Thursday, November 27, 2014

I Have a Lot of Layers

Smiling like an idiot
Ok, I have a lot of bike friends.  And whenever the first snow hits, I get flooded with selfies of people snow biking.  "Hey, look at me, I'm riding in the snow!"  Like it's some kind of accomplishment.  It's not.  It's fucking reality.  We live in Ohio.  It snows for like five months.  So, your options are: ride a bike on a stand in your basement or go ride in the snow.

Fuck bike trainers.  A bad day outside is better than the best day on a bike trainer.  Therefore, ride in the snow. 

So, you saw too many snow selfies too?  Then, you're probably rolling your eyes at the above picture.  Fine.  I get it.

Just because you ride your bike in the snow doesn't make you special.  As I have previously observed, a trained animal could do it.

By the way, my snowbike (shitbike) is back in business.  I hosed off last year's road grime, slapped a new layer of grease on every part (especially the saddle) and it's good to go.  Also, I put a new saddle and tires on.  A white Selle Italia Flight with titanium rails.  Because, only the best will do for shitbike.

 Anyhow, I ride my bike to work every day, rain, snow, or shine.  Why?  Because for me, the worst day commuting on a bike is better than the best day commuting in a car.

Still, when I arrive at work, some of my coworkers are mystified that I was able to ride by bike in the cold without immediately dying.  I attribute this to the fact that some of them never go outside.  Seriously.  They go from their house to their car, which is preheated in their attached garage, to the covered parking garage at work, then to their office.  Repeat this cycle for the trip home.

For these folks, the walk into the supermarket on Saturday is the only time they spend outside during a regular week, and these 90 feet are miseable, suffering, and cruel.  I am sad for them.

I love being outdoors.  Even in the cold.  I like the sting of cold on my cheeks and the feeling of a numb chin.  I like the air so cold that it hurts your lungs.

Of course, I prefer 70 degrees and sunny, but the cold is nice in its own way too.

In any case, for friends and family who don't understand how I can bear to cycle in the cold, let me explain.  It's easy.  See, it's all about layers.

I don't mean like hair layers.  I don't have many of those.

Although I do have a variety of clip-in hair extensions for various social occasions
I mean like clothes.  I keep it pretty simple.  I wear the same clothes all years, I just add more clothes as the temperature drops.

In best conditions - anywhere from 100 degrees down to about 60 degrees - I wear only the base layer.

Like I said, I will wear this all year.  Although I do change the shorts when the people on the elevator with me start to complain.  The base layer is: liner shorts ($15 on sale from Bike Nashbar), hiking shorts (like Marmot, although there are cheaper options), a wicking t-shirt (not cotton), my helmet (usually), and bike shoes.

My ride to work is relatively short - it's less than 8 miles one way.  So, some of this may be overkill.  For instance, I can comfortably ride in jeans and sneakers.  But, like I said, this is my year-round wardrobe, so I like to keep it consistent and just add layers.  Plus, often, I ride before or after work for longer rides.  And it's my gear, so shut up. 

The most important thing for me is moisture-wicking materials.  Whether it's hot or cold, nothing is worse than having wet clothes stuck to your skin.  And layers help some of the moisture escape, rather than trapping it in under heavier clothes.

So this is what i look like in the base layer:

The other important piece is my backpack.  I prefer  a backpack to a messenger bag.  With the chest-strap buckled, the backpack stays in place - even on mountain bike trails.  Messenger bags tend to slide around and need constant adjustment.

Backside of dork
For weather between about 60 and 50 degrees, I add a longsleeve shirt, a cycling cap, wool socks, and lightweight gloves.

Then, for temperatures from about 50 degrees to about 40 degrees, I add a windproof jacket, heavy weight gloves, and a cycling cap with ear protection.

Usually, by the time I need this gear, it's getting dark early, so some of my gear is reflective, so cars can better see me.

Tron dork
Then, for about 40 degrees to about 30 degrees, I add a neck gaiter, a padded vest, cycling tights, and winter boots.

Warm doork
 Finally, for weather below freezing, I add leg warmers and arm warmers, a fleece cap with ear flaps, and I use the gaiter as a balaclava.

Cold dork/Michelin Man
"I can't put my arms down"
Properly dressed, any ride can be pleasant.  And, as the temperature drops, so does traffic on the bike path.  Some days, I don't see another soul - it's just me and the quiet, bright snow.  What could be better than that?

So there you have it.  Be brave, and be layered.

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