Dave Schlabowske
Bike Czar

Winter Weather Warmers

My winter commute tricks will help you bicycle comfortably in the cold.

By , Bike Federation of Wisconsin - Jan 3rd, 2014 10:33 am
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Bern helmet over a Cognition Cap works for me and keeps it local. Bern does make liners for their helmets too. I pull the blue turtle fur up over my chin on colder days.

Bern helmet over a Cognition Cap works for me and keeps it local. Bern does make liners for their helmets too. I pull the blue turtle fur up over my chin on colder days.

Over the years I have developed a few basic techniques that help me ride comfortably through the winter. Today I thought I would share a few of mine and ask readers to share what works for them. I will go from head to toe.

Head: I wear a Cognition Caps winter helmet liner/cap under my Bern Watts lid.  In addition to the great Northwoods Mackinaw style, the wooly fleece on the flaps keep my ears and forehead warm. The forehead is something many people forget about, but it is key when riding into an icy headwind. The top of the cap is thin wool and super breathable, so I don’t get too sweaty.

It was five below zero actual temperature when I took this photo last winter. Goggles mean I can see ripping down a hill and keep my cheeks from getting too rosy.

It was five below zero actual temperature when I took this photo last winter. Goggles mean I can see while ripping down a hill and keep my cheeks from getting too rosy.

Face: My eyes tear easily, so when it is super cold, I put on a pair of cheap ski goggles. They keep more of my face warm, block blowing snow and no more tears!

Neck: Turtle fur keeps my neck warm, but I really like to pull it up over my chin on super cold days. Even when it is in the single digits, I might still unzip my coat a bit to vent my core if I am biking hard, but I find if I keep my chin and neck protected from the wind, I feel much more comfortable.

My fingers get cold quickly even when it is comparatively warm (40 degrees). Bar Mitts are the cure for a wimp like me.

My fingers get cold quickly even when it is comparatively warm (40 degrees). Bar Mitts are the cure for a wimp like me.

Hands: I can’t say this loud enough: Bar Mitts RULE!!! My fingers get cold as soon as temps drop below 45 degrees, but even on the coldest days, Bar Mitts “pogies” keep my hands warm with just a pair of thin leather dress gloves or thin liner gloves over my hands. I have the kind for mountain bike bars, but find they work on my swept back “priest” bars that I have on all my commuter bikes. They make versions for drop-bar road bikes, snowmobiles and even ski poles too.  If you get cold fingers, get Bar Mitts.

Yes, I leave my zipper down when I ride.

Yes, I leave my zipper down when I ride.

Abdomen: I really like pit zips on a 3/4 length coat.  As I mentioned above, venting is key. People who don’t exercise outside in the winter always think I am cold when I ride. Most days I sweat, even taking an easy ride the four mile commute to the Bike Fed’s Milwaukee office. I don’t think it is necessary that the coat be waterproof in the winter, in fact sometimes I just wear a warm wool sweater as an outer layer.

Legs: When the roads are sloppy, I wear an inexpensive pair of rain pants over my regular dress pants. This keeps me warm, without the need for long underwear, which makes me sweat when I get to a normally heated office. I don’t wear the rain pants when the roads are dry, but I might if the temps are in the single digits. Guys, when it is really cold, be sure to protect your lower unit from frostbite!  Rain pants do this, a plastic bag will work in a pinch if you didn’t bring a pair and the temps drop during the day before you ride home. I just can’t ever see myself buying Gore-tex underwear, but they do make windfront briefs.

Waterproof Danner Romeo GTX boots wipe off and look good enough for business casual office wear. The inexpensive rain pants keep my dress pants clean and dry when the roads are sloppy, and in red, they work for the Santa Cycle Rampage!

Waterproof Danner Romeo GTX boots wipe off and look good enough for business casual office wear. The inexpensive rain pants keep my dress pants clean and dry when the roads are sloppy, and in red, they work for the Santa Cycle Rampage!

Feet: I don’t like to change shoes at work, so I try to wear boot shoes that look nice enough for business casual, but also work outdoors. My latest faves are Danner Workman Romeo GTX. They seem to hold up way better than Bundstones, and the Gore-tex membrane keeps my feet dry and makes them warmer than any pair of Blunnies I have owned. I do find they fit about 1/4 size smaller than Blundstones. I  typically wear Wisconsin-made Wigwam wool socks of varying thicknesses to match the temps.

Those are some of my tips, but there are plenty of ways to skin a cat. How do you stay warm riding in the winter?

This article was originally published by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.

Categories: Bike Czar

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