…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World
As this title implies, I consider myself to be an all-weather cyclist. There was a time when I was briefly labelled a “fair-weather cyclist” – I don’t know how accurate it was, it may have just been a misplaced observation, because I’d been seen driving to work on wet days – but that comment has stayed with me, even though years before I would have been cycling to school in all weather.
It’s fair to say, I’m certainly used to cycling in all weather now, although I’m not a fan of snow or ice – I came off on black ice during my college years and even though I physically only suffered grazes, I have been wary of such conditions ever since, and cycling through snow on a road bike seems kind of silly – even pushing a bike through snow can be an effort, as I learned a couple of years ago (the slow kind of built up round the mud-guards and then just clogged up the wheels so much that they stopped turning!).
When I got my first serious bike over fifteen years ago, my uncle who kindly helped me to buy the bike kitted me out with a load of winter-weather gear, ready for a bike ride out together. To be honest I think he over-did it: There was a cap (to be worn under my helmet) and over-shoes. I can’t remember what coat or gloves I wore, but I don’t remember being cold.
These days I’m quite conscious about what I wear – not from a self-conscious image perception, but rather, I think of the following:
– will I be warm enough?
– will I get cold?
– will I stay dry enough?- (if I’m cycling to somewhere), can I arrive wearing wet clothes / will there be somewhere I can dry wet clothes ready for a cycle home?
– how much will I sweat
The last point which I shall begin with is a strange one. When I cycled to school I don’t ever remember sweat being an issue, and I’m not really a sweaty person. In fact, for those that think “ew”, people who cycle or run a lot and drink pure liquids like water and have a good diet, probably have cleanest sweat. It’s really just perspiration, but it’s strange to consider that even when it’s cold, and I can feel cold, I can still sweat. This can be made more of a problem based on the clothes that are being worn. Consider this. In the summer months you can combat the perspiration issue by wearing as little as possible, like shorts and and t-shirt. Simple. In the winter you need to wrap up warm, to be warm, yet you will still perspire, so the clothes need to deal with this. Sometimes I opt to not wear waterproof clothing if there is a risk of rain because I’ll still end up just as damp, even if it doesn’t rain. Waterproof clothing should ideally have a breathable layer, or you need to wear something under it that still allows air to pass over the surface of the skin (that’s what the breathable/mesh layer is there for). Because I often cycle with a bag on my back, this prevents air getting to my back, so if I’m to arrive somewhere not looking sweaty I have to wear something that wont show it – a knit-fabric shirt or sweater for example.
Being warm enough is important, especially if you’re prone to muscle cramps. Thankfully I’m not. Once I’m moving I’m generally warm, it’s only really my fingers and face that feel the cold – numb fingers and an icy face aren’t pleasant. In fact, I’m writing this post after reading this one [cycleworld-top-5-ways-to-keep-warm-this-winter] because I felt the author was missing out a key part of my really cold weather winter ensemble: a scarf. Or perhaps it’s only me that feels the cold on their face? Firstly gloves. I generally have three types: fingerless, non-fingerless, and big chunky ones. I think I’ve misplaced the non-fingerless ones, so I’ll have to go straight from fingerless to the big chunky ones pretty soon – I was out today on my bike and my fingers felt pretty icy, my face too. So a scarf is also a must for me in the colder weather – I wrap it round my head and over my mouth to breath through – it goes over my ears too so it keeps those snug. I’ve been asthmatic in the past and so I think not having such cold air going directly to my chest helps my lungs. Just like wet weather cycling you need to consider if you will be stopping somewhere before returning home – when stopping, this is when I get cold and getting cold can be dangerous. One thing I haven’t experienced in really cold weather is running low on energy – I don’t think I’ve gone for a long enough ride in really cold weather. I’m mentioning this now because I’ve ridden home in an exhausted state, but in good weather – to do that when it’s cold would surely pose more of a risk, so be more considerate of your limits in extreme conditions.
I don’t mind being rained on. It’s only water after all. The issues come from arriving somewhere looking like a drowned rat (which is a concern if I’m cycling to work), and if the rain is in conjunction with cold weather you can feel extra cold once you’re soaked through, so getting out of those cold wet clothes once you stop moving is important. The first thing is mud-guards – I wouldn’t want to ride in rain without them – for a couple of years with my old road bike I would take the mud guards off in the summer months and put them back on when the weather turned, but this became a faff. I’ve already mentioned waterproof clothing, but footwear is also an important factor if you want dry feet. Sadly my feet don’t stay dry for long in wet weather. I cycle in trainers, walking-style ones from Tresspass, and while they are labelled as “Waterproof” they are not, and never were from their first encounter with the wet stuff. I think partly the problem is that water runs down my legs and ankles and into the footwear from there. If that’s the case then the only solution would be over-shoes and have the waterproof trousers over them. My experience of overshoes though is that they’re only ideal over skinny cycling shoes, not trainers. Plus, I cycle with pedal straps, not cleat thingies, so one has to loosen the straps enough to fit the over-sized footwear in, and I prefer to leave my pedal straps alone.
I perhaps should have mentioned early on that I’m not one for buying expensive gear that’s cycling-specific. My footwear, waterproof trousers, coat and gloves are general outdoor stuff, and under that outer layer I may well be wearing jeans and a standard sweatshirt. Lycra-clad cyclists who do fork out for the ‘proper gear’ may well scoff at me, but I’m quite content with my approach. If you have money to burn then by all-means go out and buy the ‘latest technology’ to wear, but cycling on a tight budget in no way has to be a cold and miserable experience!