How Hard Core Are You?

Hard Core Commuter

With the temperatures around 20 degrees colder than the norm in North Carolina my motivation is lacking for the daily commute to and from the bike shop. In my mind I keep repeating, “Practice what you preach” and that is the one thing getting me on to a bike most days. I’m sure I could make it easier on myself, and I plan to do just that this weekend. Setting my “commuter hub” in my garage, no room for excuses and all things taken care of so I don’t need to worry early in the morning. Warm clothes laid out, lights charged and motivation brewing.

Lack of motivation lead me to re-reading this story this morning. Hard-Core Cyclist Do Not Fear Winter.

This leaves me with one question, how hard core are you? The daily commuters that read this blog, what is your breaking point and how do you keep trudging along?

Sign up for our Adventure-Packed Newsletter

Get our latest touring, commuting and family cycling posts and sales delivered to your inbox!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

0 thoughts on “How Hard Core Are You?”

  1. Stephen says:

    My cutoff is 25, I found out when I rode in at 15 degrees, and almost died (or really felt like dying) that I was not having fun and it was not worth it. 25 F for me!

  2. brad says:

    My cutoff is when it gets below 10 degrees F, or if there is significant snow and/or ice on the ground. We hit those conditions the first week and a half in January, but the past few days are in the 30’s and lovely πŸ™‚

  3. jason (sd) says:

    My motivation this year is to set some personal records. As far as weather is concerned: I have already ridden in thunderstorms, hail, and blizzard conditions. My previous cold temp was 24 degrees below zero F. Last Saturday, even though I had nowhere to go, I had a chance to set a record. It was 26 below with -40 wind chill. I took off and ended up with 5 miles, more than twice my usual commute. It was really not that bad with the right layers.

    being able to say ‘you betcha’ when someone askes if you rode today

  4. Tim says:

    I sold my car so my motivation is keeping my job. My only options are the bike, city bus, or walk (in order of preference and speed). I have ridden several days this year in blizzard conditions when the city stopped bus service. My record cold so far (after riding almost a year) is -1°F. I don’t really oay attention to the wind chill, because I create my own anyway by moving. Cold is a relative term around here. Today it is 2°F with hard packed snow and ice, and I wore a light jacket over my base layers. The kit was perfect for the weather.

  5. Greg says:

    I share Tim’s motivating factor – 3 drivers with two cars – so my commute to work is either ride or take the bus. Both commute techniques take about equal time, if you discount the clothes changing time, so I ride rain or shine. Of course it’s only a five mile ride and it typically is only in the low 40s when I commute here in Sacramento, so maybe I am a commute whimp compared to others across the US.

  6. Don says:

    I live in Madison, WI and just started bike commuting in November. I don’t think it’s gotten below 0F while riding yet, but so long as the bike can keep going, I’ll keep riding.

    @jason (sd) – agree 100% about appropriate layering. 1 or 2 wool layers and a windproof shell is pretty great even down into single digits.

  7. Josh says:

    I don’t have a cold weather cutoff, but the coldest it’s gotten here in Seattle for my daily commute is about 15 degrees. Having the right gear really helps; a thin balaclava, some long johns or tights and you’ll fear no cold.

    Breaking point – I won’t ride if there’s a lot of snow or ice. My ride is super hilly and the drivers around here are too dangerous in the stuff.

  8. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    I would like to think I’m not hard core, but rather average. I’ve bike to and from work during snow stoms while the temps were around 0f on roads were cars were going no more than 2mph faster than me.. (~9 miles each way). Bike to work and bus stops in ~-30 sometimes into wind for 3 or so miles. commute through thunderstroms with winds over 40mph. Ride to and from work on ice covered roads. In August Georgia humid 103f temps. Been hit by a hit and run. Terrorized by a police chief.
    … and I can’t really say I’ve had a bad day bikeing… ever.
    When I stop and think about how humans have survived for hundreds of thousands of years without cars, that I can too, I mean we didn’t die off…

  9. Bob says:

    My breaking–or better, walking, busing, or staying-home–point is a full-on winter storm. Otherwise I ride. Lowest riding temp without windchill has been -15F. The cold doesn’t bother me, though; it’s the wind that makes me question my sanity.

  10. ethan says:

    I live in Albany, NY. So far I have not found a cut off point. Two years ago I rode home in a blizzard. All of the things that have given me problems, I have just bought better gears to overcome. (I’m the first to admit that riding home in a blizzard is probably beyond stupid.)

    It’s hard. When I get up there is no sunlight. I just want to go back to bed. But my clothes are already laid out. My lunch is already packed. All I have to do is put on the four layers of techwick and dayglo that I wear and head out.

    Lately we’ve had temperatures in the low teens (F) with winds above 10 mph. Despite that, this season I have had only two “omg this is too much” moments. And by the time I realize it’s too much I’m at a red light somewhere and I cannot just bail.

