Saturday, December 08, 2007

Test Ride in the Cold

Snowy Sunrise
Snowy Sunrise

Since I've committed to riding to work on my first work day of 2008, I thought I should try out my cold weather gear ahead of the day. With a required trip to campus to pick up a University vehicle (conference in Chicago), today seemed like a good day for a test ride.

The route was nothing special - a little jaunt around the campus and through the downtown areas of Lafayette and West Lafayette. Temperatures were hovering just above freezing and the winds were light. We haven't had snow in a couple of days, so the only snow or ice conditions I encountered were on my cul-de-sac. My little skinny tired road bike handled the trip with grace and dependability. If conditions are snowy, I'll likely use my normal commuter bike (or maybe my son's bike).

On my way around West Lafayette, I purposefully avoided the Cattail Trail, since I expected it to be snow covered and icy. However, to my surprise, I found the path to be cleared and ready for use. Let's give a gold star to the City of West Lafayette - probably the Parks Dept.! The bike lanes along Salisbury Street hadn't fared so well. With piles of snow pushed from the street and from driveways, and forgotten piles of leaves frozen in place, they were useless. I'm taking the star back!

Lindberg Road
Multi-Use Trail Near Celery Bog

Here's what I wore:
My headband sporting a Purdue logo covered my ears and forehead quite well. Unfortunately, the exposed top of my head really felt the cold - especially down the first hill. Even after I warmed up later in the ride, I could still feel the effects of the cold air. I have a helmet liner, which is basically a Thinsulate© version of a swim cap, but the one time I wore it my head was dripping sweat after 15 minutes. It's going to have to be pretty cold for that to be useful.

Although I didn't see any other cyclists on this ride, I did pull up next to a scooter rider at a stop light. Along with his snow suit, he was rockin' the full face ski mask - accessorized with a lit cigarette sticking through the mouth hole. Quite a look!
I never have much trouble keeping my body warm, and today was no exception. My layers consisted of an athletic undershirt (compression shirt?), a long sleeve heavy jersey, and a wind breaker. After climbing the second hill, I had to unzip the jacket and I was wishing for arm vents (although I cooled off quickly when I stopped). I could add another jersey layer if it's really cold.
In lieu of any cold weather cycling gloves, I grabbed my leather driving gloves with the sheep's wool lining. They look good with my dress coat, and work well for chilly cycling. No problems.
Layers again, with my cycling tights covered with a pair of athletic pants from Dick's Sporting Goods. They're not sweats, and also not part of a wind suit (at least I don't think so), so maybe we can say 'warm up pants'. Anyway, this combo didn't block the wind entirely, and my knees were a little cold at the start, but I quickly got comfortable.
Here's where I need help. The usual white cotton socks and Wally World sneakers are pretty much all I have to work with. (I know, I should get real bike shoes, but I can't find any in wide width. Sure, I've seen some articles that talk about a certain line 'running a little wide', but I'm not ready to take that gamble. If you know of any, let me know.) My other choice would be my snow boots. As expected, my toes were cold after about 45 minutes.
Overall, I think things went pretty well. On the short ride to my office, the biggest problem I'll have will be keeping my head warm without cooking my brain. Depending on the length of the ride, my feet will be the next trouble spot.

All-in-all, it was a good ride.

Miles Ridden: 14.6


Blogger Noah said...

I'll tell you the same thing I told Michael when he had cold feet. Layers of socks. Or warm wool socks. Or layers of warm wool socks! For shoes in winter, I wear tennis shoes. The only thing I do is layer up on socks. If it's wet, you can use plastic grocery bags in your shoes to keep your socks dry. Wearing wool as your first layer will wick the moisture away so you don't steam your feet.

I really mix up how I do socks. I only have two pair of woolies. My feet get chilly at work, so I usually cheat and wear thicker black athletic socks under my dress shoes. What the corporate lemmings don't know won't hurt them. Double them up, and I'm usually all set to 15 degrees. Of course, temperature sensitivity varies between people.

I didn't keep track of your riding last winter, but it sounds like you're stepping it up a bit? Regardless, sounds like you're getting prepared for First Tracks '08 :P

12:37 AM  
Anonymous Bone said...

You can get Lake MX90s in wide width. I have a pair, and I like them.

Lake makes other models in wide widths too. The MXZ302-X (crazy winter cycling boot) comes in wide.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Apertome said...

"Real" cycling shoes aren't good for cold weather riding (unless you have those crazy Lake boots). I agree with Noah -- wool socks are where it's at. They're great and while they can be expensive, it's worth it. I got mine at Dick's ... they're intended for hiking but they're great on the bike too.

That said, Sarah got me some shoe covers and I tried them yesterday. My feet stayed warm the whole ride, but it was 40 degrees, so I'll have to see how they fare in colder weather.

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Benji said...

Like others, I do not use bicycle shoes. I wear Merrell Chameleon Stretch shoes (I believe that's the name). They are moderately water proof and they keep my feet warm. I pair these with layers of socks. Obviously new, water resistant/proof shoes are not necessary but layering socks is certainly the way to go.

I buy wool socks from places like Dick's Sporting Goods, Wal-Mart, or Target. If you want Merrell shoes you can go to the Lafayette mall and there is a store called Mosser's Florsheim. I have no affiliation with them, I am just a happy customer.

11:18 AM  
Blogger steve said...

I wear two pairs of wool socks and winter boots. When it's starting to get cold (below -10C or so) I put plastic bags over the socks - I don't find my feet really get all that wet as a result, and it does a great job keeping them warm.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Jett said...

You guys are talking about snow and 15 degrees and I was wearing shorts and a thin short-sleeve today. It was still in the 60s after the sun had gone down, and reached 80 yesterday.

We'll get our cold. It's normally in the 40s this time of year with a few days below freezing in December.

Definitely look into riding shoes. Regardless of the cold, the stiffer soles alone are worth it in pedaling efficiency.

As you can guess, I don't have much advice about riding in the cold. If and when it gets cold, I get cold too.

10:05 PM  
Blogger frankdog said...

Hey Dan.. surfed across your page, good stuff. I've been cycling to work most days this winter so far, up here in Whitehorse, Yukon. Anyhow, here's some info I found interesting..


1:42 PM  
Blogger skip said...

Oh sweet glorious chilly rides to work. It's the early morning (before dawn) rides that make me wonder what I'm even doing.

Good job and good luck in 2008.

11:09 PM  
Anonymous John said...

Hi Dan. I do my biking as simply as possible here in Calgary, Canada. For 10 to 30 degrees I put an old pair of cotton socks over the outside toe area of my Nikes. It keeps my toes warm. For -30 to 10 degrees I use a neoprene boot cover so my entire foot is protected. For colder than -30 I prefer a warm fireplace and a convincing sick note.

10:50 PM  
Blogger fridrix said...

Dude. Get some wool socks. You can wear sandals with them if you want.

10:19 PM  

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