I found that staying warm on a bike ride isn’t all that difficult. The challenge is keeping your hands and your feet warm. I can’t really speak on the usage of electric heated gloves and socks because I never tried them. If you have by chance, leave a remark in the comments I would love to hear about them. I’m sure others would too. I’ve heard a few people mention they have to start warming them a little while prior to leaving out.
Me personally, I try to use the ninja mind and block it out and try to make it to my destination before I really start feeling the pressure. I do this by heavily focusing on my pedaling and breathing and psyching myself out of the thought that my hands or feet are getting cold.
This may sound unbelievable, but I have ridden in under 20-degree wind chill weather on a regular basis and actually have broken a sweat. It really doesn’t affect me to the point where I won’t ride because of the cold. Maybe it is because I was born and raised in Chicago and was pretty much groomed into it or I simply welcome challenges. In the winter time, staying warm on a bike ride just comes with the territory to me. I found that any good cold weather gear usually lets the heat buildup underneath and traps it pretty well. The fact your body is basically being used as a machine or motor per say, the heat will build up with no problem thus keeping your body warm.
Cold Weather Bike Commuting
If you use your bike to get you to and from a location on a regular basis, the winter months is probably the most challenging. This is where it doesn’t mainly rely on body strength to jump on that bike and get where you are going. It is more of a mental challenge to just walk outside with your bike at hand and start pedaling. This time of the year is the biggest challenge of all to me. I reside in Oklahoma now where there are more months of no snow compared to in Chicago to ride in. Make no mistake, Oklahoma not only gets cold but it has punishing winds that affect the wind chill factor. Even with all this that the winters put on me, I still welcome it!
Brisk Mornings & Cold Evenings
Usually, when I leave out for work in the mornings it is at its coldest for that day. It is normally around 6 am with a North wind to boot. And guess what direction I have to ride in? Yes, North. I get caught in below 20-degree wind chill factors quite often and believe me it changes the game a bit. It seems to constrict my breathing a little but that is part of the challenge. This is where I concentrate on my breathing pattern to give me the maximum pedaling power in correlation to the cold air. In the evenings I sometimes get a break from the wind and temperature and have to pull off some riding gear as it will become too hot because of the heat that builds up underneath.
For my head, I usually use one of those bomber types of hats that have the fur inside. Underneath, I use a balaclava as a head and face covering. I feel restricted with something over my mouth, so I ride with that part of my mouth exposed. If the weather is really close to zero I will use one of those M-1 type balaclavas because at that point you really want to try not to expose your skin. The M-1 type balaclava has breathing ports that kind of help with my feeling constricted with something over my mouth.
Staying Safe And Staying Healthy
Although we might not be scared to brave the cold, please stay safe and healthy in these conditions. Because we will sweat in the cold underneath some good gear, we are prone to catching a cold & flu. I try to get out of my riding gear as soon as I arrive at my destination.
By all means, don’t try to ride in slick conditions. Automobiles in certain conditions and their drivers are unpredictable when the traction of the road is sub-par. And on a bicycle, we are no match for a sliding automobile even in a slight skid.
I hoped this post helped someone who is or will be riding under such conditions. Feel free to click on any link in this post or click here to visit Ron’s Cycle Plus or go to the top of this page to access the store for more information on gear and other accessories.
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You can block out the cold from your hands and feet by not thinking about it? Did it take long to be able to do this? I have heard of people simply blocking the temperature from their minds before. It’s quite cool stuff!
We say that but we still feel the cold. I just block it long enough to get me where I’m going. But if you are going to ride in that kind of environment you kind of know what you are facing. Plus wearing what works to help take some of the bite out gives you the advantage. Once you do it enough, it becomes that much more easier.
I’ve always liked biking for cardio fitness but I always would choose to do it in warm weather (more or less in the summer months). I hate using stationary bikes at the gym because they are so boring and you can’t enjoy the scenery outside. I don’t think I could go out and bike in the cold though. You’re so right; it would totally being a mental challenge to get out there and bike in that type of weather. It’s amazing that you did it under 20 degrees. Wow!
Thanks, Jeff. I actually did it this morning going to work. And as I mentioned in the post I was sweating by the time I got there. Good gear makes the difference. And I can understand about the stationary bikes. They are quite boring. But just like when you ride in the summer you still have to challenge yourself because some rides can put the hurt on you. But you keep on pedaling my friend because it still is enjoyable in the cold or in the heat.
You are a brave soul! I usually hang up my cyclists hat around October, when the rainy season starts. And I don’t think I’ve ever cycled in weather conditions under 0 degrees Celsius. I’d be too afraid of any potential ice. Although I suppose that with the proper tires and the balaclava you suggested it would be feasible. I’d need some gloves though, I like to use a combination of very thin layered gloves and over those wear fishermen’s type mittens. Now that I think of it, it almosts sounds fun 🙂
Yeah I welcome the challenge. But lets make one thing clear. I will not mess with the ice or bad road conditions. I got clipped twice by cars last year and that was two more than last year. So one thing I realized really quick. I am not going to increase the odds by riding if the road conditions are against me. But you are right about wearing good warm gear. If you were to try it you will find it is not as bad as it seems.