Friday, December 22, 2017

baby, it's cold outside: riding in winter

Tomorrow I am heading into town to attend Shabbat services at my shul.
Because of the weather and my fatigue issues, I'm going multi-modal.

Tomorrow's high is going to be in the high 30'sF, with rain. Typical Portland winter weather.
A wet cold that goes right through you.
And since I don't wear lycra anymore -- because even wool-blend stuff won't keep me warm as a city cyclist at slow speeds -- I have to layer up to stay warm outside.
Since my synagogue is a mellow, informal place, I'll feel quite comfortable layering knickers over wool tights and wear wool socks under my shoes. Add a t-shirt, button-down shirt, thin wool sweater and an outshell, gloves hat and scarf, and I'm ready.

Here are some of my favorites for cold weather riding:

1. Wool underlayer: Depending on how cold and wet it will be, I'm fond of my Windsor Wool t-shirt and bottoms, which I got years ago from Rivendell Bicycle Works. Sadly, these are no longer made, and therefore very hard to find even used.
My substitute go-tos are the slightly thicker "Originals" top and bottoms from Duofold, which utilize a soft cotton inner layer and a wool-blend outer layer. Since it will be pretty cold tomorrow I'll probably opt for the Duofold bottoms under my knickers. Duofold underwear is readily available in stores everywhere, and cheaper than all-wool layers by far. And for mellower city rides in cold weather, it's totally fine. (Ladies, go by your actual waist and chest sizes to order men's tops and bottoms.)
In a pinch, you can sometimes find old military surplus wool-blend undershirts at surplus stores and yard sales. As long as they don't stink they're fine for riding, not so good-looking off the bike but they can be found pretty cheaply.

 2. Middle layer: This can be any old wool or wool-blend sweater. (The thicker the middle layer, the thinner the outer shell can be.) These days I alternate between a few different sweaters, including a recently-found USPS-issue cardigan (70-30 acrylic/wool-blend, a little thicker), a 1980s Cinelli heavy wool trainer I've had forever, or an Oregon Cyclewear lightweight all-wool trainer. Depending on how cold and wet it's going to be any one of these will work just fine on most Portland winter days. If I expect the temps to drop below freezing and stay there, I'll add a wool sweater vest.

3. Outer shell: On milder winter days, or on longer rides, I'll wear my old Burley rain jacket. With pit-zips and a soft-lined collar, it's almost perfect on most days. For colder days or with thinner layers underneath I'll switch to a Showers Pass Portland Jacket, which is waterproof but heavier.

4. The extremities (gloves, hat, neck): In Portland, if you ride in the rain long enough you're going to get wet. Sorry, no way around it. Anyone promising a glove that will keep your hand warm without getting either wet from the rain or wet from your sweat is going to get a LOT of money in the process -- and you may get a glove that delivers. But at the rate I go through gloves -- wear-and-tear, losing one of a pair, getting bike grease on them -- I'm not willing to spend upwards of forty or fifty dollars a pair for them. (Yes, I've heard about the new Crosspoint gloves from Showers Pass, but again they're oo spendy for my taste.)
So I generally wear ragg wool gloves -- full-fingered for anything below about 50F, and cutoff fingers for anything 50 to around 60F or so. Yes, they get wet in the rain, but wool keeps your hands warm even when it gets wet. So I buy multiple pairs of ragg wool gloves with the little rubber grippy dots on the palm, and put them back to grab a new pair as I need it. A number of bike and retail shops sell these for around $10-15/pair. You may find a screaming deal on them at your local hardware store for less than $10/pair.

As for a warm hat, almost anything that's warm and cozy (and fits under a helmet if you wear one) will do. I'll admit that there are days I don't wear a helmet; for those days I wear an old wool cycling cap with a brim. It's cool, and funky, and a tiny bit thick for under my helmet. So for the helmeted days I'll switch to a thinner wool cap and an earband. Basically, don't overthink the hat thing. If it's warm, snug and comfy, it will be fine.

Any scarf or neck gaiter that fits with your jacket is great! Covering your neck is a great way to stave off colds and sniffles.

Finally, I don't do anything fancy for my feet, because I don't really have to. Portland doesn't get a ton of snow and when we do people mostly stay home because it will turn to ice on the roads by nightfall.
When it's just raining, a comfortable waterproof shoe with wool socks are just the ticket. My favorite these days are the 415 Storm workboot by Chrome with a thin-to-medium wool dress sock. The boots are truly waterproof and after break-in they're quite comfortable (they run small; buy a half-size larger than normal for best fit).

5. Finally, your bike needs fenders. If you live in a place where it doesn't rain regularly, a clip-on fender is probably okay. But in Portland, nothing less than a set of bolt-on, full-coverage fenders will do. They can be found cheaply and you can often install them yourself with minimal tools.

Eventually, all my dreams will come true and someone will figure out how to make teeny-tiny, lightweight windshield wipers for my prescription eyeglasses. If someone comes up with that, they will make a fortune.

Stay warm and dry out there, and happy riding this winter!

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