    I have really no idea how I stay motivated. It’s habitual now. I know that if I “quit” and take the bus, I will have a tough time not just taking the bus every day. I like the challenge of riding in adverse conditions. (I like cruising through the park in the summer sun, too.) I take a lot of pride in toughing it out, soldiering through. And I like being outside anyway.

  11. Rob Sayers says:

    I dont have a cutoff for the cold, but living in the south, that’s not saying much.

    I think the coldest it got this winder was 15F or so, not too bad if you are properly dressed.

    The summer is when I rethink things. Over 100 and I have to consider how nasty I want to be when I do arrive at work.

  12. Paul says:

    I’m in NC too, trying to get my head around the same sustained cold arctic blast. My lowest was a 19F ride and it was cold. I rode in today in 30F (12.5 mile commute) and still had cold feet even with the neoprene covers. So I understand the lack of motivation and am also struggling to get in my weekly dose of miles. My one strategy is to make it more difficult to take the car, to have packed ready to ride in the night before, wallet and phone in the backpack, all my riding clothes laid out where I have to move them to get out of the door, tires inflated already and therefore to remove any excuse I might have. It kind of works. The days I back out and reverse everything is when it’s also windy. To me the wind also sucks as it blows.

  13. locus says:

    When this NC-raised boy hit the mean streets of DC eight years ago, admittedly my breaking point was pretty high. I didn’t ride in rain, temps below about 40 degrees, and in no way would I ride when there was snow or ice on the ground. Over the years, I have added some essential gear and have found fewer and fewer excuses NOT to ride. So far, I have ridden to work every day for as long as I can remember. We had a sustained period of about three weeks where the morning temps were below feezing. It’s only a 2.5 mile commute each way with the kid dropoff, so it’s not really that long an exposure to inclimate weather.

    The gear is key. Long johns under the work clothes, good gloves (windstopper fleece for temps above freezing, ski gloves below freezing), scarves/neck gaiters, liner socks, and finally a face mask for temps below freezing. Windstopping gore tex pants and coats are also helpful to negate wind chill.

    My bigger concern is my kid. He loves to be on the back of my Surly Big Dummy, and almost never complains in any weather. However, I can’t be sure that the temperatures aren’t really hurting him. Once I remove his gloves at daycare, I check the tips of his fingers to be sure they’re not icy. I also don’t subject him to the downpours I’m willing to endure. Although my large size and bulky outerwear block a majority of the wind chill, he’s not pedaling like I am. I’m really reluctant to take him with me when the morning temps are below 30 degrees. The evening commutes are warmer and easier to justify.

  14. Becky says:

    I ride in Chicago, and the coldest day this winter was 7 degrees. I still rode to and from work, but that night I broke down and took a cab to dinner because the windchill was somewhere around -15. yikes!

    The appropriate gear goes a long way in the cold!

  15. Andy says:

    I’m in upstate New York and have yet to see temps under negative 10F. I don’t follow windchill because I at those temps I don’t have exposed skin. I commute to work everyday with my bike. Luckily there are several bus stops along my short 4 mile route, so I have bail out points if needed. I generally only take the bus when it’s nasty rain, partly because rain sucks more than anything, and partly because I fear drivers won’t see me.

    My “most hardcore” ride was last February when there was a bike touring meeting on the other side of town. I do have a car, but so far I have yet to driven to a local bike ride or event because I find it ironic that so many cyclists drive to these things. It was in the evening so plows weren’t being proactive since the commuting times were still 12 hours away and snow was still falling. 8 inches of snow were on the roads, and I rode 15 miles total. I was prepared for the ride with plenty of clothes, lights and no rush, and it went very well.

    I prefer commuting at 20F than 30-50F, mostly because I can wear the same clothes throughout the ride. Early spring and late fall are most annoying because it will be chilly in the morning and then I have to schlep all those layers back home.

  16. Todd says:

    I live at 7,000 feet so winter can be a bit tricky at times. I don’t have a cutoff for the cold – only for road conditions. When I first started riding full time I thought I could handle anything! Then I had my first fall on the ice – one second I was happily riding, the next I was on my back looking into the face of a concerned pedestrian. Now, older and wiser (and creakier), I don’t ride if the ice and snow build up. It’s actually fun walking instead now and then. During the last blizzard I ran into several other regular commuter cyclists who were also walking, and we all had a nice chat as we made our way to work.

  17. Kevin Love says:

    Here in Toronto, we have been fortunate this year. My breaking point is that I will not ride on ice or snow that is so hard-packed that it may as well be ice. Some snow or slush is OK, but my tire has definitely got to be in contact with the road. At my age I have zero tolerance of any risk whatsoever of slipping and crashing.

    The City is pretty good about clearing the roads and bike lanes, so there was only one day that I was forced onto the TTC. The City, of course, hates this, since it causes a surge onto the TTC. That’s why the City is so diligent about clearing the roads and bike lanes.

    And if the bike lane isn’t absolutely clear I’m definitely taking the lane in the general traffic lane. That’s my legal right and I’m exercising it.

