It’s that time of year that separates the recreational rider from the die-hards. Personally I don’t feel right on the bike after just a few days of not-riding, I can’t imagine what it’s like going through the entire winter without it. I actually hate cleaning the bike in the cold after riding it on wet roads, but if the streets are reasonably dry I’m out there… So how do we winter-bikers do it? Here are my top 5 tips for riding in the cold – check it out and give us your top tips in the comments section!
#1 – Wind Proof Parka
Cold weather riding is all about cutting the wind. Look at the gear people wear in Antartica, it’s not that bulky, you don’t see wool coats and scarves, instead you see bright colored parkas and active-wear. Throw a wind-proof parka (NorthFace or Columbia, LL Bean, etc) over your leather jacket. There’s no need to buy expensive winter-riding jackets if your summer jacket is comfortable enough to wear under a parka. If you don’t have a comfortable hot-weather jacket with CE rated protection, then buy one in the winter (on sale) and wear it under a shell type jacket. Even a light “mountain climbing” style parka will do as long as it can keep the cold air out. Cinch up the waist and wrists to keep the cold air out, and the upper half of you will be good to go.
#2 – Cargo Pants
Or, I should really say “Alpinestars Cargo Pants” ($119) over your regular pants. These cargo pants are decent casual-looking pants with CE certified protection in the knees and made of an abrasion resistant material that will save your skin in a fall. If you go with a larger size, you can wear them comfortably as over-pants, so you can wear your work clothes underneath, stay warm, and protected on your ride. The thing I like about these is they don’t look like technical motorcycle pants, so you don’t have to look totally ludicrous walking down the street.
If you wear leather riding pants, or don’t need that level of protection for your ride, you can also try waterproof ski pants, or an even cheaper option, rain pants. Just keeping the wind off you makes a tremendous difference on your ride.
“When you are a man, sometimes you wear stretchy pants in your room. It’s for fun. ” – Nacho Libre
Any modern athletic under garment can add a great deal of warmth with very little added bulk. I pretty much wear jeans all year round, so in the winter I just add some UnderArmour Coldgear, and I’m good to go. No one has to know you wear stretchy pants.
One advantage to many of the modern brands is that they moisture-wick, keeping your skin dry and comfortable. There are also newer materials such as “Outlast” products that are designed to store your body heat to cool you when you’re warm, and release the heat when your body temperature drops. My only complaint with these is that they are expensive and (the one’s I’ve tried) don’t seem to be very durable.
#4 – Water-Proof Gloves
Good winter leather riding gloves can be found for $50 and under (if you look at closeout products). They will protect your hands and keep them fairly warm. My complaint with them is that they are often made like ski-gloves, and don’t allow enough freedom of motion. Even the $160 Dainese winter gloves feel too thick in my opinion (whereas decent race gloves feel very thin and allow you to feel the controls). Water-proof rain gloves do 90% of the work of winter gloves by keeping out the cold air, while not being overly thick. And if they’re loose enough, you can add a second lining for really cold days.
#5 – Take the local road
My list looks like a Christmas Gift Guide for Bikers… this last one won’t cost you a thing, except, maybe a little extra time in your commute: you can handle the cold better if you alternate between local roads and highway whenever possible. Slower speeds and the occasional red light lessens the wind chill and gives you more opportunities to pull over and use your Starbucks card (because you’re going to get like ten of these at Christmas). For me, riding through Manhattan is not a problem most of the winter, the lower speeds help keep the wind chill at bay, and I can feel the engine heat on my legs at stop lights.
Those are my 5, no riding tips other than: Go really fast over ice and make sharp turns! Or do the opposite, one or the other. What about you? Got any cold weather tips?
[PS – about the Youtube link – it’s too bad you can’t get tires with spikes to drive on city roads!]