Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why Am I So Warm?

When I read about what other people wear for cold weather riding, they always seem to be much more heavily dressed than I am. This morning it was -8C on my ride in. I was running late and did not layer up properly and wore what I consider the minimum amount of clothing for such weather. I found that I was pleasantly cool but not cold the whole way in. The thing is, I wasn't wearing that much really:

Body: 1) Cheap old MEC Bike Shorts under 2) MEC Cold Weather pants (neoprene fronts, Lycra backs), 3) a light wicking T-shirt under 4) a scarf to plug the neck hole of 5) an O2 Rainwear cycling jacket with pit zips wide open.

Head: Lightweight balaclava (pulled under chin, face exposed), MX goggles, helmet

Hands: Light Gloves (best used above -10C)

Feet: Regular cotton socks (tsk, tsk) under Exustar E-SM450 Cold Weather Cycling Shoes (not sure if these are available any more).

Do As I Say Not As I Do Disclaimer: I would strongly recommend wearing more stuff than this just for safety. You can remove layers when you're too hot, but you can't add layers you didn't bring in the first place if you are cold. This outfit was perfect because I was able to keep moving. If I had had to stop for any reason along the way or crashed or something, I would have become very cold very fast.

So anyway, I've been thinking about the differences I see between how much stuff I wear compared to others and have four possible reasons for how little I wear:

1) Noggin/Eyes Covered: Once your head is covered, staying warm is simply quite easy. Or maybe humans lose a whole ton of heat from their eyes, which my goggles retain for me. Anyone? Anyone?

2) Blubber: At 5'11" and about 210 pounds, I carry a built in insulating layer.

3) Distance: My winter commute is only 7km (4.3 miles) one way. If I rode much further most of me would be fine, but I know that my feet and hands could begin to suffer past that distance in these clothes.

4) Lateness: I am almost always late. That means riding hard, which means loads of heat generation. If I tried a leisurely commute in this outfit, I would very likely feel chilled.

Any other theories or guesses or insults? Bring 'em on! I like it.


Apertome said...

I have made the same observation. I read about people wearing layers upon layers, and I just don't need that much to stay warm. But, you hit the nail on the head when you said that keeping moving makes all the difference. And lateness contributing to riding hard? Amen, brother, amen.

Steve A said...

A short sleeve t shirt seems sporty to me below freezing. Maybe I've been in Texas too long...

Anonymous said...

I think if you wore Arm Warmers Made From Old Socks, you'd be just fine. 'Specially with that short sleeved tshirt.

Kokorozashi said...

LOL -- I'm with you on the Lateness strategy. Riding hard seems to really do the trick.

So does acclimation to cold -- I noticed this yesterday when I took my friend Robert on a Bicycle Death March (this is my new name for my favorite activity-with-friends: I think we're 'going for a ride,' they think I'm 'bat**** crazy' and 'probably violating the Geneva conventions in some way, shape, or form'). I was warm, he was cold. Hm.

I'd say from experience that those in the northerly latitudes get a heat start on cold-acclimation, and thus tend to get along with cold weather better than our southerly brethren. Louisville, being what is scientifically called 'smack dab in the middle,' is one of those bizarre places where you'll see shorts-wearers and parka-wearers on the same day ... sometimes even out on a date with one-another.

As for me, I tend to assume I'm going to blow a tire at the farthest point possible, and thus wear a bazillion layers with the intent of being able to take some off if I need to. In practice, however, I usually just leave them on and whine internally about being too hot, instead (exceptions: I do remove excess neck-, head-, and hand-wear readily, probably because I can stuff them in my backpack without losing cargo space).

Um. Sorry this got so long! :)

Steve A said...

It's probably just the opposite of what I experienced in North Texas last August. Once I decided to "just do it," the heat was no longer a problem and I rode more in August than any other month. OTOH, there were others locally, who will remain unnamed, that complained mightily about the heat.


Big Oak said...

You must have an S.O.B. for a boss if you're that worried about getting to work that you don't even feel the cold!

You don't have to answer that on the chance your boss may be reading.

John Romeo Alpha said...

I find I can always crank up the effort if I start to get cool. Of course, that logic falls apart if I have to stop to change a tire. So I wear very little and run slime tubes.

RANTWICK said...

Steve - The short sleeve was a hurried choice... normally I would have long sleeves, thin shirt

RANTWICK said...

Big Oak - I can answer, because on the contrary my boss is pretty nice and allows me a little flexibility on my start and stop times.

Skyers said...

Seeing that I am also riding everyday in London just as you, I thought I would let you know how your outfit differs from mine.
For comparitive reasons I will say that you and I go the opposite way, when you go west I go east.
I ride 10km each way.
The things that I wear that are the same as you are Helmet,Goggles,Bike Underwear/shorts
everything else is different.
I wear a touque under my helmet and a neoprene 1/2 face mask (I wear it with the goggles when temps hit -4.
my gloves are my MTB gloves with a winter outer glove shell overtop.
I wear a pair of themal underwear with a pair of costco tights overtop (I also wear a pair of cargo shorts over top for fashion only) My coat is the outer shell to a columbia winter coat, some what waterproof and somewhat breathable, Over this I wear a Reflective vest (not the mesh kind)
Under my coat I wear my best cycling purchase ever a Merino Wool Turtleneck (value village $5.99). I could wear this forever!! I used to wear multi wicking layers like you but once I got the Merino wool sweater I never touch the inferior wicking layers I used to use.
On days where there is a strong wind (chill) I add a long sleeve under armour type shirt over top of the wool sweater. My shoes look identical to yours..Mine are my old baseball shoes with some of the cleats cut away to fit on my pedals, If it is wet or raining I also add some homemade shoe covers over them...
Over all I am always warm. I am waiting to see how low the temps go this winter so I can really test what the limits are...
1 other thing...I am an inch taller and have 40lbs less insulation that you.

RANTWICK said...

Skyers - I didn't read your comment until now, Friday morning. You must have gotten slammed by the wind on your way in today (it was about -11C on my computer but felt colder to me)... thank goodness for goggles and full face masks!

Thanks also for the details on your setup. I will keep my eyes open on that merino wool thing, it sounds good.

Lastly, I bet my insulating layer does indeed play a role!

Skyers said...

Ya I was thinkin about how the wind would be pushing you on my way in today. It was cold!! I changed my Coat to one that is Fully waterproof / fully windproof / and totally not breathable at all. It worked out perfect. Pinkie fingers and toes were COLD when I got to work.
Good luck on the way home

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