  18. Tim K says:

    Every day all year. Rode through both blizzards/big storms this year in Western Wisconsin. Push my bike through knee deep drifts to get plowed roads. Road in storm at 10 d4egrees with winds gusting 35-50 mph.

    I AM HARD CORE. I AM A NUT, but a lovable one!

  19. craig says:

    Here in NYC, I ride all year as long. The only time I don’t ride is when there’s a lot of ice, but that is rare. The cold really isn’t too much of a factor once you get moving, and as long as you have the right gear – water/windproof jacket, hood or face cover and good base layers. For rain, I really like waterproof overshoes, and light (easily packable) rain pants.

  20. BluesCat says:

    In Phoenix, Arizona, we don’t have anything like “being too cold outside to ride.”

    My UPPER limit, now, is around 10°F to 10°F predicted high for the day. I’ve suffered heat exhaustion a couple of times and that experience is enough to have me pass up challenging the desert sun on my bicycle.

    If they predict a monsoon storm I keep the bike parked, too: the powerful wind and blinding dust clouds just make it too dangerous to be out on the bike.

    But a nice little summer or winter drizzle? Heck, throwing up those rooster tails off the un-fendered wheels of my bikes are one of life’s greatest, simple pleasures. πŸ™‚

  21. Sean says:

    Not really a cold cutoff, but definitely a deep snow cutoff.

    My commute here in Ottawa, Canada is 25km each way, mostly flat. The key is prepping everything the night before and having spare gear at the office so I don’t have to lug as much on the bike.

    I’ve set a goal of 3 round trips per week in January & February, 4 per week in March and will return to 5 days per week in April.

    On the days I don’t bike I share a ride with a coworker or will work from home.

  22. Hayduke says:

    In Alaska, 40 below zero. Much below that and I get too sweaty going uphill out of the river valley. It can be 30 below on the hill tops and 50 below in the valley. Even cold weather lube gets stiff at 50 below!

  23. Geo says:

    Another from Madison here.

    Worst conditions I’ve ridden in ’09 were -1.ºF w/a 30-4.º below windchill, and during a torrential thunderstorm.

    Our store would probably be closed for white-out blizzard conditions or massive snowfall, so I don’t have to worry about that. In my experience, the worse the weather gets, the bigger the smile is on my ace gets.

    My cutoff has more to do with fatigue, health, other errands than anything. If I feel like crap, I’ll drive on in and take a rest-day. If I’m heading to the MTB trails after work, I consider that a good reason not to ride in as well. πŸ˜‰

  24. samh says:

    Weather cutoff? Nope. Regularly ride in temps of -20 deg F. Snow can stop me though. If it’s more than a foot deep I will consider leaving the bike at home, but I may also just wait ’til enough cars have created tracks and then I bicycle on my merry way.

  25. jodycb says:

    The coldest day that I have gotten out and ridden has been about 8F. I was dressed for it and it was fine. When the temperature is in the teens AND there is a really strong wind blowing I start to have trouble with inspiration.

    I must confess I’ve been having a hard time getting out there lately though & it’s not been the cold. It has more to do with the darkness. To make it to the bus I have to get up at 5a.m. I have much stronger powers of rationalization, bargaining with myself for any extra minutes of sleep I can get this time of year.

  26. Rob E. says:

    I’m in NC, too, so what passes for cold here is pretty mild compared to my younger, Ohio days. Even so it got pretty chilly last week, but I stuck it out, mostly. The bus is 15-20 minutes faster than biking, and it’s very easy for me to fritter away those minutes with the snooze alarm or morning web-surfing, so I often end up on the bus just to get to work on time. But like jason(sd), I have a goal to meet. My normal pattern was to bus in the morning and bike home. Last year I set a goal to also bike in at least 1 day in 3. I met that, so this year I upped it to 1 day in 2. I didn’t want to start the year in the hole, so 3 days last week I biked both ways.

    I have to agree that clothes make a huge difference. I wore my heaviest coat last week, a cap under my helmet, scarf, gloves, two pairs of socks, and when I got to work, I was a sweaty mess. I know there are fabric choices that would help with that, but for me the point was the cold was really not my problem.

    We’ve had one truly snowy day since I started this commute. I didn’t want to drive in it, and I didn’t trust other people to drive in it, including my bus driver, so I biked. I had some slick spots, but otherwise it was okay, and I was able to take side streets while everyone else was sticking to main roads, so the chances of colliding with other traffic was low. If snow as a more regular occurrence, I’d love the excuse to put some studded tires on the bike, but as it is I expect to either push on through the snow or stay home. I feel safer and in more control on my bike, so if that’s not safe, then I’m not going to feel any better in a car or bus.

