Baby its cold outside

Studded tires are mandatory for this route.

…but I’m still riding my bike and feeling pretty comfortable.   Monday it was in the single digits actual temperature when I left for my 7 mile commute to work.  From bottom to top, here is what I wore:

Feet: LL Bean side zip boots that look enough like shoe boots so I can wear them to meetings at work. I love my Columbia wool ski socks.  They go up over the tops of my calves which keeps my legs almost as warm as long-johns, but I don’t sweat during the day in the office.

Lower torso: I wore some black moleskin pants because they are really warm and pretty wind resistant. As I mentioned, I skipped the long underwear because it is too hot in my office to wear it all day.  Just in case my pants and long socks were not warm enough, I brought along my rain pants, but they stayed in my panniers both ways on my commute today.

Upper torso: Black cotton turtleneck under anthracite grey wool/acrylic cardigan.  I prefer wool as a base layer, but it is getting hard to find wool turtlenecks in my price range. For my outer layer I choose my santa-red Swrve Milwaukee Hoodie soft shell for a jacket.  It has really large pit zips, and ventilation is key to staying warm while riding.  If I sweat and then get cold (especially in cotton), I have a hard time warming up the rest of the day. 

Head: I started with a classic hunter inspired red plaid cap by Cognition of Madison with my santa hat over it, both for extra warmth, and because I’ve got leftover holiday cheer from the Santa Cycle Rampage Saturday. Around my neck I wore a turtle fur neck gaitor.  Not as stylish as a scarf, but they do a much better job keeping my neck warm and I can pull them over my ears and mouth if necessary.

Hands:  My fingers are my Achilles heel. They get cold even in pretty mild weather.  I have found that mittens are the only solution for me.  I wore a pair of heavy snowboard mitts with removable liners and lanyards.  Removable liners are key in case my hands sweat.  Nothing worse than riding home in soggy mittens when it is 10 degrees out.  I am sold on mitts with lanyards because they allow me to pull off a mitt to adjust other clothing or take a photo without dropping the mitten.

That was my recipe for a warm commute today.  Tomorrow should be just as cold, but I’m going to go a slightly different tactical direction clothing wise.


About daveschlabowske

Cyclechic advocate from Milwaukee
This entry was posted in Bike clothing, commuting and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Baby its cold outside

  1. michael says:

    How is the Swrve Milwaukee Hoodie jacket? I have a North Face windproof jacket (not rainproof) & I’m wondering if it’s worth plunking down $150 at Ben’s to get the Swrve for my winter commute. Would love to hear what you think.

    • daveschlabowske says:

      I sure love mine. It is really waterproof and still vents very well. I have an LL Bean softshell too, and I never wear it any more because the Swrve Hoodie is so much better. The hood is awesome too, and it fits over a Bern or similar helmet. I got mine from Ben’s as well.

  2. Dave Steele says:

    Last night I had my first truly bad, as in scary bad, winter bike ride.

    Air temp was about 10 above, with a pretty substantial northwesterly wind. About half way through my five and a half mile ride home I started to really struggle against the wind. I soldiered on, keeping a count in my head of blocks left to go. About a mile or so from my house I started to feel light headed and weak. Stopping at this point would not have been a good idea, so I bore down and just got it done.

    When I got home I was drenched in sweat. There was so much sweat it started to soak through my middle and outer layers and had become cold to the touch. My eyes were irritated from the sweat pouring into my eyes. I was light headed and woozy. I had ridden on colder nights, with tougher wind than this, but never had this problem before.

    What gives? I surmised that the culprit was a new fleece scarf that I had purchased for six bucks a few weeks ago. I usually roll with no scarf – I wear a fleece as the middle layer that has a high collar, and my outer layer, a “Storm Force” brand breathable jacket, has a high collar as well. So I had this scarf wrapped tight around my neck like a sushi roll. This blocked off a critical ventilation point and I overheated.

    I had this nice new scarf that I was eager to try out. I should have left well enough alone, and not messed with the system I’ve developed over the last three winters of bike commuting.

    I ditched the scarf this morning and everything was A-OK during this morning’s ride at five above zero.

    • daveschlabowske says:

      That is scary. I have never been in that situation in the cold, but I have had similar experiences when I ran out of energy on long rides. Once I had to call for a ride home even though I had less than a mile to go. I completely ran out of gas, had no money for food and could not stay upright on my bike. I wonder if you were bonking too. Did you skip lunch?

      • Dave Steele says:

        No, I don’t think I was bonking. When I got home and recombobulated I didn’t have the urge to eat ravenously. I couldn’t believe how much I had sweated. I was damper than the hottest day of summer.

        I do eat more in the winter months – I find that a 5.5 mile ride at 10 degrees above zero feels like a 40 mile ride at 70 degrees. In the winter I get home feeling like I’ve had a real workout, whereas in non-winter the commute feels like walking to the end of the block.

  3. meghan says:

    Where is a good local place to find snowboard mittens w/ lanyards? I find that’s a huge issue too. I upgraded my gloves this year to fleece lined, and add other gloves underneath, but can’t ride more than about 10 minutes without my digits feeling ready to fall off.


  4. Russell says:

    For keeping the hands warm I put chemical heatpacks on my wrists – either held in place with tight sleeves or I’ve also got the cut-off tops of some old wool socks I use as wristwarmers to hold them in place. When done you can seal the packs in a zip-loc bag so they can be used multiple times.

  5. d'Andre Willis says:

    I’m using some lobster claw mittens; two-part with liner gloves. Each piece is very light separately, but together the trapped air layer makes for a lot of warmth. Plus I can do minor tasks with the liner gloves on instead of going down to bare fingers. Found them at Wheel and Sprocket last year. Guess I need double lanyard, thoough, never thought of that!

  6. Bad Santa says:

    That was a tad bit nippy. London Fog wool lined trench coat. Gordini snowboard gloves. Scott goggles. Under Armour balaclava. Planet Bike shoe covers. Base layer long underpants from Aldi’s of all places.

    This really isn’t that bad.

    I am glad to see you are blogging again.

  7. Mark B. says:

    What are moleskin pants? I take it that it is some type of special fabric.

    • daveschlabowske says:

      Hey Mark, moleskin is just a heavy weight cotton fabric. It is pretty warm, almost windproof and comfy, but looks dressy enough for me to wear to meetings at work.

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