Icebike… San Francisco?

The weatherman says to expect record cold temperatures throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, with hard freezes expected for some inland areas.

I moved to California from Colorado and, before that, from Illinois, where I biked in temps down to 20 below zero F (-29° C), and I still own everything I need for cool weather cycling. I’ve listed a few things to keep in mind if you plan to ride in the cold this week.

  • If you exert yourself while cycling and normally work up a sweat, don’t start out dressed too warmly. In other words, you want to start out feeling a little chilly. If you’re bundled against the cold, you’ll end up with sweat drenched clothes. Unlike a motorcycle rider, you generate a couple of hundred watts of effort to keep yourself moving.
  • For slow cyclists, dress yourself for the weather. Your bike ride won’t be like a quick dash across the driveway to a warm car!
  • It’s not supposed to rain after today, so avoid plastic waterproof gear unless it’s well ventilated. The windbreak is great, but before long that windbreaker turns into a personal sauna as sweat collects.
  • Avoid cotton as an underlayer. You’re not going to die wearing cotton in urban areas, but cotton collects sweat and takes forever to dry.
  • Below freezing you will want some kind of long finger gloves. For hand and foot comfort, your mileage will vary considerably from the next person. I’m comfortable with thin gloves and wool socks in my ventilated cycling shoes well into the teens Fahrenheit (-10° C). I’ve seen people bundled up with snow boots and lobster gloves when it drops below 50° F (10° C).
  • If you use ventilated summer bike shoes, plastic sandwich baggies make effective and cheap wind blockers. Slip them on your toes over your socks and under the shoes.
  • Hats work well to keep you warm and comfortable.

While cold temperatures are forecast, they will rise quickly after the sun comes out, and then drop dramatically again after sunset. You might have a ten degree drop from the time you leave work at sunset and the time you get home an hour later, so plan accordingly.

Wednesday, I’ll likely wear my normal office slacks but with a Patagonia “Silkweight” leggings underneath. I’ll wear a fleece shirt over a polyester T. My usual wool Bridgedale hiking socks under my bike shoes will keep my feet warm. Gloves will be the same Custom LeatherCraft Tradesmen gloves gloves I always wear. And old REI skullcap keeps my head warm.

What will you wear to keep warm this week?

10 Comments

  • November 23, 2010 - 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I hope it warms up soon. Thanks for the tips….I’d never heard about putting the sandwich bags between socks and shoes. I’ll use that one next time I’m cycling in cooler temperatures.

    Darryl

  • November 23, 2010 - 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I hope it warms up soon. Thanks for the tips….I’d never heard about putting the sandwich bags between socks and shoes. I’ll use that one next time I’m cycling in cooler temperatures.

    Darryl

  • November 23, 2010 - 5:27 pm | Permalink

    =v= A few years ago I got some major lower back pain in the winter, and my doctor sensibly suggested that I not expose it to the elements so much. I wasn’t doing the hixie fipster thing, mind you — no low-cut pants with a coin slot showing — but I was freezing up those muscles.

    This is what first led me to Swrve, and merino wool baselayer shirts that are lower in the back than in the front. Definitely wearing those this week.

  • November 23, 2010 - 5:27 pm | Permalink

    =v= A few years ago I got some major lower back pain in the winter, and my doctor sensibly suggested that I not expose it to the elements so much. I wasn’t doing the hixie fipster thing, mind you — no low-cut pants with a coin slot showing — but I was freezing up those muscles.

    This is what first led me to Swrve, and merino wool baselayer shirts that are lower in the back than in the front. Definitely wearing those this week.

  • November 23, 2010 - 5:27 pm | Permalink

    =v= A few years ago I got some major lower back pain in the winter, and my doctor sensibly suggested that I not expose it to the elements so much. I wasn’t doing the hixie fipster thing, mind you — no low-cut pants with a coin slot showing — but I was freezing up those muscles.

    This is what first led me to Swrve, and merino wool baselayer shirts that are lower in the back than in the front. Definitely wearing those this week.

  • November 23, 2010 - 5:32 pm | Permalink

    I wear thermals under my normal pants, if its that cold. I don’t have to travel far in this town, so i keep it like im going for a walk. A solid toque (wool head covering) and nice warm gloves. My feet get cold, but then they are cold all winter long. I just pedal harder to get them warm.

    The plastic bag idea works great, when it is combined with the right socks. Cotton thin socks or cycling specific socks, don’t work so well in rain and cold. brrr.

  • November 23, 2010 - 5:32 pm | Permalink

    I wear thermals under my normal pants, if its that cold. I don’t have to travel far in this town, so i keep it like im going for a walk. A solid toque (wool head covering) and nice warm gloves. My feet get cold, but then they are cold all winter long. I just pedal harder to get them warm.

    The plastic bag idea works great, when it is combined with the right socks. Cotton thin socks or cycling specific socks, don’t work so well in rain and cold. brrr.

  • November 23, 2010 - 6:33 pm | Permalink

    I get occasional lower back pain — I assumed it was just me getting old. I’ll need to remember your Dr’s tip!

  • November 23, 2010 - 6:34 pm | Permalink

    I think I first heard the plastic bag tip from a Canadian! And you’re right, need the right socks to go with it.

  • November 24, 2010 - 12:25 am | Permalink

    An elastic bowl cover can be put over the top of your helmet to block the air vents. These are sold at kitchen stores and some supermarkets.

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