“Let’s ride,” said my wife on Saturday morning.
“You’re on,” I replied.
I checked the temperature. It was a chilly 42 degrees outside (5 Celsius). She confirmed it by walking into the backyard.
“Oh oh — we’re covering the legs today,” she said.
By the time I got on the bike, I was dressed in shorts, leg warmers, two pairs of socks, a base layer t-shirt, arm warmers, summer weight jersey, windbreaker with detachable sleeves, full-finger gloves. I felt just right in the driveway, as I waited for Pat to clip in. Feeling just right at the start of a ride is never good. You always want to feel a tad chilly. Your pedaling will warm you up.
But as we set off, a brisk wind from the southeast smacked us in the face. Maybe I dressed right after all, I mused. We headed out for a Mopac loop at Pat’s suggestion. The wind buffeted us on the way south, but when we turned west, it was helping. By the time I reached the top of the only decent hill on the route and stopped to wait for Pat, I was feeling warmth on my back and sweat on my brow.
She caught up to me, and I could see that she’d unzipped the zipper of her fleece jacket, although the neck gaiter was still in place. Pedaling up the hill after a week’s layoff from the bike bothered her more than the warming temperature.
I asked if she wanted to do a Veloway lap after Mopac.
“No, I’ve had enough,” she said. I told her I would ride awhile longer when we got to an intersection near the house.
I set out for Convict Hill. Usually when I do this ride on Saturday mornings, I hit Convict Hill first, then do a Mopac loop, then a Veloway loop. It all adds up to a nice 27-miler and is my usual Saturday morning ride.
As I approached the climb up Convict Hill, I noticed the runners on the local streets. Most of them were in shorts and t-shirts. A few wore long-sleeved t-shirts. No one was bundled up for the cold like I was. I did a quick assessment of my kit. I hadn’t removed any of it from the time we started. Now, I had close to 17 miles under my wheels, and I could feel the soaked base layer and jersey clinging to me. Time to shed the windbreaker, I thought to myself.
Problem was, the wind was still pretty brisk — between 12-15 mph. When it hit my sweat-soaked clothing, it had an immediate cooling effect. I didn’t like the idea of keeping the windbreaker on, but I was concerned that taking it off now would just invite chills later.
I rode up the hill. Isn’t it interesting how hills that you’re used to doing early in the ride become a lot harder after you’ve been riding for over an hour? I was winded at the top, and pulled to the curb to stop, drink some water, and tend to my kit.
Given the fact that the wind didn’t seem to be letting up in the least, I still didn’t want to give up the windbreaker. I unzipped part way to at least let some of the heat escape from my upper torso. I figured that would be enough. At a stoplight several minutes later, another cyclist made a left turn in front of me. He was wearing shorts and a short-sleeved jersey. With the gusty wind, I still felt cool. I wondered how he was doing.
Better than me, evidently. I added another four miles to the ride home (could have done it in just under two) to bring my total mileage to my usual Saturday morning 27. But when I got to the garage, I was spent. The sun was out now. The temperature was 68 degrees (20 Celsius). I was soaked through and through.
I’ve done goofy things like this before. I know that as cooler weather becomes the norm, I’ll be better prepared for it. I started out the day dressed for 42 — but what I hadn’t factored in was that it wouldn’t be 42 for long. Just getting rid of the windbreaker’s sleeves probably would have handled most of the situation — and I could have taken off the leg warmers later on. I just wish I didn’t have to re-learn this lesson every year.
Tommy F says
This time of year, I tend to forgo the standing weekend group ride that starts early a.m. and focus my riding time near the peak temperatures of the day. The benefit is less temperature variation start to finish.
I read somewhere to dress like it is 10 degrees warmer than the actual temp to account for body heat. I am still trying to perfect my gear to temp combinations but am getting better at it.
I have not invested in arm / leg warmers yet and seem to be happy using a thin long-sleeve base layer on top and thin tights over standard shorts on those days that might lead to no arm / leg warmers later in the ride.
Bike Noob says
Back when I was a runner, therule of thumb was to dress for 20 degrees warmer than it really was. Ten degrees for bikers seems reasonable. I own thin tights, too, but they have a drawstring waist (never again!) so I seldom wear them.
I consistently notice that runners are dressed less warmly than I am. I think that’s probably appropriate.
I’ve been working out temperature-appropriate gear as well… it was 30F this morning here, and I still ended up warm in what I wore. My commute to work is only 6 miles so it wasn’t bad, but if I’d been on a longer ride I’d have been sweating. Part of that is that I was testing a couple new cold-weather things… so I expected to end up a bit warm. Figure it’s better to test the really cold-weather gear when it’s not really cold yet!
One of the big things I generally try to do is make sure my first layer wicks really well. That tends to help quite a bit even when I dress too warmly. I’ve also found that as long as I have something windproof on my upper body, I don’t need many layers. I have a lined windproof jacket, and that plus a mid-weight wicking layer keeps my upper body warm all the way down to about 15-20F. Below that, I use a heavier shirt or 2 lighter-weight shirts.
What do you do with the layers you shed? My jersey pockets are usually full of other stuff.
Bike Noob says
In that case, I don’t know what to tell you, because a cell phone is about the only thing I put in my jersey pockets. So I have room for a rolled-up windbreaker, and arm and leg warmers.
You get a seat bag, that’s what you do. Then you can put all the junk you have in your jersey in there, and have room in your jersey! 🙂
My seat bag has tools, CO2 cartridge, and a spare tube. My jersey pockets have money, ID, keys, Hammer Gel, and cell phone. I’ve been thinking of getting a top-tube bag for the stuff in my jersey pockets. Still I’m skeptical that I could fit arm/leg warmers and windbreaker in my jersey pockets! I don’t mean to be difficult. I’m seriously looking for a solution, as cold weather is approaching.
Another Jeff... says
My seat bag has the same — multi-tool, CO2 cartridge, spare tube. I keep phone, cash, ID, credit card in a Jersey Bin in my center pocket, along with a gel or bar. That leaves me the two outer pockets. I’ve shoved a thin, light jacket in one (folded carefully) and easily fit arm warmers in the other. Your pockets may bulge a little, but if you’ve ever seen a domestique ferrying about nine water bottles up to a team leader, you know they can handle it!
Runners don’t generate 15-20 mph winds for two or more hours of activity. Consequently, they can get by with fewer layers when in cold weather. I’ve noticed that really hot days that will force a runner inside can be managed by a cyclist. Likewise, a runner will battle through really cold days that will put most cyclists on the basement trainer.
Johnny Z says
If you feel comfortable when you walk out the door, you’re overdressed. If you can, find arm and leg warmers with windblock material; they are usually thin enough to disspate heat and the windblock will prevent the chill.