Test Ride in the Cold

Snowy Sunrise
Snowy Sunrise

Since I’ve committed to riding to work on my first work day of 2008, I thought I should try out my cold weather gear ahead of the day. With a required trip to campus to pick up a University vehicle (conference in Chicago), today seemed like a good day for a test ride.

The route was nothing special – a little jaunt around the campus and through the downtown areas of Lafayette and West Lafayette. Temperatures were hovering just above freezing and the winds were light. We haven’t had snow in a couple of days, so the only snow or ice conditions I encountered were on my cul-de-sac. My little skinny tired road bike handled the trip with grace and dependability. If conditions are snowy, I’ll likely use my normal commuter bike (or maybe my son’s bike).

On my way around West Lafayette, I purposefully avoided the Cattail Trail, since I expected it to be snow covered and icy. However, to my surprise, I found the path to be cleared and ready for use. Let’s give a gold star to the City of West Lafayette – probably the Parks Dept.! The bike lanes along Salisbury Street hadn’t fared so well. With piles of snow pushed from the street and from driveways, and forgotten piles of leaves frozen in place, they were useless. I’m taking the star back!

Lindberg Road
Multi-Use Trail Near Celery Bog

Here’s what I wore:

My headband sporting a Purdue logo covered my ears and forehead quite well. Unfortunately, the exposed top of my head really felt the cold – especially down the first hill. Even after I warmed up later in the ride, I could still feel the effects of the cold air. I have a helmet liner, which is basically a Thinsulate√ā¬© version of a swim cap, but the one time I wore it my head was dripping sweat after 15 minutes. It’s going to have to be pretty cold for that to be useful.

Although I didn’t see any other cyclists on this ride, I did pull up next to a scooter rider at a stop light. Along with his snow suit, he was rockin’ the full face ski mask – accessorized with a lit cigarette sticking through the mouth hole. Quite a look!

I never have much trouble keeping my body warm, and today was no exception. My layers consisted of an athletic undershirt (compression shirt?), a long sleeve heavy jersey, and a wind breaker. After climbing the second hill, I had to unzip the jacket and I was wishing for arm vents (although I cooled off quickly when I stopped). I could add another jersey layer if it’s really cold.
In lieu of any cold weather cycling gloves, I grabbed my leather driving gloves with the sheep’s wool lining. They look good with my dress coat, and work well for chilly cycling. No problems.
Layers again, with my cycling tights covered with a pair of athletic pants from Dick’s Sporting Goods. They’re not sweats, and also not part of a wind suit (at least I don’t think so), so maybe we can say ‘warm up pants’. Anyway, this combo didn’t block the wind entirely, and my knees were a little cold at the start, but I quickly got comfortable.
Here’s where I need help. The usual white cotton socks and Wally World sneakers are pretty much all I have to work with. (I know, I should get real bike shoes, but I can’t find any in wide width. Sure, I’ve seen some articles that talk about a certain line ‘running a little wide’, but I’m not ready to take that gamble. If you know of any, let me know.) My other choice would be my snow boots. As expected, my toes were cold after about 45 minutes.

Overall, I think things went pretty well. On the short ride to my office, the biggest problem I’ll have will be keeping my head warm without cooking my brain. Depending on the length of the ride, my feet will be the next trouble spot.

All-in-all, it was a good ride.

Miles Ridden: 14.6

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