snowboarding gloves for my hands . Feet are a little tricky I have a hard time regulating my feet temp using cycling shoes. I refuse to pay over 200 bucks for winter shoes so have played around with different socks and layers. This year I am swapping my mountain bike pedals onto my road bike and try riding with my mountain bike shoes which are like heavy sneakers. Hopefully this helps. The key is light layers.
     
  3. Moto700

    Moto700 Member

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    /img/vbsmilies/smilies/icon14.gif/img/vbsmilies/smilies/icon14.gif Layers is the key. You can always take things off rather then put things on. Remember also that your core body temp will rise along the ride. That causes you to sweat and the sweat will cause you to chill. I always prefer to be a little cool on my rides rather than sweat under layers.
     
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  4. Beersk

    Beersk New Member

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    Low 30's is no problem at all. A good shell with wind proofing is key. I live in Iowa where it gets below zero and I still ride everyday, unless there's an ice storm or a blizzard. In that case, I stay home, just like most of my other coworkers do also.
    I don't start wearing my balaclava until it gets below about 20, so you wouldn't have to worry about that. You don't need tights, you don't need chamois, or longsleeve jerseys, blah blah blah. What a gimmick. For low 30's, maybe some long underwear under your jeans/pants, wool socks with your cycling shoes, and a good windproof coat. Lobster claws work well for the hands, but mine get pretty warm above freezing with those. Dress slightly lighter than you think you need. You shouldn't be warm and cozy out the door, that's a good way to overheat and sweat a bunch under your clothes. You should be just a little chilly right away when you get on your bike. Trust me, you'll warm up quick.
     
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  5. Steve7

    Steve7 New Member

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    Awesome, great advice thanks all
     
  6. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    Despite the myopic and misinformed claims of tights or cycling clothing use being a "gimmick", what you wear and what will work best depend on the length of your ride, the nature of your ride (hard, fast, slow, easy, and etc), and how you deal with the elements. What you wear at work may also be dependent on the facilities available at work. If your rides to work are fast, long, or part of your training, then it's pretty damned likely that cycling kit will function the best. A bonus to having the cold weather cycling kit, and another nail in the coffin of insipid "gimmick" claims, is that cycling kit can of course be used for riding places other than work, like long rides or fast rides on the weekend. On faster rides or rides where there's significant exertion, cycling clothing will manage moisture better than street clothes. If your workplace is configured such that it's not possible or is difficult to change between cycling kit and work clothes....well....you may not have option of even considering cycling clothes.

    If you describe your ride to work more--length and how you plan to ride (casually, hard, and etc)--as well us what the rest of your cycling is like, people might be able to make better suggestions.
     
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  7. AlanG

    AlanG Member

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    I was hesitant to reply because this really depends on the person, speed, the commute, and the weather. Alienator and others have given a lot of info and I am only adding my own specific approach that may or may not work for you. If you ride at a fast speed you may start out cold but warm up pretty quickly. I rode all last winter on a 7.5 mile (each way) commute that is mostly packed gravel. I road in the rain, cold, snow. I'm an avid skier and am used to being active on cold mountains in the winter so I may be more acclimated than some. I find riding on cold days to be very exhilarating.

    On coldish rainy days, I wore a GoreTex skiing shell, with GoreTex pants that cover shorts or cycling tights. I also have a rainproof cover for my helmet and waterproof insulated winter biking shoes. On really cold days, I first started out with a heavier insulated skiing jacket and found myself sweating too much because I ride pretty quickly. I finally settled on wearing a long sleeve polypropylene undershirt, covered by a long sleeve biking shirt, and the same skiing shell. I wear a headband which keeps my ears warm and also have used a Balaclava a few times on really bitterly cold and windy days. I generally wear just winter biking tights on my legs but occasionally I have covered them with a pair of nylon sports pants. I wear thick wool socks and use my skiing gloves. I really don't have too much problem with my feet getting cold on this commute so I can do it with MTB shoes and neoprene covers. But on very cold days on longer rides my toes will get cold and the winter cycling shoes help. I think if your legs are cold you could try a pair of polypropylene long underwear over biking shorts followed by heavyweight winter biking tights. (I prefer biking tights without a chamois and wear shorts under them.)

