Biking Jan19: Winter Biking – So Far

I already failed my January goal of biking to work three times a week. I blame the weather. I blame my apparent inability to gauge cold and warm – how cold is it really, and how many layers do I need to wear to stay warm on a four mile bike ride?

The first day wasn’t so bad – not terribly cold, nice to be out on my bike, surprise new bike lanes on the route I normally take (makes me feel legit!).

Now my regular commute is legit!

The second day was colder, so I decided to wear my corduroy culottes with the reflective leg warmers my mother knit for me several years ago. This wasn’t too bad on the way TO work, but on the way home, the temperature had dropped and the wind had picked up. I got blown around on my bike, and the full legs of the culottes blew around my legs, so I wasn’t as warm as I wanted to be. I was certainly reflective though!

Here are my reflective winter touches, from outside, working in:

  • Nutcase helmet (not seen: reflective stickers on side and back)
  • Reflective Rabbit scarf, knit by my mother
  • Old Lands End red puffer coat
  • Vespertine skinny reflective belt
  • Reflective lobster gloves (don’t remember where I got those)
  • Funflector reflector on my very old Basil pannier
  • Reflective leg warmers, knit by my mother
  • Navy corduroy Megan Nielsen Tania culottes with black reflective piping in the side seam, made by me

1. All a-glow, after I got home

2. Unpeeling the layers….

3. Ta da! This is how I looked in the office – respectable and not the least bit “bikey”

Then it got even colder and stayed windy. Although it meant I missed my third day of biking, I was fine with it. And now we’ve had the biggest snowstorm in three years, with 9″ of snow on our back deck alone, so I won’t be biking for a bit. Although Arlington County does a great job at clearing the bike lanes and trails, the same cannot generally be said for the conditions of streets. In years past, my bike route has been blocked by the giant piles of snow pushed aside by snow plows. I just don’t feel like the battle, so I opt not to, especially since the bus is so convenient.

9″ of snow on our back deck this morning, wow! Of the originally predicted 3-6″, I was hoping for 3″, haha!

I discovered something I’d forgotten in a year – after a 25-30 minute bike ride, my back is sweating and my fingers are freezing. So I plan to spend the rest of this month trying to balance out the warmth, and figure out how to keep my fingers warm and my core a bit cooler. I might just break down and make my own bar mitts – reflective, of course!

Yes, Virginia, Santa Bikes

Christmas is my favorite holiday, full of magic and surprise and friends and family, not to mention Gluehwein, bulging Christmas stockings on Christmas morning, candlelights in windows, gingerbread, German Christmas markets, and Santa Mouse. Just because we are adults doesn’t mean we should leave the magic of Christmas to children. I especially love the story of Santa Mouse – be sure to read it if you don’t know it.

Target_Santa Bikes_TL

If Target thinks Santa bikes, who are we to argue?!

The Mechanic and I are spending our first Mr. & Mrs. holiday together, just us, and we look forward to our new Christmas traditions. Given the weather, one new tradition might be a bike ride together – but not dressed up as Mr. & Mrs. Claus!

Many best wishes for a loving, peaceful and magical holiday season to you,  no matter where you are and what you believe!

Merry Christmas!

And It Got Cold…

And Lo! It was Winter.

That is certainly what it felt like – so gradual slide into below freezing temperatures, just Bam! Freezing! Of course, the DC Metro region isn’t the only place prepared to shiver, as most of the US is dealing with snow, ice, and these super cold numbers. Yes, I know many places regularly see numbers much lower than ours have been, but this is still unusual for here, and I’m experiencing some, I don’t know, PTSD? from last winter’s Polar Vortex.

Last week I wrote a guest post for Bike Pretty about winter gear, and although I have been thinking about what I’d like to get for this winter, I wasn’t fast enough and had to dig out my old stuff.

Last year's winter gear - red down coat, scarf, the "chaps" I made, pink winter bike gloves, black Land's End boots

Last year’s winter gear – red down coat, scarf, the “chaps” I made, pink winter bike gloves, black Land’s End boots

I layered up and had four trips back and forth to work to unscientifically determine what needed the most help. Tuesday I wore my one set of poly thermals (byJockey, but it doesn’t seem like they make the same ones anymore); dress/work pants; my cool new Boden shirt; a cotton V-neck sweater; added the winter layers, and changed shoes at work. I was pretty comfortable wearing the thermals all day, since our office isn’t overly heated at the moment. Wednesday I wore my thermals again (don’t judge!); corduroy pants; my reflective sweatshirt; the winter layers, and changed shoes and scarves at work (for a cuter cotton one). Since the high on both days hovered around 32*F, with the mornings and evenings about 10* cooler, I had a good chance to test everything.

