Author Topic: Winter biking preparation  (Read 14722 times)

Jimbo

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 132
  • Location: Montreal, Qc
Winter biking preparation
« on: September 12, 2013, 09:09:38 AM »
Hi guys,

recently my inlaws spotted a neighbour bringing a mountain bike to the curb on trash day... They happened to be nearby and took a look at the bike, and it seemed in pretty good shape except for several spokes out on a tire. They offered to take it, they brought it to the local bike shop for a tune up. Turns out the bike is pretty much in decent shape, and changing the spokes (not even the wheel!) cost 17$. Not bad.

I offered to buy it back from them (they would not take my money) but they gave me the bike nevertheless... It's a pretty decent bike (Jamis XC, MSRP 800$ [who throws that away?]) which I now get to ride with no emotional attachment, i.e. I don't care if I destroy it in the winter months. It rides smooth, shifts great, and looks indestructible.

This makes me consider biking year round for the first time. I don't care if it gets stolen, if it gets destroyed by a snow plow while being locked outside, if the salt destroys its frame, name it! I cannot say the same about my summer ride.

So, with this in mind, I am trying to come up with the basic strategy for winter riding. Think heavy winter, with snowfalls, -20C regular temperatures for January-February. I want to be ready (physically and emotionally) when the time comes.

What do I need?

My list so far:

- Fenders - will buy plastic ones
- Lights - Have them.
- Balaclava : shopping for one.

You guys have any advice/experience? Things to consider? Lessons learned? Should I get spiked tires or are studded sufficient? What's your opinion about riding in snow storms?

Thanks a lot, I am psyched by this project!!

Ottawa

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1011
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2013, 09:27:21 AM »
I talked a little about preparation (live in Ottawa) in this biking challenge thread:

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/throw-down-the-gauntlet/january-biking-challenge!!!/msg51322/#msg51322

I will be attempting to make my own studded front tire for this season...that is the only real addition that I would recommend.  I fell twice last season - both would easily have been prevented with the front studded tire.  (they retail ready-made for more than $70...which is too much!).  You can follow something like this: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?doc_id=3180.  There are many guides out there to make a studded tire for about $5 from an old mountain bike tire. 

Edit:  Re: conditions - last year I didn't bike during freezing rain.  This will change with a studded tire!  Generally, snow isn't too much of a problem.  There were two days where the heavy 'sandy' textured snow were not possible to ride in (until the plow went by)...
« Last Edit: September 12, 2013, 09:29:22 AM by Ottawa »

galaxie

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 370
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2013, 09:28:22 AM »
Dress windproof more than warm.  If your ride is longer than 10 minutes you'll warm up, and if you're overdressed you'll sweat and then get cold again.  Protect your hands, feet, neck, and head especially.  Lots of people like to wear wool because it stays reasonably warm when wet.

Do you know if your route is reliably cleared of snow & ice?

lackofstache

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 313
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2013, 09:30:41 AM »
.

What do I need?



WOOL. Seriously. Lots of WOOL. gloves, balaclava, sweaters, socks. You'll want fenders. Studded tires are great if it's gonna be icy/snowy on the roads consistently. Here in my neck of the woods, though, the streets get cleared and it's usually slushy pretty quick. I've found over the last 5 years of winter riding that you just need a fairly deep tread (not neccesarily knobbies) and to keep the air pressure low. That's why fat bikes like the Surly Pugsly work well, they have super fat tires that can be ridden at extremely low pressure. Make sure you're comfy on it as well, in winter conditions, even w/o snow, my commute takes a little longer. It is really enjoyable once you find a clothing system that keeps you warm w/o overheating.

Stache In Training

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 224
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2013, 09:53:06 AM »
I live in the 7th coldest town in america (200 sub-zero days a year). Last winter, I had a week straight where the high was -35F. (<- not a typo)  So I know your apprehension.  Luckily it is in a dry climate; unluckily, the wind is always sustained at about 30-40mph, and 60 gusts, in the winter.  Also, you'll be traveling at about 20mph.  So I always suggest windproof items, specifically gloves.  As mentioned earlier, if your ride is over 10 minutes, you'll stay warm.  Even at these temperatures, I can usually stand it with windproof gloves and liners.  Maybe your climate is wetter, and you need more waterproof, but I just feel that windproof made a huge difference to me.
And yes, as people are saying, wool is nice.
As for balaclava, look for one specifically made for snowmobile-rs.  It's made out of like thin polypropelene...maybe.  But it insulates well and is thin enough to fit under your helmet.  Which is very nice to have!
Also, maybe do a few pushups before going outside, in order to get the blood pumping.

Russ

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2213
  • Age: 28
  • Location: Boulder, CO
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2013, 09:54:57 AM »
studded tires if you'll be riding anywhere with ice. no fenders IMO unless you expect rain or seriously wet slush; they'll just clog up with snow. dress WARM but not so warm you sweat. no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. you should be a little cold starting out, but it's no worse than sitting in a cold car, you'll warm up after a bit and be just perfect.

