Staying warm while riding long distances in the winter

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Staying warm with layers

Riding in the winter is the Pacific Northwest is really fun. It’s nice to get outside as our winters are very dark and often wet. But when it is cold and you plan to be outside for a few hours in the wind, it pays to put on enough clothes that you can be warm, and comfortable.

This morning it was 37 F (3 C) and foggy here in Seattle, and still dark at 7:45 AM. Hardly a polar vortex, but it was just above freezing, with damp wet air. Bone chilling!  How did I stay warm? For me making sure I have enough core warmth helps make sure that my hands and feet will stay warm. So I layered up.

In the picture above, clockwise from top left Pair of lightly insulated, shell gloves. Just below that are thin wool gloves.

Next a wool cap and/or a balaclava. I wear the balaclava when I start out because I can cover my ears. To the right of that, thick wool ski socks. The thickest that will fit with my cycling shoes. Next, thin rain shoe covers to go over my shoes. This adds a little more warmth and if it rains, you are ready.

Below that, 3 winter weight wool jerseys – all the warm jerseys I own. I opted not to wear a coat since it didn’t look likely to rain. You can shed a layer or two and wear a coat, but I inevitably find that half way through the ride, it’s wet and warm under the coat and you are looking for a place to stop and shed the coat. Multiple sweaters work pretty well. Whatever feels comfortable.

Thick wool cycling knickers are next. If it is really cold, I might add a pair of cycling tights over the knickers. Above the knickers are arm warmers, which I wore under it all with a base layer jersey.

That’s it – and it works well. For multiple hours out riding in the cold, I basically dress as if I were cross country skiing. Enough layers to stay warm once you start working up a sweat, and enough breathability to make sure you aren’t in a self enclosed sauna. I don’t find it pays to barely wear enough to stay warm. That is when my hands and feet get the coldest, and that can be very uncomfortable.

So layer up and get out and ride.

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Partners on the Road

On my way home in the dark the other night I witnessed an altercation between a cyclist and a car that would have been so easily avoided had the cyclist just heeded some of the advice in this article. You don’t need to roll ahead of cars at a light and then get squeezed when they try to pass you right after the intersection. Regardless of who is “right”, as a cyclist you aren’t going to win the fight in a crash with a car. Be careful out there folks.

Off The Beaten Path

L'Eroica

I am always surprised how many cyclists are afraid of cars and their drivers, or have downright animosity to them. I prefer to see drivers as partners in a big game called Traffic.

It starts with the wording: “Share the Road” implies sacrifice. I prefer to think of other road users as “partners” on a team, not competitors fighting for our “share” of a finite amount of road space. After all, we all have a common goal: Keeping traffic flowing smoothly and safely.

Partnership means being aware of each other and communicating clearly. Turn signals indicate our intentions to other traffic. When we approach a “four-way” stop, we can wave a waiting car to proceed before we come to a complete stop. Not only do they get to go earlier, but our wait will be shorter, too.

When a car approaches from behind on a winding country road, we can…

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Thinking about mudflaps

It’s been raining in Seattle lately. A lot. And I have been riding a bike this fall with a new mudflap on my front fender. 

After a week of wet riding, I was really quite surprised how well it works. 

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While my bottom bracket is slightly dirty, it is nothing compared to what is inside the fender. And my chain seems to be pretty fine. It isn’t rusty. It didn’t become dried out. This morning I realized I hadn’t even wiped the chain down and re-lubed it yet. 

I followed Jan Heine’s excellent instructions for creating a simple, inexpensive mudflap. It really works. Your feet will be drier, and your bike and drive train will be cleaner. As we head into the wet riding season here in the Pacific Northwest, this is something to give a try if you haven’t yet. 

Relink to a couple of Jan Heine’s articles on mud-flaps, here and here