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Tag Archive: layering

Cold as Ice – Layer Up!

Wow. I mean, WOW. Were you guys out on the bike last night? Did you feel the wind cutting through every piece of you that was not covered at least twice in layers as you caught every light on that downhill?

I DID! Cantaloupe is a beast, with her new sweet fenders. How could I resist a cold as ice night commute?

Let’s back up a bit. It’s in the 20’s here in Portland, and this girl has Hawaii body-core temperature still coursing through her veins, so don’t laugh at the pathetic attempt at layering if you are a seasoned winter warrior (you guys should leave tips in the comment box below, instead). I know some of you commuters are out there pedal-pushing in the single digits. Brrrrrmmmmnesota.

I’ve taped this photo to the inside of my front door for inspiration… it keeps me from wein-ing out and opting for a run for the bus:

Okay, so I did get a major flat and had to sprint for the bus the other day, only to find out that I had zero cash on me. Fail! Crap monkey, where did I leave my teleportation device…

My neighbors and I biked home together at about 7pm, or 20-something degrees o’clock here in Portland. And I am proud to say that I somehow survivor-ed the coldest commute of my life. How did my sissy-la-la pants make it happen?

Layers, Cycle Gators… layers! And lots of them. I’m no expert on looking fly riding home in the cold, but here was this night’s order of operations:

  • Step 1: Pull on your skivvies and cover up your underparts… Cycle ladies and gents, I would not recommend anything that’s gonna give your crotch a case of seam anxiety, but that is a very personal choice. Y’all know what works with your saddle, and what doesn’t – immediately!
  • Step 2: Pull on some Darn Tough wool crew socks.
  • Step 3: Next, some super-high waisted fleece-lined leggings. Do Cycle dudes wear leggings? No, but some kind of bike base layer tights might do the trick. Just ask Jack.
  • Step 4: Then your outer layer of pantalones. I chose the Chrome Vanya knicker for it’s stretchiness and crotch action (make sure you follow Step 1, re: crotch anxiety).

Getting warm yet, people? Okay… Keep going to the top layers:

  • Step 5: T shirt/tank/base. I wore a cotton tee tucked into my leggings/tights.
  • Step 6: Long sleeve zip-up running jacket thing. Stretchy, thumb-holey, and a freebie from my stepmom via Costco.
  • Step 7: Oh yeah, ANOTHER long sleeve, with more stretchiness, a super long back to cover my butt, and a high collar from that Lululemon review back in the day.
  • Step 8: Fruffy vest. Marshmallow it and warm up your core! I love puffy vest like my future unborn child.
  • Step 9: Patagonia Torrentshell with pit zips open and hood tucked in.
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Seriously, everybody on bikes looks like this today. All color combo Do’s and Don’ts go out the window for this weather, kids. I look like a bag of Skittels had a civil war on my torso.

And on to the peripherals (“I see a ficus tree…”):

  • Step 10: North Face gloves: inadequate – not cycling specific, but it’s all I got right now.
  • Step 11: Ear grips over ponytail.
  • Step 12: Buff over the neck, over the ear grips, ponytail, and up to the top of my head like a wetsuit hood.
  • Step 13: Shoes, helmet, and the obligatory Mir fannypack.

So, yeah. It did the trick. More winter wonderful commuting tips coming your way. In the meantime, hook us up in the comments box with your favorite or newly-discovered layering goodies. Go eat a bag of tiny donuts, cold weather! Props to all the winter pedal peoples out there.

Winter riding – suicidal? Just bring on the mittens and snow goggles!

We’ve hardly had much “winter riding” lately in Chicago. Just this Monday and Tuesday, temps hovered in the 50s and 60s! But the rollercoaster, topsy turvy weather ride has plunged us back down to real winter temps and now our Chicago temps only hover at or below 0-degrees with windchill… bringing back the need to properly layer for the daily bike commute.

For me – the cold, sub-zero windchills mean it’s a snow goggles and mittens kind of “BRRRR!” (BRRR as in BRRRRING IT ON!)