Most importantly, IMO, don't stop riding as it starts to get colder thinking you'll pick it up later. It's easy to ease yourself into it with the natural progression of the season, not so easy to jump from 5-10 degree days to below 0 in one go. You'll also get a good feel for what you need as you go, rather than guessing upfront.

A plastic grocery bag down the front of your shirt is cheap, lightweight emergency insulation.

Do whatever you have to do to never get a flat. Changing a tire when it's cold is the kind of thing you only do once, and then you know better.

Congrats on the bike, that's a pretty sweet score.

starbuck

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 360
  • Age: 35
  • Location: Small Town Connecticut
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2013, 10:00:31 AM »
As for balaclava, look for one specifically made for snowmobile-rs.  It's made out of like thin polypropelene...maybe.  But it insulates well and is thin enough to fit under your helmet.  Which is very nice to have!

Side question! Is there any reason I couldn't switch to my snowboarding helmet when it starts to get colder? It's already lined and keeps me warm on the slopes. I figure a helmet is a helmet, but I'm new to biking.

Jimbo

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 132
  • Location: Montreal, Qc
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2013, 10:03:37 AM »
Wow, fantastic advice so far!

I fear the wind the most to be honest, so thanks for confirmation on this.

The streets get plowed pretty efficiently around here (despite complainypants comments saying they should be immmediately and instantaneously plowed after 2 flakes hit the ground - and paid by no taxes!), and the constant car traffic turns snow into slush quickly. I'd be extra careful about weather and probably chicken out when too much ice is involved. My fall back plan is the underground metro, so it's not so bad. I hope there won't be too much freezing rain. Hate that stuff.

We do get a lot of snow, lets say 30 cm/week sprinkled through the days... And it is definitely cold and humid, the perfect combination to make one hate winters...

Is slush a big wipeout danger?

I'll probably wear the following:

Long john, pants, snow pants
Wool socks, Big winter boots
T-shirt, fleece jacket, water proof / wind proofish overcoat
Balaclava, helmet, scarf, ski gloves, some sort of eyewear. Maybe just clear glasses.

Will be looking into wool stuff. Those merino shirts cost a boatload!

Jimbo

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 132
  • Location: Montreal, Qc
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2013, 10:08:40 AM »
I don't know snowboarding helmets at all, but one thing I would be worried about is dead spots around my eyes.

On a bike I want to see as much as humanly possible, from all angle...

So if it doesnt keep you from seeing things, sure, why not...

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14038
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2013, 10:18:26 AM »
Slush is fine as long as your tires can hit asphalt beneath it.  The most dangerous conditions for me are when it's right on the edge of freezing/melting.  That's when you get thin sheets of ice that cover the road and your chance of slipping goes way up.  Freezing rain sucks.

One tip that I found . . . if you're cycling for more than 40 minutes put HOT water in your water bottle, and try to get an insulated bottle.  I was having trouble with my water bottles freezing up on my commute.

Wool is a great suggestion.  At least pick up some wool socks . . . they stay warm even when soaking wet . . . which is often when slushy.

Since you'll be wearing long pants, I'd recommend you get some kind of strap or band to secure your pants close to your ankles.  Otherwise they'll get sucked into your chain and rip.  Tucking into your socks can work, but I always found that they would wiggle loose, and then you have to stop to retuck.

Don't forget to wash your bike off after any long ride.  Salt is murder on components otherwise.  Also, keep your chain heavily lubed.  You cannot overlube the chain when winter riding.

crazy jane

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 231
  • Location: Northbrook, Illinois
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2013, 10:20:57 AM »
Get a mask that covers your mouth, but has holes over the mouth area. I think they sell them at motorcycle shops. This makes all the difference in the world for me in January. Everything must be covered, but mouth breathing through a fleece balaclava just made my lips frozen.

galaxie

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 370
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2013, 10:35:53 AM »
The streets get plowed pretty efficiently around here ...
Is slush a big wipeout danger?
It depends on the slushiness.  If it's very liquidy, it's like riding through a very cold puddle (no big deal).  If it is more like smushy snow, it can be quite slippery.  I go around the slush, or generally ride more in the cars' part of the lane than usual, if it's like that.  But from what you say, it sounds like you don't need studded tires or anything fancy.  I ride a Surly Crosscheck with the tires it ships with (slightly knobby & wide compared to road tires, too skinny for MTB) in the winter, and it's fine.  I try to avoid the really glassy ice patches.

Quote
I'll probably wear the following:

Long john, pants, snow pants
Wool socks, Big winter boots
T-shirt, fleece jacket, water proof / wind proofish overcoat
Balaclava, helmet, scarf, ski gloves, some sort of eyewear. Maybe just clear glasses.

