Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Keeping warm less cold on the bicycle

I've figured out a new concept for cycling in comfort: stop caring about cycling in comfort. Very Zen koan-ish, I know, but true. Previous winters, my focus was on staying warm on the bike. My ideal was a nice, toasty, sitting-by-the-fire glow, inside my many thermal layers. This is hard to achieve in extremely cold weather if it's windy. The layers add wind resistance and make it harder to turn your head and watch traffic. Too many layers will also make you sweat buckets, which gets worse if you have any stops to make before you get to change out of your cycling clothes. This resulted in my worst cycling day all last winter; I rode four miles to breakfast with a nice tailwind, sat for an hour and a half sweating, rode another two miles on an errand, then rode six miles back into a strong headwind. I was so hypothermic by the time I got home, I needed two hands to get the key in the door lock. Not smart, but a learning experience.

This year, I've found the secret: it doesn't matter if you're comfortably warm. The important thing is, don't be so cold that you're risking damage. This morning, I was on a bicycle, in the rain, the temperature just above freezing, with a 15mph headwind. Extreme comfort isn't even an option, under the circumstances. But I can keep my exposed skin to a minimum to avoid frostbite, and I can wear just enough that, on my 20-minute ride, my core temperature doesn't start dropping. Being a little chilly even inspires me to pedal harder. I'm finding that, at the freezing point, I'm comfortably chilly in polar fleece sweatpants, a long-sleeved polyester thermal shirt, a windbreaker, and wind-resistant gloves and hood. When it gets colder, I'll probably add another pair of fleece sweats, and maybe a fleece shirt under the windbreaker. But for now, I'm happier a little bit cold than warm but bulky and sweaty.

1 comment:

Jacob said...

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