  27. Mark says:

    If a bike is a viable form of transportation (which it is), then there is no reason to stop using it just because it’s cold out. The cold is really not terribly difficult to address. It’s simply a matter of having sufficient clothing. The snow, slush, and ice can also be dealt with by installing a set of winter-specific tires, and by adjusting your riding a bit slower. Further, one should ask oneself, is the “comfort” of driving really worth wimping out? If you drive to work, you may be warmer, but you will not have the sense of pride that comes with riding your bike in winter. Another potential benefit of riding in winter is that other cyclists who have lapsed and are driving to work may see you and think “Hey, if that person can do it, maybe I can too.” In short, bike to work, no matter what the conditions are.

  28. BluesCat says:

    Mark: I was with you until that last sentence, when you offered up the blanket statement “In short, bike to work, no matter what the conditions are.”

    No, you do NOT want to bike home from work when the summer afternoon temperature is over 11°F in the Arizona desert. Stick to exercise rides really early in the morning and/or late in the evening when the temperature isn’t as severe. The EMT’s don’t need you complicating their lives by forcing them out in that heat.

  29. Mark says:

    BluesCat: Point taken. I live in upstate New York, so I generally don’t experience temperatures that are quite so high.

  30. Ben says:

    I don’t have a weather cut off in winter. But then again, it’s never snowed here. Ever. So you can tell its a much milder climate. Most winter morning rides are around 40 deg F. And completely still too!

    It’s Summer you have to be wary of down here. With two days forecast for 105 and 109 this weekend, you’d have to be mad to get out there on the bike unless its the very early morning.

    Winter riding is undoubtedly tricky and dangerous at times, but Summer riding can be dangerous for an entirely different set of reasons.

    Still, I don’t envy you winter snow commuters. It takes some skill and bravado to tackle those roads, especially without dedicated bike lanes.

    Thanks for the read πŸ™‚

  31. Deb says:

    The coldest it’s been in my 1.5 years of bike commuting was 12 degrees. (Coworker: “What are you doing riding in 12 degree weather?” Me: “Sweating.”) I actually thought it was in the 20’s at the time, I was really comfortable, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. We just had a month where it was below freezing almost every single morning and most of the afternoons as well. The cold isn’t a big deal to me, at least not what I’ve run into so far. My toes are the only thing that still get cold, but usually only for the last 15 or 20 minutes, and even then only if it is below 30. I have everything else dialed in. (It helps to keep a spreadsheet for at least one winter, so you have something to remind yourself what layers kept you comfortable before.)

    My commute is 13.5 miles each way, which takes me around an hour. A little more than an hour, usually, but right around there.

    What has stopped me from riding is when there has been quite a bit of ice or snow. Last year I rode to work in a snow storm. I thought there would be around 2″ and figured it wasn’t a big deal. Ended up dropping about 5″ during my ride, for a total of 7″ when all was said and done. It was fun, to be honest, but probably a bit on the risky side as well. Plus I found out why snow bikes don’t have fenders!

    So I’m not really equipped for that kind of snow, and we don’t get ice here enough to invest in studded tires. I don’t drive in to work when it’s bad enough to not ride in. I figure if that roads are that bad, I have no business being on the roads at all!

    I think it helps to just assume that you’ll take off a couple of days per winter for sketchy road conditions. So far, on the days I’ve taken off, almost no one has gone to work at all. And I have often shown up to work on my bike on days when other people aren’t coming in in their cars!

    But as for what motivates me, I’d have to say it is pure stubbornness a lot of the time. Plus, once I’m out there on my bike, I’m happy to be on my bike. It is only leaving the house that’s hard to do. So I don’t give myself the option of driving. Going to work = riding to work. Period.

  32. Grendel says:

    I commute by bike year round in Greensboro, NC. The only days I have not bike commuted were the first day of work back in September of 2008 and on orientation day a couple weeks later (orientation was off site in a part of town I hadn’t learned yet). I work at a state university so when weather gets really bad I don’t have to come in which is a distinct advantage. When the weather is marginal I have found I am usually the first one in and not due to distance–I live eight miles from work, plenty of people live closer. I have yet to find weather where I couldn’t ride in since I began full time commuting back in 2003 when I lived just outside Washington, DC (for a different university so same weather benefits applied).

    The coldest weather I have ever commuted in was +8F with intense winds but it was not the coldest trip to work I ever did when measured by how cold I was when I got to work. The coldest one was a midnight emergency call-in. While darkness doesn’t bother me, roads loaded with drunks do. Therefore midnight call-in means taking the car (on a different midnight call-in I got to watch a drunk run a red light and t-bone another car so I feel quite comfortable in my decision). The motor never warmed up enough to start the heat so I was well chilled when I got to work. I never have that problem riding.

  33. Geis says:

    For quite a long time, I have ridden in Pittsburgh in all weather except when snow had covered the trail. On those days, though, I would park at a lot at the end of a paved bike trail about three miles from town and walk in to work from there. Recently, the city has actually been regularly plowing the trail which means I have little excuse not to ride. So far this year the coldest it’s been is about 9 degrees and when the trail was too snow covered I simply rode parallel roads.