This kind of sounds like too much.  You will overheat, I think.  Consider skipping the snow pants & warm overcoat, maybe just wearing a thin windproof/waterproof layer.  The long johns and fleece will probably be enough insulation. 

Stache In Training

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 224
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2013, 10:36:48 AM »
As for balaclava, look for one specifically made for snowmobile-rs.  It's made out of like thin polypropelene...maybe.  But it insulates well and is thin enough to fit under your helmet.  Which is very nice to have!

Side question! Is there any reason I couldn't switch to my snowboarding helmet when it starts to get colder? It's already lined and keeps me warm on the slopes. I figure a helmet is a helmet, but I'm new to biking.

Yes, I have used my ski helmet before (even for rollerblading in the cold).  It's nice for warmth.  Just depending on the length of ride, may actually get too warm, as, depending on how cold, you'll want something on your face like the balaclava.  It's all a guessing game and personal preference.  A helmet is a helmet.  I'm sure manufacturers will tell you there's a difference. And I'm sure there's some, as a bike helmet is made for asphalt, as a snow helmet is made for ice and trees.  But something is better than nothing.

Ottawa

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1011
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2013, 10:37:44 AM »
As Russ points out...the greatest problem in the winter is actually overheating/steaming!

I wear (plastic) glasses and find that on really cold days when I wear a balaclava, I have humid breath from nose/mouth venting next to nose into glasses causing ice formation (and loss of vision)!  I tried 'high end' ski goggles to wear over glasses too and same freezing water problem...different cause...there wasn't enough venting to remove the perspiration vapour from inside the goggles...and resulting ice formation obscured vision.  I was able to return the goggles for a full refund as they didn't fit my purpose.  Bear in mind downhill skiers are not exactly sweating...so these things aren't engineered for hot and sweaty biking...

Both the balaclavas that I wear don't have mouth/nose cutouts...which is part of the problem...does anyone have a similar problem...but a successful solution?

PindyStache

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 241
  • Location: Minneapolis
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2013, 10:38:31 AM »
Awesome find with the bike!

no fenders IMO unless you expect rain or seriously wet slush;

Fenders can be tricky in snow. Especially if it is snowing right around freezing/thawing temperatures, snow can get caught in wheel, melt, and then re-freeze against the fender, locking the wheel to the fender. This can get frustrating and makes for slow-going. I'd recommend one of the small plastic fenders that hang 4" or so over the rear wheel and attaches to the seat post--rather to than the larger fenders that circle 1/3 of the wheel (I'm sure there are technical terms for such things).

Also +1 to studded tires being sufficient and necessary.

Slush is not a big wipe-out danger in my experience, just slow down if you're turning. The most hazardous is when slush/soft powder/water is on top of solid frozen ice/packed snow.

Other ideas:

-Go slow at first and plan both to take more time biking and more time changing on both ends (those layers are great but it takes me 5 extra minutes to change winter vs. summer bike clothes). You will get to know your route in a whole new way with winter weather, just start off slow and increase speed when you're more comfortable. My ~10 mile/15.5km route takes me 33-37 min in the summer and more like 40-45 in winter.

-Be sure you have good lights, front, back, and side reflectors/visibility. It will probably be dark all the time you are biking. Carry back-up batteries.

-Consider handle bar mitts. Clothing needs vs. temperature will be very individualized and you'll have to just figure that out on your own. I personally dislike biking with large ski gloves/mittens, so enjoy my mitts very much. Underneath I just wear light biking gloves, even below -20 Celsius + windy. I personally don't need use any wool gear as I find I'm plenty warm with the heat of biking. I'd recommend you get a feel for this before buying a bunch of expensive gear, but certainly do so if it is needed. I bought a balaclava in similar preparations but really never use it. Sort of a better-safe-than-sorry vs. tough-it-out-a-couple-times approach that is a decision for you.

-If your extremities get cold easily, consider carrying small warming packs like they sell for skiing/etc.

-Plastic grocery bags are also helpful for your feet inside boots.

-If it is snowing I consider goggles/glasses necessary for good visibility. A snowboarding helmet seems overkill but I've never tried it, seems it might compromise visibility--as well as hearing which is very important on a bike.

-Not sure what your route is like, but if biking on streets you may need to be prepared to assert yourself in the lane more aggressively. Roads can be much narrower as snow piles up, so where there used to be room for bike + car in the lane there may not be during parts of the winter. Be safe and take the lane when you need it, cars will be going slower anyway so you don't hold them up as much.

Jimbo

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 132
  • Location: Montreal, Qc
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2013, 10:41:00 AM »
Again, thanks for the great advice guys, I'm glad to get the discussion going. I know it's early to talk about this, but since buying anything takes me a couple of months, I'd rather plan way ahead.


Quote
I'll probably wear the following:

Long john, pants, snow pants
Wool socks, Big winter boots
T-shirt, fleece jacket, water proof / wind proofish overcoat
Balaclava, helmet, scarf, ski gloves, some sort of eyewear. Maybe just clear glasses.