No skin exposed on the “BRRR”-est of days


My body is cozy – covered in layers of a wool base layer and a thick cashmere or wool turtleneck sweater. My legs also get a nice wool base layer and then just khakis (sometimes I add a wind pants layer – especially in wet/messy condition) and thick wool hiking socks under my BOGS boots. My head = no skin exposed; I use a double-layer balaclava system (one thinner one pulled up over my nose), plus goggles, plus helmet on top! Over all that is my hi-vis yellow commuter jacket to block the wind. Wool gloves covered by big primaloft mitts and I’m ready to roll.

I’m more bundled than the average pedestrian, plus I’m generating body heat – more than the mere walker.. and I’m definitely warmer than the person just standing there waiting for the bus or train.

So – when I saw a post by “He Who Knows” on local Chicago suburban social site entitled “Bicyclists are insane riding in winter’s deep freeze!” and claiming that winter riding is suicidal, I had to chuckle. Seriously? He Who Knows certainly doesn’t know much about cold weather activity outdoors. On the other hand, we who know layer appropriately and reap the benefits of year-round cycling in any weather.

Should we be surprised by such a general posting by someone who is clearly not a cyclist? Isn’t this what happens when anyone and everyone can post their opinion online? “He Who Knows” likely has no authority on the topic. Though I do find his take humorous… since it is just so ridiculous! But just to clarify and set the record straight for would-be winter bike commuters, do not take his statements seriously… Based on this guy’s opinion, I would have killed myself cycling through winter years ago.

Take it from this guy in New York who bikes (even in winter) 40 miles to work in Manhattan!

I’m alive and well to let you know that – even on the harshest of days – cycling brings me sanity.

Ride on…

End of Year Rabbity Wrap Up, the Top 11 for 2011!

Ok, okaaaaaaay.  So Ghost Rider the Whip has tasked me with the year-end update to all ye mighty Bike Commuters!!! For all you non-daily readers (myself included, no excuses, just the truth yo) consider this the ultimate BikeCommuters.com Cliff Notes of 2011.  Be sure to click the extra links, so many goodies embedded in this one.  And since I love LISTS as much as tweens love Ryan Gosling and puppies, here is the Top 11 Bike Commuters Highlights (and then some) from the Year of the Rabbit …  Let the countdown begin.

My expression of my love for LISTS can only be captured with this moment!

11.  Helmet on a Diet: Among many products, including the O2 Rainwear’s Calhoun Jacket, Levis 511 Commuter Jeans, and others from Chrome, Planet Bike, Velo Orange, and Ergon, we reviewed this half-weight BMX/skater style melon protector – the Pryme V2 Lite! Removable pads allow for easy cleaning, adjustment, and with 13 vents will keep you less than sweaty. RL even said this Pryme helmet on a diet was so light he forgot he was wearing it!

10. How To’s and Ghetto-rigging: Several articles this year featured DIY and easy commuter tips like how to apply Stealthy 3M Reflective Tape to your bike frame!  Check out the before and after shots in this follow up article.  We wrote about how to make a Bike Train, last minute tips for carrying groceries home, and a friendly reminder on lubing your chain!

9.  Winterize-Me! 2011, the year of the rabbit is also the year of the snow-bunny.  All-year and all-weather rider Elizabeth has cranked out some popular tips and posts on layering, waterproofing your getup, and winterizing your manos for the harshest winter climate commutes.  Two-wheeled transporting readers like yourselves named this article a top fave in our 2000th post giveaway contest!  Check out Layering as Easy as 1 2 or 3! Elizabeth makes us warm-weather writers look like sissy lalas, she’s a BAMF commuter no doubt.

8. Hear Ye, Hear Ye: From you the readers, we had a handful of commuter profiles in the Year of the Rabbit including my posts from Hawaii, Arizona, California, and Illinois.  Thanks to Willy Campbell, Karen Voyer-Caravona, Hermes Pagulayan, and Robert Guico for keeping it real.  We love to hear from the readers themselves about their best rides, funny stories, tips, and setups…

Bike Commuter Profiles Rabbit Round-up, 2011 photocrap edition!!!

