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Winter Biking Outfit

I think it was 12 degrees Fahrenheit when I left the house yesterday morning. I set off for errands: Midwest Mountaineering, grocery store, bank. All told, I biked and shopped for 2.5 hours and returned home in 15 degree weather. Here’s what I was wearing:

OuterlayerOn my bike: Bern helmet, windproof fleece balaclava, fleece earband under the balaclava (because sometimes my ears need more protection), fleece-lined softshell jacket, merino wool knit gloves under insulated lobster gloves, wool blend pants (brand is Eddie Bauer, they were a thrift-store score) and my heavy-duty winter boots.

ImageIn the store: OK, I didn’t take off my heavy winter boots to shop, I just wore them around the stores. But this is a commuter blog, and if I’d been at the office, some simple black dress shoes would have made this work appropriate.

I’m wearing a midweight merino wool base layer top, a lightweight merino cardigan, the same wool pants, wool long underwear, and Smartwool dress socks.

Was I comfy? Yes, mostly. I was riding my touring bike, not my winter bike, because the roads were dry (my winter bike is much slower and less efficient, so I warm up faster when riding it). The first leg of the trip was about 3.5 miles, and I don’t think my fingers warmed up until mile 3. Subsequent jaunts with the same glove set up were fine because I paused for a few minutes indoors to warm my fingers up inside my gloves before setting out, which makes a difference.

This was my first time trying out these pants in truly cold weather, and I was really happy. They’re not windproof and my legs felt a bit chilly during the first mile, but after that I was perfectly comfortable. They’ll definitely be making it into my winter wardrobe rotation.

This is winter number 3 for doing any winter biking, and winter 2 for biking regularly. I’ve been slowly adding to my bike and wardrobe (as funds permit) and am seeing the payoff in comfort. It’s November 24 and Minneapolis still has dry streets. I’ve got a bike set up and ready to go for when it does get messy out there, but right now I’m enjoying riding in the clear, cold nights.

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4 comments on “Winter Biking Outfit

  1. you have a thing for black?

    i’m enjoying the winterbiking too, almost always but not quite always. it DOES make you feel badass, which is a nice feeling.

    • Ha, might lighter-weight winter jacket is high-vis colors, but sometimes all black happens. I guess I do like it – it looks professional, goes with everything, and doesn’t show bike grease.

      Yes, winter biking makes me feel like a badass sometimes, but the more I do it, the more normal/accessible it seems (admittedly, it helps that I’ve been slowly acquiring gear for 3 years). Mostly, I just want people to treat winter biking less like a badass (read: adrenaline junkie) activity, and more like a normal way of getting to work.

  2. Can I ask what brand balaclava you use? I’m in the market for one and am looking for recommendations. Also, do you ever wear any eye protection (glasses or goggles)?

    • My balaclava is Outdoor Research. I think the key, though, is to find one that is windproof. I have a Smartwool neck gaiter, too, which doesn’t cut the wind. I wear the Outdoor Research on most of the time.

      A lot of people wear eye protection. Eye protection is never a bad idea, but I don’t wear it in the winter. I have Raynaud’s phenomenon, so I prioritize keeping my extremities warm (which includes my nose). I haven’t found safety or sunglasses that don’t fog up with my balaclava. Many people wear ski goggles, but from what I understand, you need to get nice ones that won’t fog up in order for it to work.

      I think I would wear goggles if I had them, but they haven’t been a priority for my bike budget. I wear a helmet with a brim which eliminates most precipitation. My eyes do water sometimes. I think this happens most when I am just starting my ride – seems to go away a bit after the first mile. Is this just my imagination? I would be interested in other people’s observations about eyes watering and length of ride.

      My friends at Grease Rag have some good winter riding/clothing tips on their website, too: http://greaserag.org/index.php/search-results/?search_paths%5B%5D=&query=winter+biking&submit=Go

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