This kind of sounds like too much.  You will overheat, I think.  Consider skipping the snow pants & warm overcoat, maybe just wearing a thin windproof/waterproof layer.  The long johns and fleece will probably be enough insulation. 

This would be for the worst months and temperatures... Like -20 to 30C, some wind, some humidity... I will not start with this right at 0C/32F...

Thanks for the advice guys!

Stache In Training

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 224
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2013, 11:06:20 AM »
As Russ points out...the greatest problem in the winter is actually overheating/steaming!

I wear (plastic) glasses and find that on really cold days when I wear a balaclava, I have humid breath from nose/mouth venting next to nose into glasses causing ice formation (and loss of vision)!  I tried 'high end' ski goggles to wear over glasses too and same freezing water problem...different cause...there wasn't enough venting to remove the perspiration vapour from inside the goggles...and resulting ice formation obscured vision.  I was able to return the goggles for a full refund as they didn't fit my purpose.  Bear in mind downhill skiers are not exactly sweating...so these things aren't engineered for hot and sweaty biking...

Both the balaclavas that I wear don't have mouth/nose cutouts...which is part of the problem...does anyone have a similar problem...but a successful solution?

Umm, skiers do sweat, or at least if you're pushing it, you should be.  Though yes, we do get to cool down on the ski lift.  But to answer, make sure your balaclava isn't tucked under your ski goggles, because yes your breath will come right up into it, and you get enough humidity in there, and doesn't matter how "high-end."  Also, they do sell anti-fogging sprays or rubs that help.  For wearing glasses, I've had this too. requires some breath control (I found it does it less breathing through my mouth and "down" and not though my nose). and I found moving the glasses just slightly farther away from my face lets more air get in, and the moisture can evaporate before it freezes or condensates.

Or, look for something called the cold avenger. a balaclava but with an enclosed area for your nose and mouth, with a filter in the front to let the air go in and out.  may be too warm, but the cold air comes in through that filter, and then mixes with the warm air you're exhaling.  so the air you're breathing will be a bit warmer, and the moisture will stay in that area, instead of going up to your goggles or glasses.  Only problem, if you're using it for a long period of time, the inside of the enclosed area will condensate and accumulate.  Gross, but it does clean out easily, and at least your balaclava isn't soaked.

Or, just grow a beard.... lol

NCoffey

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 24
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2013, 11:18:31 AM »
Is there such a thing as night vision goggles that can fit over prescription glasses? I mean, I see some generic ones online but I would prefer a strap similar to a ski goggle but something that made visibility at night better. Most ski goggles I look up say nothing about night visibility and most night vision glasses have pretty bad reviews that I have seen.

Doesn't need to be a ski goggle, would just prefer something with a strap instead of one more thing taking up space on the top of my ears.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2013, 11:21:19 AM by NCoffey »

SisterX

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2796
  • Location: 2nd Star on the Right and Straight On 'Til Morning
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2013, 12:50:44 PM »
Quote
I'll probably wear the following:

Long john, pants, snow pants
Wool socks, Big winter boots
T-shirt, fleece jacket, water proof / wind proofish overcoat
Balaclava, helmet, scarf, ski gloves, some sort of eyewear. Maybe just clear glasses.

This kind of sounds like too much.  You will overheat, I think.  Consider skipping the snow pants & warm overcoat, maybe just wearing a thin windproof/waterproof layer.  The long johns and fleece will probably be enough insulation. 
[/quote]

This would be for the worst months and temperatures... Like -20 to 30C, some wind, some humidity... I will not start with this right at 0C/32F...

Thanks for the advice guys!
[/quote]

As someone in Fairbanks, I still think that the snow pants will end up being overkill.  I walk to and from work and my husband bikes year-round, and neither of us wears snow pants because we overheat.  (My walk is 1/2 an hour, the husband's bike ride is about 10 mins, so not too much time in extreme cold during which to warm up from the exercise.)

If you're worried about wind, look for bike pogies.  They attach to your bike, so all you need are some light gloves underneath to keep your hands warm.  Or even just arm warmers, without fingers.  (Depending on how cold your fingers get.)  Just make sure the gloves or arm warmers are long enough to cover your wrists, as the gap between a coat sleeve and gloves (even if it seems small when you start) can make your ride miserable.

Clear safety glasses tend to work pretty well for visibility on snowy days.  Especially if you've got something that vents the heat from your nose and mouth.  They do make special face masks for snowmachiners (snowmobilers, for you lower-48ers) that I know are popular with dog mushers, too, because it's easy to breathe through but still keeps your face warm and vents the moist breath away from your face.  (I always trust dog mushers in terms of what to wear to keep warm.)

For good deals on outdoor gear/wool items, check out Sierra Trading Post, if you haven't already.  Their selection of wool socks makes my heart sing.

