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How Cold Can You Handle Riding Bike in Winter?

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How Cold Can You Handle Riding Bike in Winter?

Old 01-22-20, 03:21 PM
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Cheez
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How Cold Can You Handle Riding Bike in Winter?

Weather is unstable here, Indianapolis that is. One day it's warm and stuffy and followed by rain and the temp drops like a stone next day or two. This cycle goes on every single week. Temp did dip down to just a tad over 10F lately. I often see high 20's and low 30's average. I really don't like the fact it rains so often as it makes it real bad for my biking. I don't want to ride in the rain in this cold weather cause I don't want to catch cold. I have some cheap thin rain jacket and pants I bought from Amazon but they don't seem to do well keeping water out. My butt got a little wet when I made home from the rain.

I also want to point out how amazing our body generates heat when we exercise. It takes away the cold and you don't need much clothing to ride a bike. Your body becomes the heater. Temp of low 30's is easy for me to handle. All I need is just two thin layers of shirts (one short sleeve, one long) and a thin jacket, a pair of sweat pants, a beanie hat and gloves. Anything higher temp causes me to sweat unless I make clothing less warm.. 20's F is a little bit in the cold side but I can manage fine by wearing a little thicker jacket.
However in the temp of teens it's painful....my face and ears hurt even though my ears are covered by the beanie. I also don't want to ride in the rain in the 30's....as I don't want to catch cold.

How cold can you guys handle riding bike in the winter? Are you man enough to ride in the 20's and 30's? and teens? I have to avoid going to work on days that are too cold (teens up to 20F). Thankfully my part-time job allows me to choose hours and days I want to work, and I can sign up for work to the last minute before the work starts. That is my huge help. It's been a challenge trying to work using my bike as I don't own a car... Do I need a better rain clothing to handle these cold & wet days? Sometimes I have no choice but to ride in the rain... if I don't go to work I don't get paid. Currently I work 2 to 3 days a week.

Last edited by Cheez; 01-22-20 at 03:26 PM.
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Old 01-22-20, 04:26 PM
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Wilfred Laurier
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I have commuted about ~12km down to around -30 deg C. I think that is about -25F or so. It was colder than a witches mitt, but I did it. I don't live within cycle commuting distance anymore so I don't ride so much in the winter.
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Old 01-22-20, 04:27 PM
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Also, put full fenders on your bike to avoid getting wet butt and shoes when riding in rain and wet snow. Riding in the winter without fenders is foolish.
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Old 01-22-20, 04:41 PM
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How long is your commute?

I ride in cold weather. The lowest so far is 9F, but that was just one time. Any temp below 25F starts to feel serious.

To keep your face from hurting, you could try putting lotion on exposed areas. It seemed to help.

Below freezing I wear clear safety glasses, which do a lot for keeping the cold off the eye area.

I have a balaclava (not baclava), new to me, and I haven't had much chance to try it.

This winter's innovation is a scarf. It's nice because I can start a ride with my neck wrapped, then after the first hill I can "pop the cork" and remove the scarf to let cool air in.

I tried to buy waterproof mittens but all I could find locally were gloves with fingers. They don't do the job, they're not as warm as the mittens on dry days. That's why when I got rained on Saturday morning I had to let my mittens air-dry for three days, they were soaked through and through. I'm still shopping.

In general, cold and wet is very different from just cold. It raises the stakes considerably because you lose heat so much faster if not protected. You really do need the right clothing for that.
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Old 01-22-20, 05:33 PM
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I can hammer thru almost any cold temp as long as the surface conditions are good & there zero precipitation as well as under 5mph winds.
sinuses are the main issues with cold weather. Otherwise I'd rider more frequently in the cold. Like it warm if given the choice.
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Old 01-22-20, 08:42 PM
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I'm in Wisconsin, and am a year-round bike commuter. I think my coldest temps have been in the range of -15 to -20 F. It has rarely gotten colder than that, though there was a week last year where it got down to around -28 F, but I missed work that week for other reasons. I don't think it has gotten below 0 F this year.

