24 Degrees and Biking

Post One:  The Inspiration.

First things first, my commute is approximately 7 miles one-way with some minor ups and downs.  Second, my goal is not to arrive at work drenched in sweat as the hot water isn’t so hot.  Third, I bike with a pack on back, its light, but its there.

Dilemma:  It is officially cold outside.  February aka Winter have finally hit the city.  What does the car-free dieter do with these freezing temperatures?  If you guessed master the art of layering, you have won a gold star!  If you are an aspiring bike commuter, like cycling but not the cold, and don’t like spending money for new gear (as much as we all love new gear)…you should read on.

Solution:  It was 24 degrees at 0415 when I left my house, expecting to freeze I layered up.  My legs were covered (in order) light-weight wool capri-length long johns, knee-high ski socks, and my running fall tights.  I don’t own heavy running tights because it never gets that cold in D.C.  On top, sports bra, medium-weight wicking long sleeve shirt, wicking t-shirt, the sleeves from my REI primaloft jacket (but not the vest portion), and my lightweight reflective jacket.  The paws had biking gloves with ski mitts over.  A buff doubled over on my ears and Smart-wool gater on my neck.

Ups:  My hands were toasty hot. I mean they sweated a little.  I have Raynauds aka horrid circulation and my fingers turn white and numb quickly when cold. Hot hands are a blessing.

Downs:  My core was warm! I was expecting to be a little chilly on the commute, but nope. I was warm…dare I say, hot?

Lessons Learned:  I could have done without the t-shirt, and possibly without the sleeves.  Leg layering was a perfect ten as were all the digits!  Gaiter and buff kept me warm and protected.

Summary:  A great commute that was warmer than anticipated.  The great thing with layering is when its 34 degrees for your commute home you simply don’t wear the long-johns, t-shirt, sleeves, and open the reflective jacket a little bit.

Details:  I am a huge fan of REI. I could blog all day about them, but I won’t…yet.

  1. Jacket with removable sleeves and/or hood:  This is an essential for any cold-weather adventurer.  Primaloft aka synthetic down, is durable, keeps you warm when wet, and is a good price alternative to down.  I love this jacket because you can remove the sleeves and have a great vest.  Or, as I learned, wear the sleeves without the vest to keep your arms cold when biking or running.  Yes it sounds odd, but trust me it works.
  2. Running Tights – Use what you have rather than buy 3 kinds of running tights:  My running tights have a sheer spot behind the knee, great for keeping me cool in the 40’s and 50’s, but not so great for freezing weather. Solution? pair them with light-weight wool long-johns, or actual tights.  Personally, wool just keeps me warmer/cooler than silk or synthetic. Do what works best for you. If it was below 0, I would have worn mid-weight full length long-johns.
  3. Ski-socks:  Wool again is ideal for the wicking.  I am using socks that no longer work for skiing, they are just too old to keep my toes warm for 8+ hours, but now have a new lease on life.
  4. Gloves:  Again, ski mitts that were going into retirement as technology got better and I got new ski mitts.  Mine are DaKine, insulated, and fit over my full-finger biking gloves.  25-40 degrees I use ski mitts or gloves, over 40 I can typically get away with my bike gloves, but occasionally my hands will go numb.  I’m guessing 0-25 the dual glove will do wonders.
  5. Reflective Jacket:  I will look up the name of this thing, it is awesome as the ENTIRE jacket is reflective and its not obnoxiously yellow.  Actually its a nice blue although with a somewhat 80s retro feel to it.  It is very light weight and has some wind-breaking power.  When its in the 60s I sweat wearing this half-way open and a t-shirt.  It is a great running jacket too. Since I commute when its dark, reflection and safety are my priorities.
  6. Eye-Pro:  Since its really cold, its dark, and in the evenings there are headlights to deal with, I bike with plastic yellow-lenses.  You can buy range/shooting lenses that come in oranges, yellows, and clear.  I’m sure cycle shops have something similar.  The yellow makes it easy to see in the dark while still muting a little bit of those harsh headlights.  If you don’t deal with headlights you could go with clear, but having some eye pro is nice and helps eliminate the “damn its cold” eye tears.

Happy Trails and ride safe!

Caribou out.