Cycling at -20C

Today’s commute was the coldest yet, and as such, proved to be a good test of clothing and bicycle.

I wore a merino wool base layer, a polar fleece 200 weight mid layer, and Showers Pass jacket. It was a perfect combo, not cold at all. Cycling shorts, merino wool long johns and Pearl Izumi barrier pants kept the legs just right as well.

Having experienced cool toes at -12C, I started out by putting plastic bags on my feet, then wool socks, then shoes, the soft shell overshoes. This worked exceedingly well for 3/4 of the ride, and then my feet became quite cold – quite suddenly. As though a switch was thrown. I repeated the experiment on the return leg of the commute. Same result. So, for short commutes, 30 minutes or so, this little tip works very very well. Then it doesn’t.

The hands were fine as well, thanks to 3 things: 1) closed cell foam wrapped over my grips 2) Pearl Izumi primaloft lobster gloves 3) making every effort to keep arms and shoulders relaxed. The latter point is easily overlooked, but relevant. Pressure on the hands compresses insulation, puts more skin surface area against the grips, and restricts blood flow. Stay loose to stay warm.

Finally, up top I went with a balaclava, helmet with cover, and my everyday spectacles. A bit of skin on my cheekbones did start to sent pain signals near the end of each leg of the commute. This bare skin was fully exposed to wind chill. I believe I found the low temperature limit of bare facial skin cycling today. Stay tuned, I will find a solution.

As far as the bike goes, the rear shifter stopped shifting not long into each ride, turning my clunker into a heavy single speed. If you know your steed is apt to stop shifting, start out in a gear that you think you can use for the whole ride. It would really suck to have a siezed up shifter leave you on smallest cog, with a long cold ride, uphill, into the wind, ahead of you.


~ by outdoor-enthusiast on January 23, 2013.

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