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  1. #1
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    cold weather riding - how cold do you ride?

    wondering what most folks tolerate for riding temps as we get closer to winter.

    today was in the low 50s in the Boston area and that was a little too cool for me. tomorrow will be low 60s and a little more comfortable. but the cold air whipping my face is generally less comfortable to me than brutal heat - somehow I'd rather ride in the heat

    what about the rest of you for prefered riding temp conditions?

  2. #2
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    50s are perfect mountain biking weather! I can go as low as 20-30 for mtb riding, although I don't generally like going out below freezing. Then again, I'm a 200lbs fatass. When I'm riding I generally feel warm enough and frequently have to shed layers, but at the end of the ride after I'm tired and my energy is depleted I start to feel really cold, regardless of how many layers I have on until I've had some warm food and drink. The biggest issues for me are moisture control and foot warmth; I haven't had the money to properly manage the former and the latter I'm not sure what I can do to improve it, short of wearing mouse boots on the trails.

  3. #3
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    hey I'm nearly 200 lbs and I resemble that remark!

  4. #4
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    Frozen trails are really fast! Hit up Otis this winter. Very popular spot.

  5. #5
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    50 too cold, really? I think 50's are perfect for putting the hammer down. I'm still in a t-shirt and shorts until it gets around 40. Our crew goes all winter long and we've never been turned back by the cold. Just like any winter sport layer up properly and you'll be fine. Frozen ground is as fast as pavement with better traction. The only problem with winter riding is it can be a challenge to keep the beer from freezing in the car.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by biggrumble View Post
    50s are perfect mountain biking weather! I can go as low as 20-30 for mtb riding, although I don't generally like going out below freezing. Then again, I'm a 200lbs fatass. When I'm riding I generally feel warm enough and frequently have to shed layers, but at the end of the ride after I'm tired and my energy is depleted I start to feel really cold, regardless of how many layers I have on until I've had some warm food and drink. The biggest issues for me are moisture control and foot warmth; I haven't had the money to properly manage the former and the latter I'm not sure what I can do to improve it, short of wearing mouse boots on the trails.
    I use the thickest Merino wool socks I can find with my regular MTB shoes and I've never had a problem. I make sure that my feet are warm to begin with and that the shoes aren't overly tight. Some of my buds ride the Lake Winter MTB shoes. They're real thick and Gortex waterproofed.

  7. #7
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    I hear you. never had a problem with my feet getting cold - they're covered. I got a problem with the wind-chill factor to the unexposed skin (my face, fingers) and whatever wind leaks through my cotton sleeves, pant legs, etc. I could wear a wind breaker to solve part of the problem but don't like bundling up when trying to move fast.

    frozen trails... doesn't this pose a problem with traction? I never rode in the dead of winter - always assumed traction would be lacking on the iced over parts

  8. #8
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    I went riding this morning - last night was our first snow fall. Not much, nothing on the roads and patchy in the lower elevations and bigger patches in the higher elevations and about a 1/4" deep. Before I went out weather.com said it was 35F and the "feels like" temp was 27f. I felt just fine and that was the first time riding in near freezing conditions - all my other rides up until now have been mid 40's.

    I double up on socks, wear long john pants and long sleeve shirt, shorts and tee shirt over that. I was wearing a hoodie too but had to take it off during a climb. I also wear a pair of cheap thin knit gloves under my riding gloves. All that along with my ks knee pads and elbow pads kept me feeling toasty. I gotta find a way to keep my ears warm but wearing a knit cap sounds like it would get hot too fast. I might have to get a headband and look like a dork. That's the poor mans way to do it. I have a feeling the colder it gets, moisture is going to be a real problem though. (No recommendations unless you wanna buy it for me - I'm poor.)
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by overmodulated View Post
    I hear you. never had a problem with my feet getting cold - they're covered. I got a problem with the wind-chill factor to the unexposed skin (my face, fingers) and whatever wind leaks through my cotton sleeves, pant legs, etc. I could wear a wind breaker to solve part of the problem but don't like bundling up when trying to move fast.

    frozen trails... doesn't this pose a problem with traction? I never rode in the dead of winter - always assumed traction would be lacking on the iced over parts
    I have a tendency to overheat myself. So I may start out kind of chilly but as soon as I start hammering I'm pulling off layers. Having leaks and exposed areas is my a/c when I ride in the winter. I never have more than 2 layers going ever. I do have a variety of layers so I can get away with out being too bunchy.