  34. matt says:

    Hayduke wins I think – 40 below?!?

    I left the house when it was 17 on Wednesday. amazingly enough, I got hot and sweaty about halfway through. just my toes got cold…not sure what to do about them, maybe heat packs.

  35. Soulfull Commuter says:

    I am also in NC. My balaclava is my best friend. I have been warm even with the morning ride in the teens a few days. I cannot always ride, but I do not let the weather be the reason. I have been practicing adjusting my line for possible ice on the wood bridges I cross. I want to be straight up but so far they have not been slick. I rode Friday morning and was disappointed that there was no snow to test my bike handling.

  36. Jewell says:

    I’m a year round commuter in ND and usually stay on my bike unless the temp dips to -15 with a -40 windchill. This years been a bit unusually for me though. In August I found out I was pregnant and have been able to keep up commuting till my nasty morning sickness reared it’s ugly head in November and December. Now that spring semester’s starting up at UND I’m back on the bike at 25 wks pregnant. It’s so glorious to get out everyday and bike. Life just isn’t as pleasent without it. I probably wont be out when it’s below zero like I used, but oh well. Lately its been really nice out, hopefully it stays that way.

    Can’t wait to start commuting with my kiddo this summer.

  37. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    With all the talk of heat, I have to agree. When I rode in 103f with high humid air, all I could think about is why do they cut all the trees down… The shade is so much better. But the stupid car-culture can’t drive fast on leafs and hitting a tree at high speed kills the motorists. So, peds and cyclists pay.. Those days when I did make to the forests I cooled down fast and didn’t mind the temps…. during the winter trees lose leaves, but still block alot of wind while letting the sun warm peds and cyclists… For the tree-less places, I wonder how a modified velomobile would work..? Shade, but air flowing?

  38. ha1ku says:

    I live in Athens, GA so I shouldn’t be complaining about cold weather. This is my first year commuting to work, and so far the only thing that has stopped me are heavy rainfall and sore muscles.

  39. bill baker says:

    my coldest ride this year was out. i don’t think i could have a cut off point i must ride.

  40. Britt in Spokane says:

    I am so impressed and inspired by all the comments here! I just moved to Spokane, WA from sunny Santa Fe, NM where I was a bicycle wimp. I would only ride in perfect weather because I knew that if today was bad, tomorrow would be better. Well, here in Spokane, if I wait for perfect weather I’ll be waiting a long time! I admit that early this winter I would wimp out when it was “too cold” (below 20 F) or icy. But I’ve recently gotten studded tires and warmer socks, so now I’m ready for anything! Of course, it’s now in the 30’s and 40’s with a steady drizzle, so I haven’t yet tested my new resolve to bike through anything. I’m not sure I’ll be able to crawl out of bed, let alone ride my bike, when it gets below zero, but I’ll just have to see what happens. I never thought 30 F would feel warm either!

  41. I have no cut off. I live in Seattle and bike to work every weekday, year round. Have done so for over eight years. Winters are a little wet at times, but I’m used to it. Our rare snowstorms are especially fun. We seldom get the real cold temperatures (say, below 25 F) like other parts of the country, so that probably makes it easier overall. 45 F and drizzling is more typical here.

  42. Kevin Love says:

    Paul wrote:
    “The shade is so much better.”

    Kevin’s comment:
    When I was in France, they had a joke about that.

    Q: Why does the French government plant trees on both sides of the road.

    A: So the Germans can march in the shade.

  43. jdc says:

    No cutoff either. I used to live in northern Alberta. We’ve been on Sunday winter group rides at -32 to -38 celcius, not farenheit, and have seen plenty of component AND frame failures due to cold, I kid you not. Like a few others have said, it’s all in the clothing. We used to use military issue winter gloves from an army surplus store…awesome. Mind you, I do have permanent arthritis in some of my joints as a consequence for this type of fun.

    I now live in southern Ontario, which is cake by comparison, although we can get some deep snow. Yesterday and today I’ll ride 23cm road tires to work, since the mild temps have melted the road snow. I got my recumbent from a friend who was insane enough to commute every day on it….including snow. It’s a short wheelbase with underseat steering too, for those who know ‘bents (Actionbent Jetstream). It needed every component replaced, so he just bought a new one and I inherited and rebuilt his old one. I’m not nuts enough to take it out in anything less than perfect weather, lol. Recumbent commuters are the most hardcore, in my humble opinion. “Sitting” like that puts you at the mercy of every drop of pouring rain, gust of wind, and pelt of sleet, as well as baking sunrays….not to mention reduced visibilty from other traffic.

    Bike Shop Girl….need more motivation? Being that we are both bike shop employees, consider the fact that we are lucky ones. We can show up at work soaked with rain, caked with snow, or smelly with sweat, dragging grimy wet bikes in to our workplaces with us, and it’s accepted without any hassles or weird stares. Our choice of profession makes it easy for us to commute. Embrace it! Most commuters have a tougher time due to workplace restrictions, I’m sure.

