Comfortable riding in single digit temps - the cheap edition

While I always appreciate when people think that I’m hardcore for biking in the winter, I have to admit that it really isn’t that bad. Getting prepared and being willing to layer up make most rides rather enjoyable. Some days are certainly worse than others, but even the really cold days are totally doable.

The key for successful bike winter dressing is recognizing that you are going to be generating heat while you bike around. If you wear something that provides insulation to keep the heat in, you’ll be just fine. You can do this with top of the line gear, or thrift-store finds.

On my ride in today, I saw thermometers displaying two temperatures, 6 and 3 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s cold, but I was toasty warm. Different people will do different combinations, but what worked for me today wasn’t particularly expensive or hard to come by.

I was wearing:

Regular work clothes (I’d probably wear the same thing if I were taking the train)
  • Base layer pants – Black Cuddle duds from Target that cost about $14, also doubled as regular leggings for when I got to work.
  • Red Dress for work - I don’t always like to get completely changed and prefer to just subtract some other layers.
  • Black sweater – From a thrift store
  • Lightweight wool socks

 Outer layer

  •  Thick fleece pants – I’ve had these for about 10 years
  •  Fleece pull-over - From a thrift store
  •  Yellow windbreaker – On clearance form Eddie Bauer
Mirror, mirror on a bike . . .

(this picture is from yesterday when it was warmer, but I was wearing the same jacket and fleece pants...just a different dress today!)

I’m still mourning the loss of one of my favorite pairs of gloves, but I’ve found a pretty decent replacement.
I wear long fingered bike gloves from Lake that I got at their warehouse sale. I like that they are yellow. Underneath that I wear a pair of stretchy gloves from a CVS or similar store. The only part of my hands that got cold was my right forefinger, as the stretch glove has a hole in it so I can still use my iPhone.

Wool socks are indispensible. Today I was wearing a pair of Smartwool socks that I was given as a gift. They are awesome, but you can get affordable wool socks at Costco as well.

I’ve been very happy with my shoes. This winter I’ve been wearing a pair of hiking shoes that have Gore-Tex. I picked these up at an REI garage sale for less than $10. They are kind of hideous, but they extremely warm and waterproof.

My head was a little bulky today, but I couldn't even feel the cold.  I wore two free fleece balaclavas from Bike Winter. I also wore a pair of ski goggles. The goggles were probably the most expensive thing and really are a luxury item. It’s not necessary, but wearing goggles really makes one feel protected and warm.

I may have looked a little silly, but I was comfortable and very visible. The only time I was chilly was when I stopped to take some pictures of the spectacle surrounding the school where a Chinese office was visiting.

Just getting out and living your life in cold temperatures is an empowering experience. If you find you are not warm enough, it’s always possible to jump on a bus or a train and try again another time. Look at what clothes you have and think about how you can layer them for maximum warmth.



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