I love pretty much anything Boden, and am really happy with this shirt.

I love pretty much anything Boden, and am really happy with this shirt. (photo from Boden website. Mine is in the dirty laundry pile and I didn’t want to share that….)

Here is what I determined:

  • Fingers first! By the time I got home last night, my fingers were bright red and going numb. They hurt as they warmed up! I was a bit worried. And I was wearing the “winter” gloves I bought last year. I promptly ordered new gloves, and hope they do better. I went partial-lobster; not ready to fully commit.
  • Toes survived. I have been worried about my toes, and honestly, they managed fine, so I will continue to look for nice warm boots, wear these, and drag work shoes back and forth with me.
  • Neck might be tricky. My neck is the first thing to get cold or overheat. I am very happy that turtlenecks are so “in” this winter, because I love them, but I think that wearing them whilst biking makes me overheat. What’s a delicate girl to do?! I think I may trade in my big fun scarves for something a bit more, well, machine-washable. I’m currently lusting after these “Bandit” neck warmers by Choucas. I need to be able to pull it over my nose, then pull it down mid-ride, adjust as needed, so I prefer this option over the traditional bike balaclava.
  • Thermal underwear. I want to stock up on thermals, but they need to be cute, they need to be sleek, and they need to be NOT wool. I know, I know – everyone loves wool. Not me. I cannot stand it on my body, it is too scratchy and itchy and I simply can’t have it on me. And before you start asking, yes, I have tried everything, and yes, it all still bothers me. No SmartWool tights for me! This means silk or some sort of poly fabric, and I am obsessed with the Land’s End Thermaskins collection. (I’m sort of a Land’s End fan, in case you couldn’t guess!) The cute prints mean that I can let them show in the office, and not feel dorky. Or wear the bottoms under skirts. With those super warm boots I’ll eventually buy.

The bike-related Facebook groups I belong to have been full of people looking for advice on what to wear in the cold, and basically it boils down to – whatever you would wear to take a walk in the winter! For some people this means super technical gear: I’ve seen crazy lists of Pearl Izumi tights this and that, with many layers of wool thrown in. For others it means ski gloves and goggles! Glad I don’t live where they live. Not everyone wants specialized gear, even for winter, and I totally agree with that. I still want to look professional, or at least not “bikey.” Because I try not to have to change clothes when I get to work, I want to find ways to layer under and over, but even I give up being cute at some point. Usually around 15*F.

Here is where I gave up and just layered on everything! (March 2014)

Here is where I gave up and just layered on everything! (during a blizzard in March 2014)



Cold Weather Not Biking

I turned on the TV this morning to start a yoga DVD, and an extended Nassau Bahamas commercial was playing – “The Top 10 Reasons to Visit the Bahamas.” White sands, crystal blue waters, people snorkeling, swimming, kayaking in shorts and tank tops and bathing suits – just what I wanted to see on another cold, cold day. Sigh. Growing up in California, I didn’t understand why East Coasters went to Florida every winter, but it didn’t take me long to figure out once I spent a few winters in New York. After 15 years, I still dislike the cold, and seem to be having a harder time dealing with it this year.


The “polar vortex” temperature swings are probably not helping. Anything below 32*F makes me unhappy, so waking up and seeing 11*F with a “real feel” of -2 makes me want to cry. I’ve opted against biking in this weather, but that hasn’t worked out so well…. I have a bus that runs 3 blocks from my apartment to mere blocks from my office, direct. It should be easy. And yet, it hasn’t been. Biking to work all the time makes me forget how awful public transportation can be. So here I am, cussing at Metro along with everyone else. It’s hard to promote public transportation right now when missing buses, perpetual problems on the Metro lines, and unprotected (and therefore freezing) bus shelters all result in miserable, cold, delayed commutes to or from work.

Knowing that I dislike being cold, biking in the cold, changing clothes once I get to work, and wearing thermal underwear all day, last month I made a pair of “winter biking chaps.” Made from the sleeves of an XXL polar fleece, and some ripstop nylon, trimmed with reflective grosgrain, these chaps are intended to wear just over my thighs while I bike. They help cut the wind a bit, and keep that part of my leg from being too cold. My winter biking jacket covers them more than I expected, so the reflective trim gets buried under red quilted down, and they admittedly look pretty dorky when I’m standing in the elevator of my office building, but it’s a small concession to cycle chic, just to stay warm.

I made them up as I went along, and I didn’t have the buckles and as much webbing as I wish I’d had for the waist and leg straps, so they don’t look great, but that’s okay. Someday, it will be warm enough again to wear them. You know, maybe in the 30s.

If only I could be as jolly as this snowman...

If only I could be as jolly as this snowman…