Finally, the need for fenders and studded tires depends entirely on what kind of snow you get, which is mostly determined by temperature and humidity.  Are there any local cycling forums or people you could ask?  I'm sure you'll get lots of different opinions but at least people in your area know the conditions well.

Jimbo

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 132
  • Location: Montreal, Qc
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2013, 01:13:05 PM »
Hmm, ok, i definitely respect the half hour walk in fairbanks february with no snow pants. Badass.

I do tend to get hot while biking, but I will definitely experiment. I am worried about my extremities mostly I'd say.

For the fenders/tires, I will look at what they say at my local bike enthusiasts' hangout. I'm pretty sure the plastic fenders hanging over the tire (and not next to the tire) will end up useful in the slushy snow. 

This is the first time in 30 years where I am excited at the idea of winter. Biking for the win.

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14038
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #20 on: September 12, 2013, 01:24:48 PM »
As far as fenders go, just adjust the height of your fenders.  I use mountain bike fenders on my 700C tire winter commuter because they are wider, and fit with a little extra space underneath (to deal with snow accumulation).  YMMV.

Spudd

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 215
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #21 on: September 12, 2013, 01:29:34 PM »
From Toronto, my experience is the following.

Most winter days, all I need is windproof mitts, hat or headband, and warm socks. I just wear a windbreaker/raincoat over my street clothes and I'm good. If it gets really cold (like -15 and below), I might layer up my mitts, and either add a wool sweater (bought cheap from the thrift store, because nobody will see it except you) under the raincoat or change the raincoat to a windproof winter coat and add a balaclava on really cold days. The amount of insulation I need while biking is much less than while walking.

If you're not a glasses-wearer, I would get some clear glasses or goggles because the cold wind in your eyes can be quite uncomfortable.

Jimbo

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 132
  • Location: Montreal, Qc
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #22 on: September 12, 2013, 01:39:02 PM »
From Toronto, my experience is the following.

Most winter days, all I need is windproof mitts, hat or headband, and warm socks. I just wear a windbreaker/raincoat over my street clothes and I'm good. If it gets really cold (like -15 and below), I might layer up my mitts, and either add a wool sweater (bought cheap from the thrift store, because nobody will see it except you) under the raincoat or change the raincoat to a windproof winter coat and add a balaclava on really cold days. The amount of insulation I need while biking is much less than while walking.

If you're not a glasses-wearer, I would get some clear glasses or goggles because the cold wind in your eyes can be quite uncomfortable.

Thanks for that... I don't want to get into the Toronto-bashing, but you guys DO get warmer winters than us... I'll try and not overdress, but some days last winter were pretty scary cold, and windy. We shall see.

About the glasses, will regular clear lense glasses work or should I have them be tight on my face, a la ski glasses?...

Russ

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2213
  • Age: 28
  • Location: Boulder, CO
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #23 on: September 12, 2013, 01:55:20 PM »
About the glasses, will regular clear lense glasses work or should I have them be tight on my face, a la ski glasses?...

this is one of those things I was talking about when I said you'll find out what you need as you go. I'd start out with regular, and then if you need to step it up later go for it. FWIW I've never used ski goggles, but then again I've only ridden down to about 10 deg. F

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14038
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #24 on: September 12, 2013, 02:08:49 PM »
From Toronto, my experience is the following.

Most winter days, all I need is windproof mitts, hat or headband, and warm socks. I just wear a windbreaker/raincoat over my street clothes and I'm good. If it gets really cold (like -15 and below), I might layer up my mitts, and either add a wool sweater (bought cheap from the thrift store, because nobody will see it except you) under the raincoat or change the raincoat to a windproof winter coat and add a balaclava on really cold days. The amount of insulation I need while biking is much less than while walking.

If you're not a glasses-wearer, I would get some clear glasses or goggles because the cold wind in your eyes can be quite uncomfortable.

Thanks for that... I don't want to get into the Toronto-bashing, but you guys DO get warmer winters than us... I'll try and not overdress, but some days last winter were pretty scary cold, and windy. We shall see.

About the glasses, will regular clear lense glasses work or should I have them be tight on my face, a la ski glasses?...

Last year I biked to work during the coldest day that we had all year . . . which was about -21 in the morning with a windchill of about -25.  I wore:

- Underwear and ski pants (with the vents open)
- A light windbreaker over a light sweater over a sweat wicking long sleeve top
- Thick snowmobiling gloves
- A heavy touque under my helmet
- Face mask
- Insulated hiking boots with two pairs of wool socks
- I wear regular glasses and find that ski goggles fog up too much when cycling.

The ski pants were too warm, but not wearing them would have been too cold.  :S  Keeping the extremities warm is the crucial part of winter cycling.  Your chest will almost always get too warm.  My rule of thumb is that you want to be chilly for the first 5 minutes, so you don't spend the remaining 40 drenched in sweat.

nawhite

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1060
  • Location: An RV somewhere in the West
    • The Reckless Choice
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #25 on: September 12, 2013, 02:10:05 PM »

Side question! Is there any reason I couldn't switch to my snowboarding helmet when it starts to get colder? It's already lined and keeps me warm on the slopes. I figure a helmet is a helmet, but I'm new to biking.