    Fingers are whole different story. I had real bad problems with my hands at first. I tried various things and settled on Pearl Izumi's basic winter riding glove. It fits a little looser and has a really good windblock.

    Ice is also a different story. If it hasn't snowed and your talking about some minor puddles and creeks frozen over you can just go around them somehow or just "glide" through. If it's covered then the studded tires come out. Traction with studded tires is amazing.

  10. #10
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    I ride all winter long... but I'm in the bay area an the coldest it gets here is the high 20's and low thirtys, and those kind of days are not the norm. The norm for winter is the 40s, that's some good riding.

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  11. #11
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    The first rule of managing moisture in the cold is no cotton. Second is only breathable materials (aka some flavor of GoreTex). Third is layers, because if it's in the 40s or lower you will need much more insulation for the first 10-20 minutes as you warm up (the key is to start removing layers before you begin to perspire).

    I have the Lake winter shoes and they work very well. People with the Shimano winter shoes seem to be very happy with those, too. Chemical foot warmers work extremely well if you aren't in a position to obtain winter shoes. Toe covers and neoprene booties are also fairly inexpensive.

    Avoid taking breaks...standing around in the cold after working up some heat will cool you off faster than you realize, and this often leads to cold hands or feet that refuse to warm up again - once you get your body up to temp, keep it there.

    The Cape usually enjoys being snow-free for more of the winter than most of NE, and frozen dirt is both fast and grippy. Rubber tires are just fine for snow as well (studs don't help on snow, only ice). Ice is really the only thing that requires studs.

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by overmodulated View Post
    wondering what most folks tolerate for riding temps as we get closer to winter.

    today was in the low 50s in the Boston area and that was a little too cool for me. tomorrow will be low 60s and a little more comfortable. but the cold air whipping my face is generally less comfortable to me than brutal heat - somehow I'd rather ride in the heat

    what about the rest of you for prefered riding temp conditions?

    My coldest ride to date is/was 12*F with a 5 to 8MPH headwind going into work. Keeping cool was a bigger concern than keeping warm.

    The best riding conditions for me is between the 40's and 50's.
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  13. #13
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    I live in NY near the MA border. When I mentioned that bike season as almost over, the guy in our local bike shop looked at me like I had two heads. He then pointed out all the cold weather gear in his shop. Apparently he puts really knobby tires on his bike and goes out in any weather at all. Is all about the gear!

  14. #14
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    My layers consist of a power stretch top, power stretch pants, and marino wool socks. On top of that I wear a windblock fleece vest, bike shorts, and leg armor (warmth and protection! - mosty for my power stretch). I also will wear a rain jacket to start the ride but as soon as I start sweating off it comes and it easily fits in my pack. The jacket also comes in handy if we are stopped for an extended period of time or on a long downhill. I wear my regular mtn bike shoes with neoprene covers. For gloves I have some LG windblock bike gloves or Black Diamond windstopper gloves. For a hat I have a power stretch balaclava (yea, I'm a huge fan of power stretch) or a windstopper balaclava. I don't wear anything Goretex or waterproof (except for the rain jacket but like I said that comes off as soon as I start sweating) because breathability is key. Even with temps in the teens a good ride will have you sweating.

    Low teens is about my limit. Colder than that it is a challenge to keep the hands and feet warm. Shaking and swinging to get the blood flowing to them seems to work fairly well.
    Last edited by woodsguy; 11-13-2011 at 01:51 PM.

  15. #15
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    No such thing as bad weather just the wrong clothes.

    I love low teens! With all the windproof/breathable stuff out there now it's pretty easy (but not inexpensive) to be comfortable. Feet and hands are definitely the biggest problem but some good winter hikers with wool sox and platform pedals and all is well, some good ski gloves (Hestra maybe because of the incredible dexterity they allow for) and the hand problem is solved as well.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by gravitylover View Post
    No such thing as bad weather just the wrong clothes.

