Saturday, December 31

Temperature Twenty to Forty

Top of the Photo - Attire for Temperatures Around Freezing for the Ride to Work
Bottom of the Photo, Attire for the Ride Home on the Same Day
You'll Note Wool Socks are Carried on the Way Home. They are TOO WARM for 50F Conditions!
Mostly, what I wear for my commute depends on the temperature and conditions when I leave in the morning. I'll bring along added items to make things comfy on the way home as well, but the morning is what really counts because that is usually the low temperature commute and shedding clothes is an option for the ride home.

The morning temperature ranges of interest in North Texas are (Fahrenheit):
  • over 60
  • 40-60
  • 20-40
  • under 20
In 2011, the coldest morning was 15F and the warmest was 86F. This time of year, it is rarely over 60 or under 20. Even with wind chill, I've never experienced morning temperatures under 8F, but even that is a perfectly manageable temperature.

Today, I'll talk about what I wear on my morning commute when the temperature is between twenty and forty. Unlike the 40-60 range, one needs to start seriously considering the cold, but extra measures are limited, and most North Texas cyclists have got the items they'll need.

Head and Neck
For headwear, I wear one of two balaclavas, though at the top end of the 20-40 range and with tailwinds, I often simply stick to my headsweat and pull it down over my ears a bit. Even when I wear a balaclava, I'll bring the headsweat for the ride home. I have a "winter cap" I got on sale last summer, but haven't used it yet. In addition, I accessorize with safety goggles in order to avoid watery eyes due to tears caused by wind in my eyes. Those stay in the trunk on the trip home. For those without a balaclava, a good cap and a neck warmer works as well. I'd wear my dinosaur hat, but it won't fit under or over my helmet. Still, dinosaurs ARE rather chic...

Core Warmth
Moving down, I really don't pay a lot of attention to the "layering" advice you often read in bike blogs. Frankly, it is simply more trouble than it is worth. I found that to be the case even when my commute was 20 miles rather than the current 7. Instead, I find that my "high vis black" cycling jacket in combination with a sweatshirt works just dandy. It is a simple combination. At the upper end of the range, I sometimes swap to a long-sleeved cotton tee shirt. In this range, I typically wear my "high vis black" soft shell gloves. These tend to be too warm for the return trip home, so I'll carry regular, full finger cycling gloves in the trunk. I really like the soft shell gloves, but if I didn't have any, a pair of windproof work gloves in combination with the cycling gloves cut the chill nicely. The LONG SLEEVES on the sweatshirt are an important ingredient, since they combine with the cycling jacket to keep my arms comfortable all the way down to the bottom of the temperature range. At the upper end of the range, I'll often eschew the sweatshirt in favor of a long-sleeve cotton t shirt.

Legs and Feet
For my legs, I wear work pants. I'll choose warmer ones when it is colder, but most work slacks work well even down to 20F. I also use reflective Velcro cuff bands which keep breezes at bay and grease off the pants. I have a few pairs of camo cuff bands, but haven't used them since the reflective ones seem to work just fine. To finish the outfit off, I use wool socks with shoes that work with the bike of the day. The wool socks are too warm for work so I carry a pair of cotton socks in the trunk. This is one area where my strategy changed. Formerly, I'd wear cargo shorts in combination with sweat pants, but my v3 commute (7 miles versus the v2 20 miles) makes that somewhat extraneous, particularly since I no longer drive on occasion in order to facilitate laundry exchanges.

Quick Switch for Work and the Ride Home
Thusly attired, when I get to work, I simply swap out the sweatshirt for a work shirt and swap the wool socks for cotton ones. Pretty simple,and I'll usually wear the cotton socks on the ride home. More often than not, the sweatshirt works fine, with the cycling jacket relegated to the trunk.

Commute clothes are really, however, what works for YOU. I prefer the KISS approach, without buying a lot of "special" items, and without having to carry much extra stuff along.

Safety Goggles Really Help at Freezing. The Cyling Jacket and a Sweatshirt Works Down to 20F
Nowadays, I Usually Wear Work Pants in the Colde. One Advantage of the Shorter, v3 Commute


Big Oak said...

Just wondering if you are able to locate all of your apparel in the early morning. There is nothing so frustrating as not being able to find a vital piece before leaving. Do you have it all ready to go the night before?

Rodney said...

I'm definitely function over fashion. As you say, to each their own!

For my commute, 18 degrees F the lowest, I use arm/leg warmers, wool riding socks, padded riding shorts, a no so fancy-shmancy wicking base layer, long sleeve wicking shirt, and a balaclava or ear warmers. On commutes that are windy and below 30 degrees F, I add my rain jacket and pants.

This year I am experimenting with Bike Pogies for hand warmth while not using bulky gloves or chemical heat packs.

Steve A said...

Normally, I have no trouble finding the gear, EXCEPT this fall, I had trouble finding my softshell gloves the first time I needed them from out of the master closet. I may have some trouble next spring when I need to dig out the summer stuff again.

I don't have any arm or leg warmers, and I don't think Bike Pogies work on drop bars. Below about 20, I have an alternate hand solution that doesn't really require bulk.

I'm also looking into alternate shoe solutions for those REALLY COLD mornings. For the few mornings when it gets into single digits, my pedals can also be used as conventional platforms. I have shoe covers, but they are more fiddly than I'd like.

Chandra said...

Practical cycling shorts (such as mountain bike shorts) have pockets and they also allow you to breathe! I prefer ordinary street clothes to cycling specific clothes, when it makes sense to use them.

I have misplaced one of my balaclavas and it is bugging me. If I buy a new one, I will likely find the old one somewhere :)

Paz :)

John Romeo Alpha said...

I've run into a variation recently where it feels colder on the ride home than it was on the ride into work. So far it has happened twice this winter, where mild morning weather gave way to blustery storm front weather in the darkness on the ride home. I may turn to stashing additional clothing at the office just in case.

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