    I do agree with Alienator that the best gear (especially tights) is probably the stuff designed for cycling. If you don't want to buy biking tights you could use long underwear and some kind of athletic pants over them if you don't mind the extra material flapping and strap the leg off from getting caught in the chain. You could probably improvise on some other things too. While I do sometimes use a Gore Windstopper (non-GoreTex model) biking jacket - which is excellent and generally warm enough when layered, I like having the pockets and hood from my skiing shell which is also bit warmer and dryer. With a little trial and error you can get it down so you will be comfortable enough and arrive at work without being sweaty.

    I have very good lights as the trail I ride is pitch dark after 5 in the winter and also carry a small extra light that I can use as either an emergency headlight if the good one dies or as a flashlight if I need it. I also bring along a sweater or jacket liner in case I break down and have to walk a distance or fix something.
     
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  8. Steve7

    Steve7 New Member

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    Wow, tons of great info here thanks to all who offered advice.

    Just to give more background on what I'll be doing: my commute will be about 20 miles each way. About half of that will be on a bike trail that is right next to a river. I plan on giving myself about 2 hours to get to work at first until I get used to it and because I like having the extra time just in case.

    At work I'll have time to change or to keep extra clothes. I can put it in my office and use the bathrooms to change. There are no showers or anything like that but I do have plenty of room to keep clothes or to change when I get to work.

    Is riding in work clothes strongly suggested against or is it possible with clothes underneath? After reading this thread I'm a little worried about getting a pant leg caught or something.
     
  9. davereo

    davereo Well-Known Member

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    If you have room to change you should change. Be kind to your co-workers. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/rolleyes.gif
     
  10. AlanG

    AlanG Member

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    Riding 20 miles each way in work clothes will probably not be a very good idea unless you ride quite slowly and don't perspire much. Even then they probably won't be comfortable and may not be warm enough or waterproof in the rain. And even if you have good fenders, your pants might get dirty if there are muddy puddles any of the days. Go try 20 miles in your typical work clothes and see how they do. Definitely use pants clips on your right leg unless you have some kind of chain guard. Watch your shoe laces too. I road in sneakers today on a mountain bike and got a lace chewed up in the chain.

    There is a blog called "Cycle Jerk" written by a commuter who rides some of my route. Here he writes about Marino wool http://cyclejerk.blogspot.com/2010/10/product-review-my-first-week-in-merino.html
    There is some info on his site that might be useful to you if you can pick your way back through some of his older posts. Here is how he deals with wet clothes in his office and cleaning up before work. http://cyclejerk.blogspot.com/2010/09/swimming-to-work.html
     
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  11. Beersk

    Beersk New Member

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    Dude, I know all about it. It's not necessary. If you're riding 20 miles in 30 degree weather and sweating a whole bunch, you are over dressed. You're riding a bike, you're going to have to deal with sweating some, it's part of the lifestyle of biking everywhere. I try to merge my lifestyle as a cyclist who doesn't own a car with someone who drives a car as much as possible. I show up to work in my regular clothes, I ride anywhere I go in regular clothes. The only time it's ever a problem is when it's really hot out, in which case no matter what I'm wearing, it sucks. In that kind of weather, you just have to ride easier, which you probably should anyway.
    But we're talking about riding in mild winter weather. Not a problem. If you dress light enough, you shouldn't sweat much. 30's up to the 50's weather is great for good hard riding without getting too thirsty or sweating buckets.
     
  12. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    That's your experience, which apparently is not the experience of everyone. Clearly you did not read what I said about how a person rides to work (as part of training, casually) because someone incorporating their ride to work as part of their training is likely to sweat one a 20 mile ride to work. Likewise your claims about how certain environmental conditions determine a specific level of thirst are completely ill-informed: they don't account for differences in metabolism or other physiological factors, and once again they assume that everyone rides to work like you. Believe it or not, the majority of cyclists don't live where you live and may not pedal to work exactly as you do. Yes, it's a strange concept, but it is one that most people can grasp pretty easily. The only thing that is certain is that whatever applies to you, applies to you. That's as much as you can assume about anyone else's ride to work, comfort on their to work, or any other parameter of said ride to work.
     
  13. Beersk

    Beersk New Member

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    Really? You don't sweat as much, you don't get as thirsty, thus you don't need to drink as much water. I wasn't saying you didn't need to drink ANY water, just not as much.

