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Tag Archive: winter commuting

A Winter of Cyclists documentary

Here’s an interesting item that popped up in today’s Google News feed: a Colorado-based documentary filmmaker and his project “A Winter of Cyclists”.

“A Winter of Cyclists,” from amateur filmmaker and Erie resident Mike Prendergast, tells the story of a group of commuters from Erie, Lafayette, Louisville, and Boulder who emerge on mountain bikes from warm homes in the predawn darkness, endure frigid temperatures and ice-slicked streets on the way to work, and then suit up again — after putting in eight hours at the office — for the post-dusk ride back home.

Their mission: commute to work and back home on a bicycle at least 52 times between the beginning of October and the end of March. It is known as the Icy Bike Winter Commuting Challenge and last winter was its inaugural run.

Read the full article by visiting the Daily Camera page here, and check out the trailer on Vimeo (full-length available for paid download):

Trailer: A Winter of Cyclists from ChainRing Films on Vimeo.

Winter’s coming…and while we’ve written extensively on various winter-commuting tactics, it’s fun and inspiring to see others get out there and roll through the ice and snow.

More winter wardrobe tips

A while back, Elizabeth gave us a great primer on dressing for cold weather, and it’s always nice to hear some other ideas from fellow seasoned winter commuters. Here’s a Patch video from the frozen tundra of the Minneapolis area, with Joe Meiser, product design manager for Quality Bicycle Products. The video focuses on traditional “cycling garb”, but the same principles apply for those who want to dress warmly but also more chic.

This one’s timely, too — as those of us in the midwest and northeast are FINALLY experiencing some of that arctic chill and snow, courtesy of our Canadian neighbors to the north. The snow is blowing…but don’t let that stop you from getting on your bike and riding!

Take a look at that sweet fatbike at the end of the video! Why oh WHY won’t some bike company let us test one of those for the winter?

Preview: Winter Gear from Planet Bike

A week or so ago, the good folks at Planet Bike sent us some courtesy samples of winter gear to test out. I could just see the marketing people at PB: “man, this guy Jack is going to be facing his first midwestern winter in over 30 years…he’s the perfect candidate to try out some of our winter products. Poor sonofabitch doesn’t know WHAT he’s gotten himself into!!”

First up is the Borealis winter glove system:

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From PB’s website:

-Windproof back panel and forchettes
-Removable liner for quick dry time
-Ultra-soft Fleece thumb and index finger
-Reflective piping for night visibility
-Water resistant, reinforced Serino palm
-3-in-1 design allows flexible temperature range by using liners, outer shells only, or outer shells with liners
-Neoprene cuff/pull tab with hook and loop closure

Next up, the Blitzen shoe covers:

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-Windproof fabric with microfleece lining
-Neoprene front panel for added warmth around the toe box
-Durable bottom with open design for a variety of pedal platforms and cleats
-Full Velcro back closure for greater adjustability and sizing
-Toe box retention strap keeps front of cover in place
-Reflective side logos

We’ll be putting these goodies through their paces over the next couple months…it’s already gotten quite chilly here, with low temps in the 20s and highs of only the mid-50s. Having lived in Florida for the past two decades, I was woefully underprepared for truly cold-weather riding, so these Planet Bike items will hopefully keep me toasty as I test them out. Stay tuned for reviews — I am hoping to try these items out in the snow, if possible.

Sharing the Ride

Sometimes I thoroughly enjoy the alone time of being on my bike; other times it’s great to have a friend to share the bike commute home. A couple of weeks ago was one such night.

Flurries had been in the weather forecast for the evening, but the meteorologists seemed to not make a big deal of it, so neither did I. However, by the time the sun set, I looked out the window and knew I would dread my bike commute home. Snow was falling in big flakes and the accumulating snow might be just enough to hide the slick spots on the road.

When I set out for home, I simply repeated a mantra in my head to keep me focused on the riding task at hand and praying for a safe bike ride home.