7. Travels & Adventuretimes: Jetsetting, touring, and leap-frogging through time and space, the BikeCommuters staff writers adventured far and wide including visits to Bike Shares in France, Interbike 2011 in Vegas, vacation commuting in Chicago, and historical Bike Museums in Ohio!  I guess we could say we’re bunny-hopping through time and space.  We hope to have more Bike Commuters staff travels and adventures next year; maybe we can meet up with you local readers for events or rides!

6. Five-O, Five-O! RL roped his friend, “Officer Ben” into chatting about the DOs and DON’Ts of bikes in the city.  For more bike list-lust and Five-O insight, try this article titled “My Conversation witha  Cop about Bike Traffic and Safety Tips.”  As always with officers, remember your attitude makes a difference!

5. Commuter All-in-One Review –We Reviewed some non-commuter specific bikes this year (like the Xootr Swift and the Redline Urbis) but Jack pulled the lucky straw and got his heine on this Breezer Uptown 8 back in Spring (full-on Wabbit Season)!  The Uptown 8 came fully-loaded with all kinds of commuter goodies: rear rack, chaincase, dyno-powered lights, full fenders, internal shifting, bell, high spoke count wheels, water bottle cage, and a kickstand!  And all for $999.00 MSRP, a low maintenance sturdy steed for city riding requires only one stop at the LBS.  Jack gave this all in one commuter a HIGH FIVE of awesomeness.

4.  Planet Bike Superflashy-flash TURBO! Hoo-hoo, you caught me!  My soft spot for all things blinky lights and hi-viz leads me to this post by Vince.  The Planet Bike Superflash Turbo has 1-Watt a licious power of red LEDs and a attention-grabbing flashy pattern that earned an “A” from Bike Commuters!  Read the full article here.

3.  Nice Paint Job, oh and Nice Bike Too – RL reviewed some single speed and fixed gear rides this year like the Torker KB2 and the 2011 Redline 925.  The KB2 is a fixie with a 2-speed kick back hub and a pearly green paint job.  The Redline 925 is a single speed city slammer, excellent stopping power in the breaks, a smooth ride, clean lines, and commuter staples like fenders, chain guard, toe clips, and rack mounts!  For those of you in the market for a single speed or fixie ride, put these mamas on your bike lust list and ride these velos non-stop like bunnies in springtime.  Now for some bike p0rn with the Redline 925 in “Pearl Dark Brown”:
and in the KB2 Torker in “sparkly green”!

2. Ok, So Interbike is Kinda a Big Deal –  So we can’t pass up the year of the rabbit without highlights from Interbike 2011!! RL was all over this event sorting through the good, ze germans, and the goofy to make us feel like we were all there too!  He even bumped into some other traveling bike bloggers!  There’s a lil som’n som’n for everyone at Interbike…What about Urbana Bikes commuter with belt drive?  And for us nighttime commuters LED by Light’s got light kits with turn signals?  How ’bout you been broke phi broke all year and wanna haul a lotta stuff with an affordable Dutch Cargo bike?  Sign us up!
1. 2000th Post Giveaway! The countdown ends with a big-timey milestone, the 2000th post hit us in December 2011.  Thanks to all our staff writers this year and in years past that made it possible!  We celebrated with a giveaway of awesome stuff as readers posted their favorite articles on facebook and in the comments. It was really cool to dig up older articles and see feedback from readers who don’t usually post (without enticement of free bike goodies).  Hopefully, our winnder John Leddy from Burlington, VT is enjoying his Banjo Brothers backpack, Planet Bike lights and accessories, a Bikecommuters.com tshirt and sticker pack and a Chainspirations zipper pull.
Special thanks go to Banjo Brothers and Planet Bike for helping sponsor our prize giveaway.  So here’s the part where we say goodbye to the Rabbit and hello to the dragon!  Thanks for sticking with us Bike Commuters readers, Ride ALOHA!

Photocredit to Papajka on Flickr! Take that you toasty rabbit!