    I understand you're saying what applies to me, applies to me...blahblahblah, but it also is tried and true advice from experiences of the years of commuting. Dress lighter than you think you need, you are creating body heat as you ride, so if you're comfortable and warm out the door, you're going to sweat buckets. By all means, get your hands and feel cozy warm before leaving though. Just not your core, that'll heat up pretty quick on it's own. That's why a windproof shell is great, keeps the wind off you while your heat stays in.
     
  14. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    How truly amazing. Obviously you're nearly the only person on the forum with "experiences from years of commuting." Clearly, that qualifies you, in your mind, to think that you know what is best for every cyclist who is commuting. Obviously. Everyone clearly has needs exactly like yours when commuting.

    Of course the reality is that your view of commuting is narrow and only reflects your experience, while others--many in fact--understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to what is best for a commute or for a commuting cyclist.
     
  15. whuppingboy

    whuppingboy New Member

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    If you live in England then you get used to the howling wind and driving rain through winter..........autumn........spring............................yes and even summer has had its moments this year.
    My thinking on it is this:
    Dont look out of the window before you get ready, its too easy to get in the car if its crap weather.
    If its really bad then make sure you got lights and be as careful as possible, (stopping times are longer in the rain).
    During the ride it is pants, but after i feel a sense of acheivement when i arrive and its over.

    Last year my riding buddies called me a fairweather cyclist, this got me that bad i have ridden all year whatever the weather and have enjoyed it immensely. I started to do it to prove a point i wasn't a fairweather woofta but now i enjoy the changing weather and will ride whatever its like outside.
    Go for it.
     
  16. Beersk

    Beersk New Member

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    You seem somehow offended by my advice. Take it with a grain of salt, guy. Which is what you're saying we should all do, but you are not. The way I see it is commuting is a healthy way to get from point A to point B. It isn't a training ride, it isn't an all out sweatfest, it's getting to your destination in a presentable and timely manner while saving money, getting exercise, and slowing the pace of life a little. It's a lifestyle. Personally I don't care for "looking the part" or looking like a cyclist. I like the fact that I look like a normal dude on a bike, not some effin' guy wearing a kit all jacked out on high vis. Do what you want, but I will not conform to the typical commuter "style", whatever the kind of guy you're trying to present. It's practicality with functionality. You seem only about functionality. Where as, it's not entirely practical to wear a full kit unless you're training, in my opinion. Even then, it's not entirely necessary.
    A 20 mile ride is pretty long for a commute, but he's not doing all 20, he said.
     
  17. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    Ah, but wait: you are the master commuter who insisted what was necessary and unnecessary for someone else's commute. You didn't appear at all to acknowledge that a commute for one person might be entirely different--in intent, in character, in intensity, and so on--than your stated parameters for a commute. It seems there were others, me included, who suggested that what was needed on a given commute was dependent on more than just a single idea of a commute, that what was needed was dependent on what a given commute was to someone else, on how they tolerated weather conditions, and many other factors. In fact, only one person was insisting that only one type of clothing needed to be worn. That person was, uhm, you. Neither I nor anyone else said that only cycling clothing should be worn.

    It's pretty obvious that you have little respect for those commuters and perhaps ridders in general given your statement "...not some effin' guy wearing a kit all jacked out on high vis." Interesting. Obviously you must be able to read the minds of those elfin' guys and exactly devine what their motivations are, what with your ability to make such razor sharp observations.
     
  18. Beersk

    Beersk New Member

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    You're right, I don't, nor do I have to. Good day.
     
  19. bobnuttall

    bobnuttall New Member

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    I never thought i would become one of these people but could you please take a sec to fill out my survey!? I need it for my degree project in industrial design....would REALLY appreciate it! cheers!!!

    http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/T9K93DJ
     
  20. Froze

    Froze Well-Known Member

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    Where I live I don't commute or ride the bike outside in the winter. The cold I could handle if I really wanted too, but riding on snow and ice not so much. I could ride in to work in the morning with no concern about snow or ice, but by the time I need to go home it could be badly snowing or iced up or the wind just howling, so I just don't bother. I'll ride that incredibly boring trainer instead.
     
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