Unfortunately I had worn my glasses that day (foregoing the contacts) and couldn’t fit my ski goggles over my spectacles. I decided to take the most direct (hopefully fastest) and well-lit route. The snowflakes fell on both sides of my eyeglasses – blinding my view and causing me to pause every few blocks to clear them off. At about the midway point – feeling on edge and anxious to be home already – while I was waiting at a traffic light, I saw another bike commuter pass by. I waved. He waved. And after he passed, the “ah ha” moment dinged in my head like a bike bell — “Hey – I know him! That’s Greg!” (for more about my recognition of this fellow commuter friend and his bike, please see Dottie’s LGRAB post)

He must have had that same “ah ha” moment as he passed because he waited for me to turn the corner and catch up. We marveled at the unlikelihood of running into each other, but he had worked late and I had left a bit early. Result = my mood immediately lifted. Snow seemed to let up, too. Turns out Dottie could rest at ease as he and I shared the rest of the commute home. Safety in numbers.

greg
Thanks Greg for sharing the ride.

What “sharing the commute” bike commuting stories do you have to share?

Toes Froze? Here are some tips

You’ve probably noticed the up-tick in winter content here. For Elizabeth and I along with many other bike commuters, Winter just got cranked up to Eleven this week, despite the fact it’s still officially “Autumn”.  We’re hoping that these posts help newer commuters cope with the weather change, and encourage bike commuters to expand their foray into the cooler climates. We also welcome the sage advice of others in the comments.

Continuing with our winter theme: Keeping those feet warm. The toes are further from your heart than any other body part, and they spend most of their time close to the snow and slush. Here are some suggestions for keeping those feet warm.

  • Ditch the clipless. The big metal plate found inside most clipless-ready shoes acts like a giant heat sink. You can try putting in extra-thick soles and other tricks like that, but clipless shoes will always cool your feet pretty quickly. I usually end up switching to a completely different bike with platform pedals. It’s also easier to catch yourself before you eat snow if you don’t have to punch out of your clipless pedals when (not if) things go badly.
  • Shoe Covers. Elizabeth has mentioned them several times. These neoprene or rubber covers zip over many different styles of shoes. They block out wind and water, and help hold the heat in that your feet naturally radiate. Many of them are designed to be compatible with clipless shoes and pedals, so if you really don’t want to sacrifice the “connected” feel, you can probably find a set of covers that will work for you.
  • Layer up. Wool socks are thick, and often one single layer of wool will do wonders. I know a few cyclists who wear one or two layers of wool socks with cycling sandals (no, really!) year round. A good, wicking technical sock closest to your skin with less expensive cotton socks can also work. I really do prefer wool or wool/polyester blend socks this time of year, though.
  • Plastic grocery sacks. I learned this trick from Warren during my first winter of bike commuting. Take part of a grocery sack and put your foot in it before you put it into your shoe. Sometimes, I put this layer of plastic in between two layers of socks. Either way, it works to block the wind, but I only use it on the coldest of days, else my feet actually get too hot and can’t breathe. I’ve also seen cyclists (mostly the urban homeless variety) tape or rubber band grocery sacks around the outside of their shoes. I wouldn’t do it, but you can try it if you want. It might keep your shoes dry.
  • Loosen your shoelaces. A LOT. Even without the extra layers of socks, many shoes worn somewhat snugly will impact circulation to your toes. Loosening them up a bit will help. This is even more important when you’re adding layers of socks to your feet, though.
  • Wiggle those toes, and get off the pedals for a bit. If your toes start to go numb, use brief periods of coasting or stopping to wiggle your toes and get the blood flowing. Take one foot off the pedal and flex it around a bit. It usually helps.
  • Air-activated “hand” warmers.  I don’t usually have to resort to these, even in below-zero temperatures. I know plenty of people who do, though. As they’re disposable (and frankly, quite expensive for their purpose) I’d urge you to use them as an option of last resort. Also, I find that the lump they make in my shoes is fairly uncomfortable regardless if they’re above or below my foot. Your mileage may vary.

Got any other tips for keeping those little piggies nice and comfy on cold winter rides? Tell us in the comments!