Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Cutoff for Shorts

original, undoctored photo is at

When temps start to drop and I begin bracing myself for winter riding, I always start wearing my long cycling pants a little too early. I end up overheating for a few days and return to cycling shorts soon thereafter. I have found that in terms of covering up in the Fall, my legs are the last thing that need it. I need gloves (or socks) for my fingers, a jacket and something around my neck long before I need pants.

A couple of days ago while I rode in to work, I determined that the temperature was about as cold as I like to go without long pants. In an effort to stop being subjective about the weather and provide a benchmark for Fall pants wearing, I went straight to the Weather on my computer upon my arrival at the office. My personal cutoff for shorts is 4 deg C or 39 deg F. Anything colder and I'll wear pants. When next Fall rolls around, I'll be able to refer to this page for a reminder about when I should make the switch, and so avoid those overheating days.

What's your cut off? Do you just stroll outside and feel the weather, or do you have a Temperature scale like I do now?



cafiend said...

The Italian Cycling Federation in the 1970s was recommending that you cover your legs at temperatures below 70 degrees F. Since I moved back to New England I've bumped it down to 60.

On a chilly morning commute when the day will warm I leave the tights at home. In that case the first extra clothing I wear is a wind vest. I frequently add that.

Cold puts a strain on your legs that you will not notice immediately. Muscles and joints may seem functionally warm, but they aren't really maintaining optimum temperature. Think about it. Your kneecaps are right out there in front, cleaving the icy gale.

Heat management is the trickiest aspect of cool- and cold-weather cycling.

lifein360 said...

I am a weather wimp so anything that is lower than 10 and I am in a winter parka and snowpants.

RANTWICK said...

Cafiend - good points; you're making me re-think my strategies. It may be that my commute is short enough that I've not felt the ill effects on my legs.

I agree 100% that heat management is the trickiest part... you enjoy the ride so much more when you're not freezing some bits while roasting others!

360 - Whatever is comfortable, man. It's good that you're riding in cooler temps at all!

ChipSeal said...

In my youth (soon after the safety bicycle was invented)in balmy southern California, the tights were donned at 65 degrees.

In the colder weather experienced here in the Dallas area, my legs stay bare until 55 degrees, and below 45 degrees I wear both tights and a pair of sweat pants.

Keri said...

My cutoff for sport cycling is about 55F, because I hate the feeling of resistance I get from tights (and 55 is usually only the temp at the start of the ride, here). My cutoff for pokey errand-riding about 65F.

I almost made the mistake of wearing long pants last night because the air felt cool. But I looked at the temp and chose shorts. Was glad I did.

Steve A said...

Shorts: 45-50 (usu closer to 50)
Shorts & sweat pants: 35-45
Cycling Jacket: 45-50
Long-sleeves: 50
Cycling shorts: Rain likely
Tights: Bought a pair but haven't worn them yet

Around here, when it's 50 in the morning, it'll usually be over 70 on the ride home so I split the difference. Stated temperatures are morning ones.

Need I translate all these farenheit temperatures into French units?

RANTWICK said...

Steve - I daresay that I and most of my Canadian readers are old enough to remember the farenheit scale... since the Metric System was adopted in Canada while I was a kid, I'm a bi-measurite.

Rat Trap Press said...

If I wear shorts below 50 degrees my knees start hurting and my leg muscles tighten up. Cafiend knows what he's talking about.

RANTWICK said...

RTP - Yep, he's clever, that one. Although of course I've noticed cold kneecaps, my muscles have always felt fine.

That said, I believe both of you, and I'm considering taking better care of my legs and shedding more heat some other way.

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