I was so excited about the ride to work this morning I didn't sleep much. There was a good reason for my anxiety. The forecast called for temperature several degrees below zero. My previous record for coldest ride into work was 11°F (-12°C). This morning the temperature was a solid -6°F (-21°C). That, to me, is cold. Winds were 5 MPH (8 kph). At this temperature my 14.5 mile ride to work isn't just challenging it is potentially dangerous. According to the windchill chart
exposed skin can become frostbitten in 30 minutes at these winds and temperatures.
This temperature is 17°F colder than anything I have ridden long distance before, so there were a lot of questions about how many layers were needed. I settled on the following:
- Fleece shirt.
- Cycling jacket.
- Wool socks.
- Fleece fitted pants.
- Thermal pants.
- Neoprene cycling shoe covers.
- Nylon balaclava.
- Neoprene face mask.
- Eye muffs.
- Fleece neck warmer.
- Leather mittens.
- Chemical heaters on toes and in mittens.
I loaded my bicycle inside the house as every second not peddling outside is lost heat, and I need it all. Once I started out the door I was in genuine cold. My goggles fogged up almost immediately, and my neck warmer was too much. So after about a mile I got ride of both of those items. Because I had tailwind there was not enough air movement across my goggles to keep them from fogging up, and they were quickly becoming more of a hazard than a help. After I took them off I had to fight the frost growing off my eyelashes caused by my heavy breath. The frost would accumulate at the corners of my eyes and weld the upper and lower eyelashes together. The only way to fix this is to hold them against my face and let my body heat melt the ice. Kind of a pain but functional.
The double pants were a bit too much and I could tell I was sweating heavily in them. The fleece shirt was a bit much as well as my cycling jacket was really all I needed to keep the cold off my torturous. The face mask worked well but the balaclava was causing my neck to retain a lot of heat. A little over halfway though the ride I decided to pull out my insulated water bottle for a drink. When I shook it I could hear liquid water inside. However, the top was frozen shut and I was unable to get any of the liquid out. The sides of the water bottle are insulated, but clearly not the top.
My ride to work took an hour and 18 minutes. Most days this ride is one hour, so 30% longer than usual. When I arrived at work my face mask and eye muffs were covered in frost. Something about the way my face masks vents breathing causes this accumulation. It looked interesting but didn't cause any discomfort.
In all the ride was a success. My toes did start to get cold near the end of the ride, but not terribly so. With the hand warmers my hands felt alright during the ride. I made it to work without issues or concerns.
This was also the first day I rode on snow accumulation. The roads had a packed covering of hard snow a some ice. My spiked tires made this completely navigable and I didn't feel the bike slide from me once on the entire ride. So I am please with their performance thus far. I haven't run into black ice yet, but I'm hopeful these tires can handle it.
On the ride home the temperature had come above zero to 5°F (-15°C). I ditched the inner fitted thermals and wore a very light shirt under my jacket. Since I had a steady headwind I put the goggles on. They had some success. I had to stop once to straighten something out. That caused them to fog up and then the fog turned to ice. After the ice formed they didn't recover and I had to defrost them with my hands. I am going to have to look for better goggles because they are helpful for keeping my eyes from freezing, fogging up is no help at all.
With the success of today I feel confident about riding again tomorrow. It is forecast to be slightly colder.