Unfortunately, a helmet is not a helmet. But you'd probably still be ok for slow speeds in the winter on snow covered streets.

Bike helmets are designed to disintegrate when going from 60 mph to hitting concrete or metal cars. They break apart because that is the only way to make them protective enough for your average summer road biker but still light enough for comfort. Snowboard helmets are designed to protect against semi-repeated whiplash into snow and ice at a max of about 30 mph. These two helmets will protect you from very different things.

A snowboard helmet will not protect very effectively from car impacts, curb impacts, or very high speed pavement wipeouts. If those are not crashes you are particularly worried about during your winter bike commute then a snowboard helmet could possibly be ok.

I'm not a doctor or a lawyer or a bike helmet expert. I just do both sports and read the labels on the helmet packages.

Spudd

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 215
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #26 on: September 13, 2013, 12:11:52 PM »
Thanks for that... I don't want to get into the Toronto-bashing, but you guys DO get warmer winters than us... I'll try and not overdress, but some days last winter were pretty scary cold, and windy. We shall see.

About the glasses, will regular clear lense glasses work or should I have them be tight on my face, a la ski glasses?...

We do get warmer winters on the average, for sure, but we get the odd cold day here and there. :) Anyway, you might be too cold or too warm occasionally but you can adjust. Carry extra layers in your bag if you're worried you're not dressed warmly enough.

I wear regular eyeglasses (like, all the time) and I get a bit of wind around them into my eyes but not too bad. I don't bother with goggles or anything. I usually shed a few tears due to the wind in the first 5 min of my ride but then my eyes seem to adjust.

lackofstache

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 313
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #27 on: September 13, 2013, 02:11:28 PM »
"Will be looking into wool stuff. Those merino shirts cost a boatload! "

Get an undershirt & buy a few sweaters at a thrift store.


Stives

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 11
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #28 on: November 25, 2013, 05:13:08 PM »
Hey guys, I hope you don't mind if I hijack a bit to ask some advice as well... I have a bike that has 26 x 1.5 hybrid tires, and I'm wondering if I should switch to fat mountain bike tires for when it starts snowing. I live in Salt Lake City, (my first winter here, I'm from South Texas originally), and from what I've heard they salt the roads like crazy, so I'm expecting a lot of wet slush. But if someone thinks otherwise, please let me know! But anyway, my bike doesn't feature eyelets or anything to mount fenders, so I need to get special fenders that support that. I found http://www.amazon.com/Planet-Bike-SpeedEZ-Bicycle-Fender/dp/B000AO7JIW/ref=sr_1_2?s=cycling&ie=UTF8&qid=1385424683&sr=1-2&keywords=speedez+fender on Amazon, but they're 60mm wide. It sounds like they'd fit fatter mountain bike tires great, but I would prefer to be able to use fenders on my 1.5" tires as well. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Russ

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2213
  • Age: 28
  • Location: Boulder, CO
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #29 on: November 25, 2013, 05:33:01 PM »
You can use fat fenders on narrow tires, they'll just be a little less effective (very slightly). Mountain tires are 2"+ (50mm+) so that might actually be a tight fit. they're probably meant for something closer to the tires you already have.

I made it to work today in 1.5" snow with a rear 23mm slick and a front 30mm light tread. I wouldn't recommend this for anyone, but I'm using it as an example that you don't need monster treads all the time. I'm about to switch to these tires, which should be good for anything but ice.

wet salty slush is nasty stuff, do your best to keep it off you and the bike.

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14038
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #30 on: November 26, 2013, 07:05:07 AM »
Hey guys, I hope you don't mind if I hijack a bit to ask some advice as well... I have a bike that has 26 x 1.5 hybrid tires, and I'm wondering if I should switch to fat mountain bike tires for when it starts snowing. I live in Salt Lake City, (my first winter here, I'm from South Texas originally), and from what I've heard they salt the roads like crazy, so I'm expecting a lot of wet slush. But if someone thinks otherwise, please let me know! But anyway, my bike doesn't feature eyelets or anything to mount fenders, so I need to get special fenders that support that. I found http://www.amazon.com/Planet-Bike-SpeedEZ-Bicycle-Fender/dp/B000AO7JIW/ref=sr_1_2?s=cycling&ie=UTF8&qid=1385424683&sr=1-2&keywords=speedez+fender on Amazon, but they're 60mm wide. It sounds like they'd fit fatter mountain bike tires great, but I would prefer to be able to use fenders on my 1.5" tires as well. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Tire choice is going to depend a lot on the conditions you find yourself in.