  44. Kevin Love says:

    JDC wrote:
    “Most commuters have a tougher time due to workplace restrictions, I’m sure.”

    Kevin’s comment:
    Like you, I also live in Southern Ontario, specifically in Toronto. Unlike you I have a “normal” (whatever that means) office job. Like most downtown office buildings, there is zero car parking in the building where I work, so people either take the TTC or ride their bikes to work. There is a nice bike room for secure bike parking.

    Nobody shows up “soaked with rain, caked with snow, or smelly with sweat…” because we have things like rain jackets or ponchos and we know better than to ride so fast that we work up a sweat.

  45. BluesCat says:

    Kevin: I have to chuckle about your “we know better than to ride so fast that we work up a sweat.”

    In winter, you can do that in Phoenix, in SUMMER it doesn’t matter how fast you ride, you WILL work up a sweat; trust me on that!

    I’m lucky that my employers are very pro-bike: they have a special, little-used conference room — secured to the outside so only employees with an office key can get to it — where I park my bike in air-conditioned comfort. They also pay for half of the monthly membership to a health club right across the hall, just about a hundred steps from where I park my bike.

    If I couldn’t shower before work, and had to leave the bike parked out in the desert heat where it would get destroyed by the elements, I could NOT bike commute.

  46. I’m in Portland, Oregon. The coldest I’ve ridden in so far was in the 20’s (F), with wind chill making it feel like 14. I only ride about two miles each way, so that helps.

    I actually find wind and rain more discouraging. For instance, one week after three days of soaking rain, I was more than willing to accept a ride.

    I don’t have a car available to me for commuting, so unless I can get a ride, my other choice is a bus. That makes it easier to keep riding, because I generally have to.

  47. Noah says:

    I haven’t found out yet. -4*F is the coldest I’ve ridden, and 2 weeks ago they called for -9*F but it ended up being a measly zero. Color me unimpressed. I did the 15 mile ride to work at -1*F last winter, and everything seemed to work out just fine. The traffic and roadways will get on my nerves far before the temperature does. Generally, my area is dry, but cold and windy. This winter it stayed cold for a long time and we had three different snow storms worth of accumulation (about 2.5 feet worth) without a melt day. Fortunately, daytime temps have been peeking up into the high 30s for the past few days, so the roads are clearing again.

  48. welshcyclist says:

    I live here in Wales, part of the UK., where we normally have only a couple of inches of snow each winter, that disappears after a week, at most. This year it has been very different, we’ve had the best part of a month of snow and very icy conditions. So compared to you guys in the USA, I’m a real wimp, as since there has been ice on the roads, I’ve stayed off my commuter. Last year I took a heavy fall on some ice, and was off work for a week. My tyres aren’t suitable for snow and ice, and because this is not “normal” for us here, it seemed stupid to invest in studded snow/ice tyres. However, if this weather is to become more frequent, I might have to. But, I have to tell you fellas, and girls as well, how much I admire your efforts to maintain your commutes on a daily, with a no matter what the conditions attitude, it’s something I can only aspire to.

  49. Rick in Toronto says:

    Temperature doesn’t seem to be too much of a factor for me. I’ve ridden in -20C with a windchill in the -30’s. Cold temperature riding is all about wearing the right clothes and coverings.

    What does stop me is when it’s actively snowing and the roads are really sloppy. I figure if the cars are slipping and sliding and unable to stop, then even if I’m ok, they’re more of a danger than normal and I put up the bike for a day to let the city catch up with the plows, salters and sanders.

    So far this year – 2 days not ridden due to weather. Pretty happy about that stat πŸ™‚

  50. jdc says:

    Welshcyclist… hail from the land of cyclocross. If you ride a road bike, add some knobby ‘cross tires to it and run about 70 psi. Cyclocross bikes use tires that are designed for snow and extreme mud conditions. On a mountain bike, run knobbies and drop the pressure to around 45 to 50 psi. Either way, you’ll get tons of grip….the rest is just practice. The secret to snow riding is not to steer too much. Look where you want to go, not where you don’t, and use slight left/right leans in conjunction with back/forth weight shift to steer the bike. The secret to riding on sheer ice is to find a gear that allows you forward momentum without pedalling too quickly, since a quick pedalling motion is what “upsets the applecart” on ice. Never tense up and avoid having a deathgrip on the bars when it’s slippery. Leave the front brake alone. Once you’re practiced, try all of this on a fixie! πŸ˜‰

  51. welshcyclist says:

    Nice try jdc, but the snow and ice has disappeared after heavy rain and much milder temperatures these past 2 days, so I’m cycling to work this evening. After a month of non cycling, I’m a little apprehensive about my “fitness” for the 40 mile roundtrip, so wish me luck. Thanks for the advice, I’ll bear it in mind if the snow comes back, cheers, and happy commuting.

  52. Tim says:

    Black ice made me stop being so hard core years ago. Thar and recovering from boken ribs.

