Here at the western end of Lake Ontario, we’ve had one cool morning thus far this fall. It was cold enough for me to need gloves with full fingers, but too warm for a base layer plus wind shell. This is a tough time of year to get it just right.
Looking ahead to winter commuting, I am making preparations and getting the clothing I need.
First order of business was to put a fender on my front wheel. I chose Planet Bike Cascadias – which hit the correct price point, and are easy enough to install. A few rainy commutes convinced me that I would rather not have the salty slush thrown all over my bike and me, so a fender goes on.
Second order of business was protection for hands and feet. I decided to match up a pair of Smartwool gloves with a pair of Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Lobster mitts. I can use these alone or in combination when it’s really cold.
I am trying an experiment to see if I can achieve better hand comfort through the winter. Last spring I had a few rides during ice-pellets and wind, and realized that the heat sink effect of hanging onto the bars and grips was drawing a lot of energy out of my hands. I came across some bivy closed cell foam padding, and chopped up a few bits and zip tied these over my existing grips. I figured that if a closed cell sit-upon would work for backpacking, the same concept should apply for bike grips. Stay tuned for results.
In the footwear department, I’m a big fan of merino wool socks, so I’ve set up a few pairs of DeFeet Wooly Bullies for the season ahead. Amazing stuff. Just will not smell. My Shimano SPD MTB shoes, which are admittedly ancient and low end, leak like sieves. Decided to give Pearl Izumi Soft Shell overshoes a try. We will see if these keep the feet dry enough so that they stay warm.
My bike is currently outfitted with Shimano XTR clipless pedals, which have been absolutely rock solid super star performers for years. I’m not keen on relying entirely on these through the winter, however, as I am concerned about eating it on ice while clipped in. I would like to have the option of switching to my hiking boots for the really nasty days. Solution: Shimano PD-A530 pedals. Flat on one side, SPD on the other.
Head and ears needed to be worried over as well. The day I needed gloves, I could sense that I was a few degrees away from needing ear protection. Pearl Izumi Barrier headband does the trick. For deeper cold, the Pearl Izumi Barrier balaclava is on deck.
Since weather can change during the workday – for example, when a front comes through, it’s often necessary to have on board some colder weather artillery. I may only need the headband on the way to work in the morning, but the dark ride home into a full on headwind with a 10C drop through the day might demand the balaclava.
My plan is to carry items in a dry bag. I already transport my work clothes in one that I borrowed from my kayaking equipment. I will use a second to easily carry and keep dry the warmer gear should I need it.,
For upper body, my plan is to ease into a merino wool base layer – crew with long sleeves, and layer up over top of that. For core warmth, a Polartech 200 weight vest should get me many days, but when a solid winter high pressure sets in, I will need a full jacket. Both have a good collar that wraps the neck. In the deepest cold, I can wear the jacket over the vest, as I sized the vest with a snug fit, and a tall version of the jacket is more relaxed.
I am still in the process of determining which studded winter tire I am going to use. Some parts of my ride will be on icy paths, so a studded tire is called for. Nokian, Conti or Schwalbe are in the hunt. Stay tuned.