Commuting at -8 Degrees
Sounds tough, but it's really possible to travel quite comfortably. Here's a guide.
Winter commuting limbo started this morning with an actual temperature of six below zero when my wife Liz pedaled off to work. She now teaches at a neighborhood school, so her commute is short, but she rode through the winter months when she taught at a school five miles away. By the time I published this blog post and left at 8 AM, it was eight below zero.
Her secret to staying warm is a cool (in a stylish way) red vintage snowmobile suit, a Bern helmet with the winter liner, warm boots with platform pedals and thick mittens. Because it snowed yesterday just before the temperatures plunged, the side roads she takes to work were still icy and compacted, rutted snow. Normally Liz rides her Workcycles Omafiets, but given the slippery conditions, she pulled the Courtney lugged, single-speed mountain bike with Nokian Mount and Ground studded tires from our stable.
Regular readers know I now have a dedicated “Bring It Mother Nature” commuter bike in my Schlick Northpaw fat bike. I have my Schlick set up with full coverage fenders from Big O Manufacturing in Minneapolish, Dillinger 4 studded tires from 45Nrth, Shimano Alfine dynamo hub powering a Supernova E3 and Gates Center track Carbon Belt Drive to an Alfine 11 driving the sled.
At five below, my lower body is fine in long underwear and a pair of regular pants. Merino wool turtleneck from Minus 33 and a couple wool sweaters keep me warm and also breath better than high-tech stuff, but I do keep a breathable Marmot Precip rain jacket with pit zips in case of precipitation when I need a shell.
People who don’t bike to work in the winter sometimes find it hard to believe, but it really isn’t all that difficult to stay warm if your commute is under 10 miles. The real trick is to learn how to dress so you don’t get sweaty riding to work and have to sit in damp clothing until it dries. I actually find it easier to ride in extreme cold than extreme heat. Once it is over 80 degrees, I can’t figure out any way to ride my bike and not sweat.
What is your system for staying warm when the mercury plunges? Do you have a lower limit for commuting? How about a record low temperature you have ridden your bike? Let us know in comments.
This story was originally published by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.