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It’s that time of year again. Folks at the office have started questioning my sanity even more than usual. The questions are rolling in. Isn’t it cold? What do you do when it gets below freezing? What do you do when it starts snowing? Do you even have a car?

Yes, I have a car, and there may be a few days this winter I use it since I don’t have the option of public transportation like I did at my last job. It takes more than just cold air to make me ditch the bike.

I’m also having discussions with my fellow winter cyclists, some of which are giving this a shot for the first time.

Some people have pointed to Civia Cycles’ guide to all-weather clothing but I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. For a 40ºF (4ºC) bike ride, I’ve seen Californians wearing stuff that would make me spontaneously combust unless it was well below zero. Doug‘s usual winter wear is lighter than most people I know. For this reason, I suggest finding out what works best for you. Keep a log of weather conditions and temperatures as the winter wears on. Note what you wore and if there’s anything you’d change about your choices. This especially helps you get into the cold-weather groove next winter.

Here are a few more tips I’ve picked up along the way these past few winters:

  • When normal skiing gloves fail to keep your hands warm, you can try expensive lobster-claw gloves, but if you can safely operate your brakes and shifters with plain old mittens on, they will keep your fingers all together, nice and warm. They’re also really cheap at pretty much any discount store.
  • Warren taught me this trick. Use parts of plastic grocery sacks on your feet (inside the shoe or between layers of socks) to block the wind and trap heat into your feet. I only do this in the coldest part of the season, or my feet get soaked in sweat. It works that well!
  • Dress in layers, but always make sure the layer closest to you will wick moisture away. This could be wool or a high-tech synthetic base layer.
  • Balaclava-style ski masks provide whole-head warmth, but you may have better luck with a scarf or neck gaiter and a headband to keep your neck and ears warm if you find your head sweating too much.
  • Don’t over-dress, and slow down if you’re getting too hot. If you sweat too much or you have to stop while you’re overheating, you can quickly succumb to hypothermia.

Post your cold-weather tricks in the comments. Let’s hear ‘em!