Biking in the cold is all about having just the right layers on—too few and you’ll be hating life for the entire ride, too many and you’ll be a sweaty mess by the time you get to whereever you’re going.
My basic apparel on the coldest days:
- A Turtle Fur Fleece balaclava that pulls up over my face and fits under my helmet.
- Patagonia pullover fleece
- Columbia shell (with zippers under the arm for ventilation)
- Nylon warm-up pants to break the wind
I vowed at one point that I would never resort to ski goggles on the coldest days (even bike geeks need to have some limits). However, if the rest of my body is covered, I’ve found that the balaclava creates a narrow slit for heat to escape, and this is enough to keep my eyes warm—once I get warmed up. Usually by the time I’ve biked for three or four minutes, I uncover my face to keep from getting too warm.
On the coldest day I bike this year—5 degrees with a stiff headwind—I made the mistake of wearing a wool sweater in addition to the fleece. By the time I got to BC a pool of sweat had gather just above my belt, creating a dark spot on my shirt—not very professional-looking, even for a grad student. The next time I biked in 4-degree weather I ditched the wool and my core stayed plenty warm.
My feet, however, were a different story. By the time I reached the Boston College T stop on the back-side of Heartbreak H ill, they were beginning to lose feeling. Or more precisely, I was feeling the pain just before they began to lose feeling. Since my shoes aren’t insulated, they’ve been my weak spots all winter, so even when my core is toasty warm my feet are left out to fend for themselves. Yesterday I finally found some affordable booties to go over my shoes for cold and rainy days when my feet are first cause of misery.
The last few days have been in the 40s for the first time in a while, and I’m beginning to remember the pleasure of biking a sunny morning while wearing just one layer. However, the cold hasn’t diminished my joy in biking, probably because it’s my one chance to be outdoors during the day and to experience places beyond the vicinity of my computer screen.