I just play it safe with clothing. It's the same gear that I wear for any outdoor activity. A ski jacket with layers under it if needed. Baggy snow pants. Boots. Mittens. During the coldest temps I wear a ski helmet and goggles, which are designed to cover the ears. One of my rules is that I have to be dressed warm enough to survive walking the distance if my bike fails for some reason. Also, don't neglect maintenance through the winter.
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Old 01-22-20, 09:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Cheez View Post
How cold can you guys handle riding bike in the winter? Are you man enough to ride in the 20's and 30's? and teens? I have to avoid going to work on days that are too cold (teens up to 20F). Thankfully my part-time job allows me to choose hours and days I want to work, and I can sign up for work to the last minute before the work starts. That is my huge help. It's been a challenge trying to work using my bike as I don't own a car... Do I need a better rain clothing to handle these cold & wet days? Sometimes I have no choice but to ride in the rain... if I don't go to work I don't get paid. Currently I work 2 to 3 days a week.
I think you need better rain gear. I don't have super fancy stuff, just basic rain pants and jacket from REI. I haven't tried any of the extremely expensive gear.

But I've found that nothing keeps me absolutely dry, and stuff wears out over time. My rain pants wear out from the inside due to abrasion. One thing that helps me is to wear super quick drying clothing, so at least I'm not wet all day.

I've had good luck riding with Vasque hiking boots, which even kept my feet dry while hiking in Iceland and Scotland. That's a tough job.

For me, it's not a test of my manhood, as I'm actually not a particularly tough or imposing person. Rather, it's a matter of just approaching it rationally and making minor improvements over time.
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Old 01-22-20, 10:50 PM
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Thanks for the input guys. My commute to work is 10 miles (20 miles round trip). I guess I need to look into better rain jacket and pants...

Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
Also, put full fenders on your bike to avoid getting wet butt and shoes when riding in rain and wet snow. Riding in the winter without fenders is foolish.
But adding fenders add weight...
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Old 01-23-20, 12:51 AM
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With my current gloves my fingers start to hurt after about 25min at -3 deg C.
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Old 01-23-20, 02:58 AM
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We don't really get extreme cold where I live. The coldest is typically -2 deg C (28 F), which I'm happy to cycle in. Rain has been something of an issue lately - for about a month it seemed like it never stopped raining which, in spite of all the jokes about English weather - is relatively rare. Still, I don't have any rain gear. I have a wind-proof jacket which is sufficiently waterproof for my needs and I find when I'm hunched over the handlebars that keeps most of the rain off my legs. Good clothing for the cold is essential, though. I mostly make do with fleecy tights although I have put loose trousers over them on occasion. For my top half I have a couple of base layers made from merino wool, then a jersey - I have a thin one and an insulated one - then the windproof and I generally find that adequate. Overshoes on my shoes, a beanie under my helmet and medium thickness gloves and I'm good to go.

I've just bought a softshell which a friend of mine tells me should be very warm with just a base layer. Looking forward to trying that out.
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Old 01-23-20, 06:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Cheez View Post
I guess I need to look into better rain jacket and pants..
Some of my best gear, rain or otherwise has come from thrift stores. I look for high(er) end brands like Patagonia, Marmot, Arctryx, Northface, etc.

The stores to check are the St. Vinnies, Salvation army etc in surrounding affluent communities.
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Old 01-23-20, 06:34 AM
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Naturally, winter driving is different from summer driving. As mentioned above, in the winter you can not shift the bike at speed and generally sharply turn. But there are a few more rules.

1. Keep a great distance and do not accelerate to extreme speeds. The braking distance along the slush grows relative to dry asphalt every two times. If a pedestrian or a car jumps out, you simply will not have time to brake. 2. Keep a map of the cleared surfaces in your head. The short path ceases to be short if it is uncleaned - the bike goes with difficulty in the snow and crust. Sometimes it’s easier and faster to go around cleared legs. 3. Wherever there is a bicycle in the apartment, it is worth laying a rag or some old blanket under it. Upon arrival, water and dirt will drain onto it. 4. In winter, lubricate your bike more often than in summer. Water in its design is almost constant, and this is a negative factor.

I hope I haven’t forgotten anything. Although probably forgot something. The main thing - do not be afraid to leave in the winter. There is nothing terrible and dangerous in this. In summer, its features are a sweaty T-shirt, a high probability of a tire spike (in winter, sharp objects are usually torn with water or pressed into the snow) and so on.

