What’s Black and White and Blocks Wind All Over?

After that no-ride weekend, I was looking forward to getting back on the bike. But being an adopted Texan, I have also become a weather wuss. My friends in Minnesota would be mortified that we tend to avoid riding in what to them seem like mild temperatures. But so it goes.

However, driving home from work today, I resolved that I would get out on the bike regardless of the cold. The dashboard thermostat read 39 degrees (4C), and there was a brisk wind blowing from the northwest. But the sun shone brightly, and by almost any standard, it was a beautiful day.

When I told my wife I intended to ride, she said she’d been bent over her computer keyboard all day, and was up for a ride, too. We started getting into our selection of cold-weather riding gear.

I pulled on a short-sleeved base layer and my long-sleeved jersey with brushed insides. Over that, my windbreaker. This has worked in 40-degree weather in the past, but not in the kind of wind we had today. I decided to rely on a time-honored method bikers use to block the wind: the newspaper.

Fabian Cancellara stuffs a newspaper in his jersey just before starting a descent in this year's Tour de France.

I grabbed a thin section from the morning’s paper that was still lying on our kitchen table, folded it over once, and jammed it down the inside of my jersey. The tight-fitting fabric seemed like it would do a good job of keeping the paper in place over my upper torso.

Pat put on the long-sleeved jersey I got her last month for her birthday. It’s a warmer garment than mine, and the panels over the chest are made of a nylon wind-blocking material. Over that, she layered an old fleece pullover.

We fished out our wool socks, put the toe covers on our shoes, and dug the full-fingered gloves out of the bike stuff box.

“Whoa!” Pat yelled, as we pulled out of our driveway. “Have a little cold!”

At the first stoplight a mile into the ride, we caught up to another cyclist. Pat and he chatted a bit as we all climbed a long gentle hill, and then he passed me and took off.

“He wasn’t going to let an old woman on a hybrid stay even with him,” Pat laughed. “But he did say he thought this was the nicest biking weather of the year. He must be from the Midwest.”

On the way back, we were dead into the wind. Aside from making my eyes tear, which I hate when I’m building speed on downhills, it didn’t have any effect on what I was wearing. The layer of newspaper was doing its job.

While waiting at a red light, though, Pat complained that her tights weren’t thick enough to protect her thighs. They were cold, and that made the arthritis in her hip flare up. She soldiered through the discomfort and we got home before the sun set.

Inside, I dug the newspaper out from my jersey. It was a bit damp, but not wet. It had done its job of blocking the wind nicely, although by the time we finished the ride, it had slipped lower on my chest and shifted over to the side a bit. Still, a successful experiment.

Closed cell foam is often used by campers as sleeping pads.

Our club president has his own variation on the newspaper as wind blocker: bubble wrap. Well, that’s what he calls it, but it’s really a thin layer of closed-cell foam. He cuts generous squares off a roll and fits them over his torso under his jersey. He likes to tell the rest of us on our Sunday club rides how comfortable he is in cold and windy weather. I used to pooh-pooh his foam trick, but after my experience with the newspaper I think he might be on to something.

Have you ever resorted to newspapers or foam or something else to keep you comfortable on a ride?

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6 thoughts on “What’s Black and White and Blocks Wind All Over?

  1. I was on a 6 gap ride here in Georgia and judging by the amount of discarded newspaper lying in the road, it was a popular choice that day.

    It wasn’t that cool, but the descents can be chilly after making the climbs.

    If it works great, but I wish the riders would not have littered the road as they discarded the newspaper after the descents were completed. There are people to clean up after the pros, no clean up crew for local events.

    Same goes for empty gel packs and wrappers…..I feel better now that I have gotten that off my chest.

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