Cycle Commuting

On Commuting in Winter

Ambrose Canning replied to a question from Stephen several years ago.

"I'm planning on moving to Tas in about 3 weeks  ... my primary means of transportation is a bicycle, I was wondering what to do to cope with the cold ? I'm from Brisbane, and it never gets as cold up here."

It is just a matter of having the right equipment. The right physical equipment and the right mental equipment!

I commute by bike through winter and so have some experience with it.

I saw that Brisbane was less than 10 degrees one morning this winter. Inland QLD would get colder than many parts of TAS in winter.  Coastal Tasmania, including Burnie and Hobart, never get really cold. In fact the Tasmanian NW coast is the mildest part of the State with temperature moderated by Bass Strait.

My plan is to wear plenty of layers. A wind and water proof jacket can be good, but I prefer to not wear one unless I absolutely have to because it always gets wet (condensation) inside. I prefer to wear fabric tops that are wind resistant but breathable.

My cycling winter wardrobe consists of the following. Not necessarily worn all at the same time.

  • Two thin pairs of socks. Plus some light weight shoe covers for particularly wet or frosty days.
  • Several pairs of cycling knicks. When it is moderately cold I simply wear two pairs, one over the other. Double thickness, better insulation, warmer. Less drafty than ordinary shorts.
  • I have some full length leggings (Ground Effect ones from NZ with insulation around the knees) for when it is really cold. They have no padding and so I wear them under some knicks, also to help hold them up. Often I wear them to work in the morning but not home again in the evening as they get too warm then. Most jogging/running shops sell good light leggings there days as they are popular with runners.
  • I have been converted to merino fabric for thermals. I have a sleeveless top that is great underneath in winter.
  • On cold mornings I will wear this merino sleeveless top, then another merino blend long sleeve top, relatively light fabric, long zipped front, and also with a hood. On top I wear a heavier synthetic thermal top, I have one with "wind-stop" fabric fronts, front zips, long sleeved and with high zip-up collar to keep my neck warm (again Ground Effect ones from NZ, http://www.groundeffect.co.nz/).
  • If or when I get hot during my ride I can unzip the front of one or two layers. It also helps if I pull up the sleeves a bit, just exposing my wrists makes a big cooling difference.
  • As mentioned above, I have a top with a hood that fits under my helmet. This is great when really cold, even though only a light merino thermal fabric it keeps the wind off my ears and neck, but it still breaths on my head.
  • I have gloves too. These need to be wind proof and insulating. Starting with warm gloves helps. Most mornings I have to take them off half way to work once I warm up.
  • The Ground Effect gear comes from Christchurch in NZ which has a sort of similar climate to Tasmania.
  • I always wear glasses, to keep bugs out of my eyes, also in winter to keep cold wind out of my eyes.
  • Then on the occasional really cold frosty mornings I wear a wind and water proof jacket over the top, but I find I wear less layers underneath it. It also has long zips under each arm-pit which help it breath when open. It also has a hood that fits under my helmet.
  • I use a similar strategy when I go skiing, to wear multiple thin layers. Except on a cold day skiing in the mountains I can have five layers on top. I actually use a few of my cycling tops because they are good, as well as some more conventional thermal tops, polyethylene ones from any outdoors shop. I don't like the cheaper polypropylene types because they tend to smell and are prickly when older.

I hope this helps. As somebody once said, "there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes."


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