Big knobby mountain bike tires rock for deep soft snow, and hard packed snow.  I find them worse than hybrid tires in slush and light snow though . . . they're slower, they don't corner as well (the knobs squirm a bit on turns).  Skinnier tires (32mm and under) can punch through slush and light powdery snow to get traction on the road underneath pretty well.  Just make sure there's a little bit of a pattern on them, as straight up slicks will leave you spinning your rear tire a lot whenever it can't get down to the tarmac.  No regular tire will help you on ice, I think studded is the only way to go for that.  But studded tires are super slow on clear pavement.

BrakeForTurtles

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 546
  • Location: UK
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #31 on: January 07, 2014, 08:04:23 PM »
Hello badass 'tachinas,

I thought I'd tag along in this thread instead of starting my own on winter biking.

I have just arrived in Quebec, where I'm spending 6 months on exchange. As I ride everywhere in my home town of Melbourne I am itching to replicate that here, but obviously it's not quite as straightforward. I'm pretty well-equipped in terms of clothes, I just have to find a winter-proof bike and a decent route. I am worried about my lungs though. I have a friend who rode around in London in max -5 (as in, that's as cold as it got) and he said the main issue was painful lungs. Do you do anything about this (apart from covering the mouth), or is it something your poor alveoli get used to? I have seen those respirators that suck in air at chest level to warm it before breathing, but I don't want to get more stares than I already will/shell out money.

Also, in terms of footwear, if I only have really warm Sorel winter boots, will that be overkill/too hard to ride in? I'm only going ~4km, and I don't imagine I'll be going fast.

Appreciate your help!

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14038
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #32 on: January 08, 2014, 05:40:29 AM »
You get used to the cold the more time you spend out it in.  I use a face mask for most of the winter, but it's not for my lungs . . . it's because the wind gets damned cold on your cheeks!

The sorel boots should keep your toes warm.  Personally, I like a less bulky boot . . . I use low cut insulated hiking boots with wool socks inside.  Recent -40 degree weather though has proven to be too cold for my hiking boots, but they rock for 0 to -30 or so.

As far as winterproofing a bike . . . just make sure everything that needs to be greased is greased with some water proof stuff (seat post, hubs, bottom bracket, etc.).  Keep your chain well oiled, and check for wear regularly on both your chain and brake pads.  Also, do a quick wash of your bike after each long ride to get salt off your bike and your components will last much longer.

TrMama

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3019
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #33 on: January 08, 2014, 11:59:13 AM »
LOL! -5C really isn't that cold. As I like to say, "Suck it up, Princess." You'll get used to it. You can also try breathing more through your nose, especially if you're not working that hard.

At -30C my teeth hurt from cold sensitivity when I breath through my mouth.

Lucky you! I miss living in Quebec.

yyc-phil

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1041
  • Location: Yellowknife NWT
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #34 on: January 08, 2014, 02:44:17 PM »
I live in Yellowknife, where the temperature is usually and steadily around the -35 to -40 mark at this time of the year. And I bike every single day to and from work, and to run errands. Today was a balmy -20, and I was seriously sweating when I got to my office. Here is my easy winter bike set-up. In the real Mustachian way, I did not buy anything I have, including the bike, from a store at retail prices. Most of it is second hand, either new, or in like-new condition. A few things were also free, from Freecycle. I also get most bike parts free from the Good Life Community Bike shop in Calgary. Believe it or not, most big cities in North America have at least one community bike shop with free use space and tools, tons of old parts, greasers ready to help you if you don't know what you are doing, free bike maintenance courses, and lots of great folks to socialize with.

Bike is GT Palomar MTB
Front studded tire. That's all you need, although I am thinking of getting a studded tire for the rear because there is no grip whatsoever as soon as you lift your butt off the seat for a second to climb even the smallest hill when the road is icy or snowy.
Front and rear rechargeable USB lights with flashing function. Not good to see, but ideal to be seen, which is what I want.
Rear plastic fender (useless in winter here)
Handlebar mitts

If you are handy and have the tools, I recommend to repack your freewheel with snowmobile grease to avoid slipping. Also if you live in a relatively flat area, get rid of all useless parts like gears, shifters, derailleurs, etc. and retrofit your bike as a single speed. If you want to go fixie which is my Calgary bike, keep at least one brake. Single speed means less maintenance, and a better workout.

For clothing:
cotton t-shirt
North Face Fleece pullover
North Face soft-shell jacket
North Face Outer waterproof breathable shell
Thin long-john
Axiom Soft shell fleece biking pants. Even at -45, I do not add anything. In wet conditions, I will replace either the fleece pants or the long-johns with Axiom breathable storm biking pants.
One pair of light wool socks
Scarpa hiking boots
Fleece/Neoprene face mask with openings for breathing.
Regular leather gloves with handlebar mitts, or only North Face mitts only when it is warmer -30 instead of using the handlebar mitts.
Snowboarding helmet with ear flaps (I hate to wear it, but I use it because I can attach extra lights at the front and back for visibility.