Layering: as easy as 1, 2, or 3

I tend to over-think things a lot! This quality of mine can be both good and bad. What I like about fall/winter riding is that dressing for it really is easy – you just need to know the purpose of each layer and best fabric for that task. Aside from those days when I start pondering other gear, layering is really quite easy – and leaves me feeling always prepared.

From fall through springtime in Chicago I either always carry with me in my commuting arsenal (water resistant pannier) OR am already wearing on my body (esp on the colder winter days) the following items: extra glove liners + extra gloves or mitts, wool knee warmers, a Warmfront, extra wool socks (in case one pair gets wet), rain or wind pants to block wind and keep the road spray off my clothes, silk or wool long underwear for top and bottom (I especially like SmartWool and L.L. Bean wool), beanie cap that covers my ears, Hedz headwear, and wool/fleece balaclava – topped off by my most visible layer…. a hi-vis wind- and waterproof jacket. I rarely have a need for any more than 3 layers worth of clothing – base, mid and outer suffice in any weather; so while our skin may consist of 7 layers, for me, the gear only needs to be 3 layers deep at most … most of the time. (If you live in a much warmer or colder climate, I realize your needs for layering may vary; please adjust your technique accordingly and share with us what works for you in the comments.)

When I first started to bike through the colder, yuckier weather months in Chicago, I did a lot of my own research for what to wear and soon learned about the fine art of layering. (My go-to resource at that time was a blog authored by a woman in Alaska living a bike adventure life and recording it in her blog – I think it was called Up In Alaska; she has since moved and renamed the blog to Jill Outside.) A few of her posts detailed her layering technique and gear. Another site that has also helped me over the years is the Icebike website, brimming with strategies and gear designed to keep you warm (without overheating) while out bike riding or enjoying other winter activities for long periods of time. Last, but not least in deserving credit, is Chicago’s Bike Winter — a grass roots effort that has supplied me with how-to knowledge and an awesome DIY fleece balaclava designed to keep as many Chicago cyclists pedaling through the winter as possible.

If Jill could make it work for rides in Alaska and these Icebikers and fellow Bike Winter-ers could do it, I knew I could apply the layering strategy to my Chicago commutes; below I provide you with the layering technique that works for my urban bike commutes and the importance of each layer.

