By Yokota Fritz
Today's quick tip: If you have problems keeping your feet and hands warm while cycling in the cold, wear a hat!
When your core body temperature starts to drop, your body autonomically directs blood flow away from the extremities and into your core. Keep the core warm, and you retain blood flow to the extremities.
You lose most of your body heat through your head, and a hat is an easy way to regulate your comfort.
You should still wear protective gear appropriate for your weather conditions and riding distance, but putting a hat on goes a long ways to improving your comfort when cycling in the cold.
Last month we covered how to make two essential tools for any eco-conscious cyclist, the obsidian knife and the stone ax. This month we'll discuss how to use them.
First, however, there's the issue of appropriate clothing for the season. With fall weather causing a drop in temperatures and an increase in precipitation, it's important that the well-prepared cyclist start thinking about winter attire.
Please don't make the common mistake of mud daubing. It lends itself well to the neolithic surrealism style that's a current Euro-fad, but it isn't a practical form of clothing during the winter months. Sure, there are some fashionistas who will not change with the weather, but even they realize that mud provides little insulation from cold and cannot stand up to rain. In summer, of course, it's excellent protection against sunburn and insects, but cold, wet weather reveals mud's limitations. Still, it's not unusual to see a woman stylishly covered in designer mud - with the requisite high-fashion footwear, of course - in some of those cycling photos from Copenhagen. Most of us prefer to be more comfortable and not suffer for the sake of fashion, so we make other choices.
Now, I'm assuming that anyone reading this is committed to using natural materials whenever possible, and will eschew all those synthetics flooding the market. Even those two natural favorites - cotton and wool - are tainted by their association with global agri-business, so eco-conscious bicyclists should pass them by as well.
First on almost everyone's list are dry leaves. Although they're not warm when wet, they contain the small dietary bonus of insects and ticks. Ticks are arachnids rather than insects, though they all taste pretty much the same, almost like crunchy, still wriggling chicken. While autumn leaves are certainly colorful, the colors don't last long. Autumn leaves dry out rapidly and have to be reapplied frequently. Dry leaves, on the other hand, are both plentiful and cheap, making them a popular choice with many fair-weather cyclists.
Moss is less popular than dry leaves mainly because it's more time-consuming to gather. But its properties out-weigh the additional time, making it a favorite among thoughtful cyclists interested in long-term use. In fact, some older cyclists may discover they already have a plentiful supply on their north sides. Moss dries rapidly. It's dense mat is like a thatched roof, shedding water much better than dried leaves. And unlike leaves, it's more durable.
Bark is an excellent choice for wind and rain protection, but it doesn't provide insulation. Also, bark is not very pliable so it can be uncomfortable. However, when bark is used as an outer layer with an insulating layer of dried moss underneath, the combination offers the best of both worlds, providing protection from wind, rain, and cold down to surprisingly low temperatures.
Controversy swirls around application methods. How are these materials best applied to the human body? Common methods include: staple guns, hot glue, or even sheet metal screws. One recommended accessory is a stick to clench between the teeth. It helps to muffle screams so the neighbors don't call the police complaining about out-of-season human sacrifices again. It's best to have someone help with the application as they'll have a more steady hand and can apply your leaves, bark, or moss symmetrically or in intricate patterns. An exciting new trend is developing that emphasizes a more random and natural-looking 'just rolled in the leaves' approach.
Regardless of the application method, the resulting scars will give you a stunning new look for the spring fertility rites!
A serviceable winter helmet can be carved from the bole of a tree. Turtle shells are another popular choice. This is where your obsidian knife and stone ax come in handy. You can make straps from vines and creepers. Moss provides padding and insulation. Ventilation is unnecessary as this is a cold weather item.
Animal fur is another exciting outerwear possibility. The hollow hair shafts found on deer, caribou, and polar bears offer superb protection, though killing a polar bear while armed with only an obsidian knife and a stone ax is somewhat problematic. Hunting polar bears is fairly easy, however, as their position atop the food chain insures that they'll come straight toward you when they're hungry. For some, this makes deer and caribou a more attractive resource as they're far less likely to kill and eat a hunter. Please don't make the neophyte's mistake of utilizing rabbit fur. Though they're plentiful and easy to trap, rabbit fur doesn't retain warmth when it's wet. Seeing multiple rabbit pelts on someone's back at the start of a club ride is a sure-fire indication of a eco-conscious newbie or that there's a Mad Max film festival showing in a local theater.
Motorists recognize fashion sense. When you're rolling down the road on an all-Campy carbon fiber and titanium road bike, and you have the elan to wear a caribou skin with a contrasting turtle shell helmet, they'll give you plenty of space. And a stone ax tucked into your belt is always the perfect accessory!
Cycling: Keep toes and fingers warm
Instead of wearing a cap, i'll print a picture of that cutie there and tape it to my handlebars. That'll keep the blood flowing to my extremities.
But...you don't loose most of your body heat through your head: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/dec/17/medicalresearch-humanbehaviour
@TonyR - ahh, no comment.
@TonyB - I can't believe it; I'm usually up on debunked myths like this! I still stand by my advice to wear a hat to help keep hands and feet warm.
It'd tough these days with the internet making new myths each day.
I'm just doing my part to dispel them any time I can.
=v= Woo! Is it hot in here or is it all in my head?
hello pretty girl! :)
I used to commute in Maine. In the winter time I exchanged my bike helmet for a ski helmet - kept my head and ears nice and toasty warm
Mark San Jose
Winter Cycling Attire
That was great.
I'm glad to have been saved from the rabbit fur blunder, phew!!!