I never get cold. Never ever, even at the lowest temperature which was -46 sometime during the holidays. Just exhausted when temperature goes below -40, mostly because it becomes very difficult to breathe.

The only thing I am missing is a rack of some sort to put stuff, groceries, etc. Right now i am using a shoulder bag but it is not practical especially when I have to carry heavy things.

BrakeForTurtles

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 546
  • Location: UK
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #35 on: January 20, 2014, 09:37:04 AM »
Wow, thank you so much for all that info, especially that list ykphil. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people I've seen still on bikes around town. I've been walking everywhere so far (ugh, sooo sloooow) and if that's any indication I think cycling at -20 will be easier than at +40.

Obviously the main difference (errr, apart from the temperature) is the optional helmet. Do you all still wear a helmet? Are accidents any more common in winter? As an Aussie, the need for a helmet is constantly drilled into us, to the extent that I feel naked riding without one now. I'm guessing your snowboarding helmet is more for warmth than protection, ykphil.

For the moment I'm going to buy a $50 bike from kijiji (with mudguards and studded tyres), then take it to the university bike collective to get it all waterproofed. I'll report back if I encounter any difficulties!

yyc-phil

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1041
  • Location: Yellowknife NWT
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #36 on: January 20, 2014, 11:09:41 AM »
Wow, thank you so much for all that info, especially that list ykphil. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people I've seen still on bikes around town. I've been walking everywhere so far (ugh, sooo sloooow) and if that's any indication I think cycling at -20 will be easier than at +40.

Obviously the main difference (errr, apart from the temperature) is the optional helmet. Do you all still wear a helmet? Are accidents any more common in winter? As an Aussie, the need for a helmet is constantly drilled into us, to the extent that I feel naked riding without one now. I'm guessing your snowboarding helmet is more for warmth than protection, ykphil.

For the moment I'm going to buy a $50 bike from kijiji (with mudguards and studded tyres), then take it to the university bike collective to get it all waterproofed. I'll report back if I encounter any difficulties!

Buying a cheap bike for your winter commute is the Mustachian thing to do! I only wear a helmet first because I can attach my blinking lights at the front and back easily, and second because it stop the cold wind but I don't sweat, which i used to when I was wearing two toques, as one if not enough here. For studded tires, carbide is best and last several years, while steel offers much more traction but will wear quickly. Like you say, walking is so slow, I'd rather bike and get out of the cold as quickly as possible. Good luck.

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14038
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #37 on: January 20, 2014, 11:10:49 AM »
I think a helmet is a good idea in the winter.  I've wiped out on patches of black ice a few times . . . it's fast, and unexpected.  If you want a warm helmet, look for one of those bmx style ones, or just tape over the vents of a regular bike helmet (becomes WAY warmer this way).  I also like to attach a blinky light to the back of my helmet during the dark winter mornings.

Cinder

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 468
  • Location: Central PA
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #38 on: January 20, 2014, 02:09:41 PM »
If you want a warm helmet, look for one of those bmx style ones, or just tape over the vents of a regular bike helmet (becomes WAY warmer this way).

I put a plastic bag inside my helmet, above my Knit Cap.  That creates a wind barrier so I don't have to tape up the holes, and keeps the warmth in.

Thegoblinchief

  • Guest
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #39 on: January 20, 2014, 02:58:45 PM »
I definitely feel naked without a helmet on in winter. Either you'll slip and go down (partially under your control, but ice can really surprise you) or (worse) a car could slip and take you down.

I've been fine with a thin neoprene balaclava and a standard bike helmet (no taped over vents) all the way down to -15F (-26C) with an additional 20-30mph headwind. That's the coldest it's gotten here and I still sweat on the top of my head, which drips down and freezes in my beard.

I will probably grab a separate face mask. Russ recommended this one to me, it looks rad but I'd only use it at 0F and below:

http://trashmessengerbags.com/index.php?cID=284

Russ

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2213
  • Age: 28
  • Location: Boulder, CO
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #40 on: January 20, 2014, 03:30:56 PM »
Helmets can be a touchy subject around here... I wear one maybe 2/3 of the time depending on where I'm going, who I'm with, how the weather is, etc. I would definitely wear one if I had any less than nearly 100% confident in my ability to not fall randomly though. Winter weather can a big factor in that.

b4u2

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 627
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Cedar Rapids, IA
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #41 on: January 23, 2014, 07:46:47 AM »
My problem is my hands. They turn solid white in cold weather and I can hardly move them. One of the reasons I don't ride my Harley much when it gets to be around 40F. I have tried many different types but so far no luck. Has anyone tried heated gloves?

b4u2

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 627
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Cedar Rapids, IA
Re: Winter biking preparation
« Reply #42 on: January 23, 2014, 07:48:04 AM »
My problem is my hands. They turn solid white in cold weather and I can hardly move them. One of the reasons I don't ride my Harley much when it gets to be around 40F. I have tried many different types but so far no luck. Has anyone tried heated gloves?