  53. mike says:

    I have a similar situation with Tim. I went down on a ice patch and dislocated my shoulder. I’m not too hard core anymore.

  54. Marc says:

    I _am_ hard core and continue to bike my 25-mile round trip commute year ’round. I live in Southern Ohio, so it’s a bit more of a southern climate than Toronto, but there’s still plenty of black ice and snow hazards to avoid. I find that if you know your route, you know where to be careful for ice, and where it’s clear.

    Besides, I like riding through blizzards more than rainstorms. I agree with the lobbyist – why not ride in winter?!

  55. Eric says:

    I try to ride no matter what the weather or temperature. I don’t have a car I can drive and bus fare has been raised and my round trip now costs $5. Right now my breaking point is ice because I keep not ordering studded tires.

  56. welshcyclist says:

    Well happy to report that I managed my commute into work OK., working my nightshift now. Cheers

  57. jdc says:

    Snow and ice riding is just like anything else. If you do it enough it becomes second nature. Mind you, I’d say that the majority of us that do it often would much rather have warm weather, dry roads, shorts and a jersey anyday. I like being able to ride a drop bar road bike to work when the calendar still says winter, lol.

  58. electric says:

    Being outside in various weather isn’t hard-core.

    Get real people.

    Anybody who rides on the road in traffic is hard-core though. That is where you are facing real danger.

  59. electric says:

    And the woman in the article doesn’t consider herself hard core nor would she want you to consider her hard-core. Hard-core… hah.

  60. grimmer says:

    I commute daily year-round in Winnipeg, Manitoba. My coldest ride last year was -42C with a -50 wind chill. There were two days I skied in to work because we got 14″ of snow, but otherwise I rode every day.

    The key is dressing in layers and a good windproof/breathable shell on all body parts, but nothing really bike specific is necessary. When it’s super cold, super windy, or snowing hard, I put on ski goggles.
    Tires are Schwalbe Snow Studs. Studs are a must if you want to do it every day.

  61. Khalid says:

    I live in Michigan and have been bike commuting for about six years. Nothing had stopped me until I went to Nigeria for about a month during winter. Adjusting to the Michigan winter after the 90 deg F Nigerian sun was difficult. Fortunately, I am back on the bike.

  62. Dee says:

    I commute year-round. I’m in St. Louis, so we get some ice, snow, rain and wind in the winter. Yes, studded snow tires are a must if you plan to do it year round because it takes mental energy to always be looking down at the road ahead, trying to judge if it’s ice or not. With studded tires, I can just pay attention to my route and to traffic and not worry about the road conditions so much. I take back roads and side streets whenever possible. I don’t think of winter bike commuting as any more “extreme” than winter snow skiing. It’s just another activity in the cold, darker months. I do agree with the “commuting hub” making it easier to stay organized and motivated.

  63. Marc says:

    You know, I’ve never thought studded tires were all that much of an advantage – maybe I just had the wrong tires. On ice, they seem to slide just as much as anything else.

    So knowing my route intimately has worked better for me in the long run.

  64. jdc says:

    Studded tires most certainly do work, but they are expensive if you want the ones worth owning. I use 26×2.35 freeride tires on an old steel, fully rigid, singlespeeded Miyata XC race bike. I run slightly lower tire pressure to give cushion and grip.

  65. VJS says:

    I find riding a fixed gear is the best way to combat funky road conditions. Of course I have a brake too, but being able to slow with your legs is helpful. This winter I put 32mm knobby cross tires on and it’s been pretty much perfect. We’re not so good at clearing the roads here in Rhode Island, but compared to Vermont where I grew up–it’s balmy.

  66. Merlin says:

    The recent snow actually drove me to getting on my bike and riding to work. With the roads to dangerous where I am, I rode in and found it very enjoyable. Whether I keep it up of course now the snow has gone…

  67. LeeH says:

    I commute year round to Boston, 17 miles one way. 2-6 trips per week. Studded tires are a must, they work really well. Nokian M&G for the mt bike, Nokian 106’s for the winter beater road bike. Hard core is when your eyelid freezes shut( last week), hardcore is when your gatorade freezes to slush. Love the fresh air. The nokian M&G 160’s are 26×1.95 and WEIGH 930 grams each. πŸ™‚

  68. jdc says:

    I’ve heard that riding a fixie in winter is good because you can apparently “feather” the cranks on sketchy terrain. I’m actually in the process of converting one of my old road bikes to fixed. Might have to borrow the tires off of my Tricross, lol. (I built one of the new Langsters for the shop today btw….nice bike for the money)

    1. JDC –

      Back when I lived in Boston I switched to a fixie for ice/crap weather. You can control the bike a lot better, and when your brakes freeze over… you can still stop!

  69. jdc says:

    In that case, I may have to “fix” my currently singlespeeded commuter road bike as well. Have you seen how smooth the Formula fix hubs are? Amazing bearings for the price.