Chicago’s recent bout with chilly, windy and damp fall days reminds me that I really do have all I need already in my wardrobe (even though I’m always thinking of the next best gear or tip most of my winter “gear” is not really cycling specific gear). Take a photo gallery tour of these layers I recently wore during a damp fall commute (temps in the high 40s/low 50-degrees):
Base layer: long sleeve microfiber shirt (easily substituted for wool or silk on chillier days). A good base layer will wick the sweat away from your skin so that you don’t overheat OR get chilled from damp skin. Wool and silk are also naturally odor-resistant = bonus! I’ve learned to avoid cotton next to my skin at all costs, since it tends to keep the perspiration close to your skin.
Mid layer: vest (or wool or cashmere sweater in winter). A mid-layer helps insulate. This layer continues to challenge me during the fluctuating temperatures we get during the spring and fall, but in winter I usually turn to a cashmere or wool turtleneck sweater. During warmer months, I may forego this layer or opt for just a vest or stick to a cardigan sweater that can be zipped or unzipped as needed.
Bottom: REI cargo pants (with long underwear when the mercury dips below freezing). Depending on the level of chill in the air, I adjust my wardrobe – from jeans to lighter weight khakis to stretchier fitness style pants. As a female, I also have opted for wool tights and a skirt – and have found this combo to be just as warm as pants. I also keep a pair of wool knee warmers (or leg warmers in you prefer) around just in case I need a little more buffer.
Feet: midweight wicking socks (I live in wool hiking socks come winter), Vasque waterproof hiking shoes (and NEOS overshoes in the worst of it!). Just the other day I wore mid-calf Bogs boots with a neoprene liner. Once it’s freezing and below, my feet prefer the thicker socks and waterproof shoe. For commuting I don’t usually ride with clipless pedals, and in the chill I prefer the added warmth of regular hiking/winter boots – just make sure they allow your foot/ankle enough mobility for pedaling. You may even want to ride on wider BMX-style pedals to accommodate the clunkier footwear.
Hands: Gore bike gloves (new this year!); Headsweats lobster shell gloves (mittens and hand warmers on standby for temps below freezing). Up til this year I used a pair of wool gloves I acquired at the Army-Navy Surplus store and paired those with the shell gloves or with a pair of REI mittens. Mittens keep my hands warmest on the sub-freezing days. Hand warmers helps when it drops below zero.
Outer layer: Loeka (or other waterproof) commuter jacket with pit zips, Marmot rain pants. A jacket -even on the coldest of days – need not be thick and heavy. The best outer layer provides maximum wind resistance so as not to allow the chill in and is also waterproof; a sports-oriented jacket will have pit zips to allow added ventilation and help prevent your body from overheating. Given the lack of daylight during winter, I stick with hi-vis and reflective jackets to keep me as visible as possible to fellow road users.
Head: HAD microfiber tube to cover my neck, REI Novara cap (new to my arsenal this year… and I wonder how I lived without it all these years!) to cover my head and ears, helmet. In winter my layer below the helmet is a wool/fleece balaclava; sometimes I use the microfiber tube like a neck gaiter beneath the balaclava and will pull it up over my nose so I’m not breathing in the bitter cold air. My mom always stressed keeping my head warm; to this day, I cannot argue with my mom’s advice. For me, if my head and neck are warm, the rest of my body seems to naturally be warmer.
And last but not least Eyewear: Sunglasses with an amber tint in daylight AND clear or yellow tint glasses in darkness suffice for me most of the time (all my sunglasses have come from Solar Eyes (an online retailer)); in the winter I switch to ski goggles (rose tint works day and night even navigating the well-lit urban roads at night).

As I mentioned above, as a female I love having the option to wear wool tights and flashy rubber boots to spice up my winter cycling wardrobe, too, when I feel so inclined.
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One final note: it’s best to feel slightly chilled during the first few minutes on your bike. If you start out already warm, you could easily overheat. I find that less is more to avoid overheating. Folks at work think I must be so cold given my thin layers, but I assure them that by the time I reach the bus stop at the corner, I’m already warm from generating my own body heat; those folks waiting for the bus are the ones who look so cold just standing there. Rather than overdress, it’s best to carry an extra layer, so you can always stop and put it on if you need it or if it turns chillier for the bike commute home later that day. My commute is about a half hour each way and in the stop-and-go traffic of the city, so I’ve adjusted my layering accordingly. Those of you with a shorter or much longer commute may have other tips and tricks to share. Noah shared a few of his tips last year, including starting a log of weather conditions and your clothing choices.

Since my gear – most of it not cycle specific – seems to be accounted for, it gives me time to ponder getting a bike with disc brakes this upcoming bad weather season…. to at least improve my stopping power in the dampness. Then again…. I could finally try adding a more full coverage helmet (like a Nutcase or Bern)… options….

Nor wind, nor rain, nor snow, nor sleet… (but I’m no hero)

… we continue to prove that bike commuters ride through it all. Just on the news this morning, I heard that over 2/3 of the U.S. is experiencing wintry weather (especially the Midwest).

Last night’s commute home offered me a full wintry mix of conditions. First, the wind gave me a nice push; the wind coming out of the southeast provided a welcome push and facilitated pedaling through the slush quite nicely. Then the wet slushy snow flakes completely soaked me – at least my legs (still seeking better waterproof rain/winter pants). And finally sleet pricked my exposed cheeks.

winter slush

Luckily the temps remained in the upper 30s and kept the temperatures mild and and roads wet (and just a bit slushy) but no ice.

Today as the winds pick up and bring the freezing weather, many of us can expect blowing snow and blustery (likely icy) conditions.

Yesterday when I rode in, my co-worker called me a hero for riding in the snow. I’m no hero and I know when the conditions are too dangerous. I don’t want to be a hero. I’m just out to safely enjoy the ride.