The Finns ride. And the Danes. And what are we worse?
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Old 01-23-20, 07:28 AM
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depends. If I have not been out in a few days due to rain or whatever, then am more likely to brave almost any temp. to get a ride in. If I have hit several days in a row, it's easy to skip a particular cold day. So how bad do you need to get out?
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Old 01-23-20, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Cheez View Post
But adding fenders add weight...
Nothing you put on a bike will add anywhere near as much weight as the bag of meat and bones required to power it.

Say the bike weighs a chunky 30lbs, and the rider a slight 150lbs. Add 1lb of fenders and you just increased the total weight by 0.55%.
Say the bike weighs a svelte 17lbs, and the rider a willowy 130lbs. Add 1lb of fenders and you just increased the total weight by 0.67%.

It. Doesn't. Matter.
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Old 01-23-20, 08:21 AM
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my plastic fenders are pretty light
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Old 01-23-20, 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
Nothing you put on a bike will add anywhere near as much weight as the bag of meat and bones required to power it.

Say the bike weighs a chunky 30lbs, and the rider a slight 150lbs. Add 1lb of fenders and you just increased the total weight by 0.55%.
Say the bike weighs a svelte 17lbs, and the rider a willowy 130lbs. Add 1lb of fenders and you just increased the total weight by 0.67%.

It. Doesn't. Matter.
The weight weenies in the Touring forum drive me crazy with their "You could save a few ounces by taking a spork instead of and spoon and fork, and cutting off most of your toothbrush handle will save weight."

OK. Let's say all I can shave 5 lbs. off my load by nipping at the edges. What's that in terms of percentage when I am 205 lbs., the bike without racks is 35 lbs., the panniers are a total of 5 lbs.? And that's not to mention all the other gear.

There is something to gain by taking a tent that is 2.25 lbs. vs. one that is 5 lbs. But to me it's ridiculous when you try to save ounces while sacrificing practical things like a toothbrush with a decent sized handle. I mean, when you are climbing a mountain do you really notice any difference between two full water bottles vs. one full one and one half full one? No.
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Old 01-23-20, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
Nothing you put on a bike will add anywhere near as much weight as the bag of meat and bones required to power it.

Say the bike weighs a chunky 30lbs, and the rider a slight 150lbs. Add 1lb of fenders and you just increased the total weight by 0.55%.
Say the bike weighs a svelte 17lbs, and the rider a willowy 130lbs. Add 1lb of fenders and you just increased the total weight by 0.67%.

It. Doesn't. Matter.
^ This. ^
For comparison, my winter ride (a Strada velomobile) weighs, about 70 lbs in full commuting trim (change of clothes, typical lunch, etc.). It's a bit slow getting off the line, but unless I'm climbing a hill, it's fine once I get rolling (and since it's a velo, once it starts rolling, it just keeps on going!).

With my regular recumbent bike, I really can't ride much below about 40F without getting cold hands and feet. In my velo, I'm comfortable down to the mid teens, and merely chilly (once I get warmed up) down into single digits, which is as cold as I've ridden so far. This is coming from me, an Arizona native, who hates the cold (anything below 60F is just too damn cold for me), and loves 100F and no humidity.
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Old 01-23-20, 08:54 AM
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Cheez
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Originally Posted by dedhed View Post
Some of my best gear, rain or otherwise has come from thrift stores. I look for high(er) end brands like Patagonia, Marmot, Arctryx, Northface, etc.

The stores to check are the St. Vinnies, Salvation army etc in surrounding affluent communities.
Thanks. I'll keep that in mind.

Originally Posted by Kovkov View Post
With my current gloves my fingers start to hurt after about 25min at -3 deg C.
Upgrading your gloves will solve that. Get thicker ones and that are weather proof.
https://ibb.co/0ZJdRYC

Originally Posted by Flip Flop Rider View Post
depends. If I have not been out in a few days due to rain or whatever, then am more likely to brave almost any temp. to get a ride in. If I have hit several days in a row, it's easy to skip a particular cold day. So how bad do you need to get out?
At least a few days a week, just enough to get paid to pay my credit card bill.

Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
Nothing you put on a bike will add anywhere near as much weight as the bag of meat and bones required to power it.

