"It’s not too cold . . ." Part I

“. . . you’re just wearing the wrong clothes”  is the rest of that line.  I’m not sure if my bike buddy Scott coined that phrase or if he was quoting someone else, so I pass it along uncredited all the time.  (Sorry, Scott.)

I believe the phrase.  It’s not too cold, too hot, too windy, too wet, or too snowy to ride.  I have the ability to adapt with clothing, bike, and other gear.  Now if I don’t WANT to ride because I find the day’s weather unpleasant, well, then, that’s on me.  Scott jokes that I prefer the crappiest weather days for riding and maybe that’s so.  Who doesn’t mind a reputation as a badass?

I’d like to tell you why and how you can ride in almost anything. 

1 – attitude is everything.  I psych myself out of the morning commute all the time, even if it’s not that bad out.  I’m a writer; I have more avoidance excuses than you do, I promise.  Action:  don’t go to bed until all of your clothing and gear is laid out and ready for the next ride.

2 – distance is everything.  Yup, it really is.  How “far” you’ll be riding is a relative term based on the actual distance, ride difficulty, the time it takes, accomodations at destination, emergency intervention options, the weather, your bike, your gear, & your clothing, your physical ability, and most importantly, see #1. 

That’s it:  attitude and distance.  Let’s assume (since it’s still the first week of January) that you have the attitude of ONE BADASS MOFO who is going to RIDE EVERY DAMN DAY or at least you want to maybe try out that crazy winter riding just one time, possibly, perhaps, but okay.  OKAY.  Okay?  So we’re assuming #1 = CHECK.

Actual distance & difficulty.  Sure it’s a factor.  A 10-mile ride can take an hour in bad weather, and that’s a long time if you are wearing those knit Hello Kitty mittens that looked so cute when you got dressed this morning.  So for our first ride, let’s assume a 3-4 mile morning commute of relatively flat route in very light traffic, maybe one or two hills of 500 feet or so of gain.  We’ll assume you’re in decent physical shape with a recently-tuned up bike, so ride time 30 minutes because you’re a law-abiding rider who stops for all the lights.

Weather conditions.  Let’s say for this first ride it’s 25 degrees with north winds at 5-10 mph but 0 precipitation.  That’s pretty chilly, but dry, so your primary goal is going to be covering exposed skin and layering to keep your core warm — but not too warm.  Sweat is your enemy!  Keep in mind, of course, that whatever the weather is in the morning, it could change completely by your ride home.  Carry your windcheater/ waterproof jacket.

Bike / gear / clothing.  I have different interchangeable pieces that I wear and/or carry depending on the current and expected weather.  The pieces I would not go through a winter without include . . .

Knee-high wool Surly socks.  I have two pairs and I wear them every damn day, usually one pair 2 or 3 days in a row while the other pair is in the wash.  I don’t wear them throughout the day at work, just on the AM/PM ride.  Oh alright, I sleep in them too.  For our scenario, just these socks will be fine.  Much colder and I’ll add a pair of very thin 100% wool hiking liner socks.  These are designed to fit close to the skin, wick away moisture, and provide and extra layer of warmth.  I would almost never need these on a morning commute, but on a longer social ride, definitely.

End of Part I . . . .

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