    I love low teens! With all the windproof/breathable stuff out there now it's pretty easy (but not inexpensive) to be comfortable. Feet and hands are definitely the biggest problem but some good winter hikers with wool sox and platform pedals and all is well, some good ski gloves (Hestra maybe because of the incredible dexterity they allow for) and the hand problem is solved as well.
    Boots would be great but I am unable to ride a bike without some kind of pedal engagement. I've never tried big gloves but I can't imagine they would give you much feel. When I commuted by bike I wore leather snowmobile mittens that I could make a fist in if I got cold. They got me through several below zero days.

  17. #17
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    well it was in the 30s this morning when I set out pedaling to the gym, and it was fine! (I had a quilted heavy shirt and a wind breaker, gloves, sneakers.)

    my feet never got cold riding, neither with sneakers nor boots. It's interesting that some of you bring up footwear - I assume that is from getting them wet? The feet are generally working too hard to cool off.

  18. #18
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    I think you need to get out and actually ride in the cold for a bit. I wouldn't expect to get cold feet on the way to the gym or during a ride in the 50's either. Spend 3 hours riding in the 20's though, with snug shoes and your body restricting blood flow to your furthest extremity and you'll know cold feet. I've always reasoned with myself that cold feet are a necessary part of a cold weather ride. You either deal or don't ride. That said, I usually don't have any issues with feet til it gets under 20. I'm like Woodyak though. I'll keep riding in shorts til it's about freezing. Even then I only wear a pair of under armor type tights under my shorts.

  19. #19
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    I prefer around 55-60, perfect weather for riding if you ask me. But I ride down to about freezing. I have pearl izumi cold weather tights and under armor coldgear top an I've found the nike storm stuff works well, pricey, but every once in a while you can find good thin goretex layers for cheap at tj maxx or marshals.
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  20. #20
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    My perfect temp for riding is 75.

  21. #21
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    Too Cold?? I've ridden in single digit conditions and that may have been slightly foolish. I manage to stay reasonably comfortable down to the mid-teens. Although my extremities prefer I limit those rides to 2 hours. Hands and feet are a ***** to keep warm. I have a pair of Specialized Defroster boots that I bought a 1/2 size too large, combine that with a pair of high quality wool socks (thin ones) I prefer the "Darn Tough" brand made in Vermont. It's important to have plenty of wiggle room in your shoes and wiggle your toes frequently while you ride. Lobster claw gloves work better than the five finger variant as well.

  22. #22
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    You may want to check the Fatbikes threads as there are some real die-hard cold weather riders posting, including myself. My coldest ride was -15 F and I have to say I was plenty warm. I routinely ride when it is near 0 F. I have an arsenal of bike clothing next to my outdoor thermometer and have become fairly proficient and making good clothing choices. Keeping the core warm is easy. You want a good wicking base layer, then an insulating layer depending on temp, and finally a breathable shell that is windproof. I have no problem keeping my hands warm. On the coldest day I use down-filled mittens. I also have pogies but have not had a need to use them. The hard part is keeping my feet warm. I have a pair of Lake winter shoes 1 size too large and use thick wool socks. Early into the ride I have to think about wiggling my toes to keep them warm (if it's less than 0 F). Once the blood starts flowing I'm fine. For road riding it's hard to keep my nose and eyes warm. Covering the nose will guarantee fogging of any eyewear so I usually won't wear glasses and eye-watering can be a problem. I have tried ski goggles but peripheral vision is not adequte. I still don't have a good solution for this. Need to keep in mind: don't overdress. When it is very cold, the adage "you sweat, you die" is true. If I'm riding alone I will pack layers that I may need if I get hurt or have a technical. Hope this is helpful.

  23. #23
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    low 30s to high 20s

    layering is your friend.

  24. #24
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    Try this balaclava. The mouth is a plastic screen so it doesn't absorb moisture. The mask is also easily removable. I've never had any fogging with this.

  25. #25
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    Gotta have the right tools, I'm good down to about zero (f) depending on wind conditions

    Put these on your feet, size up to allow heavier winter socks

    And put these on your handlebars

    Then hop on your bike and ride


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