Say the bike weighs a chunky 30lbs, and the rider a slight 150lbs. Add 1lb of fenders and you just increased the total weight by 0.55%.
Say the bike weighs a svelte 17lbs, and the rider a willowy 130lbs. Add 1lb of fenders and you just increased the total weight by 0.67%.

It. Doesn't. Matter.
I think you may be right.... I could hardly notice the difference in weight difference from my 19.5 lb road bike vs my 27 lb MTB... other things (ie. absorbing bumps, ride comfort, etc) factored in that have greater effect than just the weight difference alone.

Originally Posted by Flip Flop Rider View Post
my plastic fenders are pretty light
Do they have carbon fiber fenders as well? I don't know why I was assuming fenders weigh a ton. I pictured myself the fenders are solid steel from the 1920's... I guess things have changed a lot over the years with fancy biking nowadays.

Last edited by Cheez; 01-23-20 at 08:59 AM.
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Old 01-23-20, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
Nothing you put on a bike will add anywhere near as much weight as the bag of meat and bones required to power it.

Say the bike weighs a chunky 30lbs, and the rider a slight 150lbs. Add 1lb of fenders and you just increased the total weight by 0.55%.
Say the bike weighs a svelte 17lbs, and the rider a willowy 130lbs. Add 1lb of fenders and you just increased the total weight by 0.67%.

It. Doesn't. Matter.
I suspect that the weight of the excess water, mud and crud that sticks and/or soaks in to the OP's clothes due to lack of fenders during a wet ride weigh more than a pound of feathers or fenders. More unsightly and unpleasant too.

"It" does matter to someone who reads, believes and obsesses over too much on-line baloney about bicycling correctness.
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Old 01-23-20, 09:02 AM
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I love my plastic Planet Bike fenders, but I don't think they make them anymore. They (Planet Bike) seem to have gone to all aluminum. The plastic was lighter, and more importantly (to me) they were quieter and didn't rattle at all. My experience is that the metal fenders need to really be secured well to keep them from rattling.
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Old 01-23-20, 09:31 AM
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Fenders will add less weight than the water and slush that will otherwise get into your socks and pants.
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Old 01-23-20, 09:32 AM
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We ride Everytime

We ride Everytime... Even -15 and with snow. You can use softshell clothes...
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Old 01-23-20, 10:19 AM
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35F and raining is colder than 20F. At least when the temperature drops to 20, any precipitation is solid.

Still, I can get by with next heavier tights for a light rain at 35F -- like the ones I normally ride at 20F -- for my 10 mile commute. The difficulty is trying to get them dry for homeward commute. Heavy rain, say half an inch to an inch per hour, and it's time to get to or from work another way at those temps.

Extreme cold? I've ridden to work at 7F once, and that was cold. 15F is more typical for a low where I live, and that's "easy." "Easy" is defined as:
Heavy wool sock with plastic grocery bag liner
Heaviest polypro tights
Shorts
Base layer (polypro or wool)
Heavy wool jersey
Polypro crew neck
Coat
PI lobster gloves
Polypro balaclava
Those days my cube looks like a third world laundry day with everything draped to dry for the ride home.
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Old 01-23-20, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Notso_fastLane View Post
I love my plastic Planet Bike fenders, but I don't think they make them anymore. They (Planet Bike) seem to have gone to all aluminum. The plastic was lighter, and more importantly (to me) they were quieter and didn't rattle at all. My experience is that the metal fenders need to really be secured well to keep them from rattling.
Not just secured well but isolated with nylon or leather washers, both inside and out. Metal fenders can be mounted to ride silently with attention to detail.


-Kedosto
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Old 01-23-20, 10:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Notso_fastLane View Post
I love my plastic Planet Bike fenders, but I don't think they make them anymore. They (Planet Bike) seem to have gone to all aluminum. The plastic was lighter, and more importantly (to me) they were quieter and didn't rattle at all. My experience is that the metal fenders need to really be secured well to keep them from rattling.
My experience with real cold is that even good quality plastic fenders get brittle and are likely to break when a piece of ice follows the tire up and gets stuck. I cannot imagine that aluminum ones are significantly heavier, but have several clear advantages. I also do not consider my plastic fenders to be noticeably quieter than metal ones I have tried, except for metal fenders shaking around on rusty old bikes... properly attached they should be pretty quiet..
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