  70. Johnny says:

    Everyone has a breaking point and I seem to be in good company when I say mine is black ice. I live in Portland, Oregon and commute to Beaverton (about 14 miles away). The temp can be 5-6* colder in Beaverton so a nice morning rain at my house can turn into crazy ice by the time I’m close to work in Dec/Jan. You fall down and hit your head/shoulder/whatever hard enough and driving from time to time ain’t such a bad idea. That said, I will still ride at least 3+ days per week cause I just can’t drive every day.

  71. KnotWright says:

    I’m in La Crosse, Wisconsin and I commute year round.

    The city here doesn’t much like to plow so they do as little as they can and the roads get pretty ugly. Sometimes I find myself aiming for the black ice because at least it’s flat and icy. No problem unless you need friction for turning or stopping.

    I’ve never used anything but my regular commuter treads. The cars will always clear some pavement and I figure with studded tires I’ll be riding 100% of the time with tires I’ll only need for 10% of the ride. easier to go slow and take it easy for that 10%. Of course my commute is mostly flat. I’m sure I’d feel differently if I had real hills to deal with.

  72. Tony says:

    I live in Toronto and I don’t know too many people who use studded tires. The thing about cities which regularly get snow in the wintertime is that they’re also usually pretty good at clearing that snow from the main streets. So for most of the winter (here anyway) the real obstacle is cold, not snow. A good balaclava and good gloves are the keys to making it on really cold days. I usually wear my regular rain pants over jeans and that blocks the cold sufficiently to keep my legs warm. I just keep telling myself that my friends snowboard and ski all day in this weather, so how hard can it be for me to do a 30 minute ride across the city?

  73. jdc says:

    I live about 45 minutes away from Toronto, and I’ve found that regular wind pants over my street wear is perfect. I’d go so far as to say that it’s better than my thermal tights, and less hassle since I don’t have to get dressed twice. I have a well worn old pair of Louis Garneau Lobster Claw gloves that are the best cold weather glove I’ve ever had. I’d probably cry if I lost them. We stock studded tires at the shop, but rarely sell them.

  74. Halley says:

    This questioning has come up a lot recently in Portland with the rainy, wet weather. About a month ago, the Portland Tribune did an article about the wet weather of which I was interviewed for:

    People think that I am weird when I ride in the pouring down rain, that I’m trying to pull a “better than thou” approach or whatnot. My response is always the same: “I’m not trying to save the world. I’m not proving a point or making a statement. I’m just trying to get from point A to point B and have a budget of zero!”

  75. pintsized says:

    And why was my response delete?

  76. Pintsized

    Hmm.. I haven’t deleted or spammed any comments from this post. When did you leave a comment that went missing?

  77. Hugh Lester says:

    Hardcore is…

    Getting on the bike day in, day out, when its nice, when its not, when you feel like it, when you don’t year in and year out. Consistency is hardcore.

    By that definition, I am pretty softcore but I’m trying.

  78. Eric says:

    I will ride to work no matter how cold or raining or snowing, I have the gear to handle most conditions. As long as it isnt icy on the roads,I will ride. I dont have studded tires, but the biggest concern I have is drivers sliding around uncontrollably.


  79. jp says:

    hard to say that riding a bike is hardcore at all, compared to some of the other horrible things people endure. I abandon my 20-mile r/t commute in New Hampshire when the mercury dips below zero (fahrenheit). Fenders, 32c cyclocross tires, much-too-expensive lights, and heaps of warm but breathable clothing make it rather enjoyable the rest of the time. sometimes its the most fun i’ll have all day.

  80. Andy Bach says:

    Ride all year round here in WI and while we get some extremeness, now and then:

    it usually no worse than single digits. A few layers is more than enough (a hooded sweatshirt and almost anything) for the trunk, a pair of long johns and jeans (snow pants for single digits) – the hard part is fingers and toes. A decent pair of boots and a couple layers of socks and 5 dollar “Farm and Fleet” leather-ish mittens:

    and, if only for 5 miles, it’s more than doable. But in the 20s, it’s nowhere as hard as you might think and even the snow and ice isn’t too bad; slow down, don’t make any sudden turns and … practice your shoulder rolls.

  81. welshcyclist says:

    Sorry Andy Bach, but I just don’t get this….
    “ isn’t so bad, slow down, don’t make any sudden turns and practice your shoulder rolls.”
    I’ve had 3 major falls on ice, I think it’s dreadful stuff, each time I didn’t have time to react at all, so no matter how much I may have practiced my shoulder rolls etc., it wouldn’t have made a jot of a difference. There’s no way I’m hardcore enough to risk cycling when ice is about.
    By the way, your surname means boy in Welsh.

  82. Andy Bach says:

    @welshcyclist – no problem. I ride on snow and ice nearly every day late Nov through early March – I’ve had my falls too. But it doesn’t stop me – the worst (as in slipperiest) snow is the plowed/packed stuff *on top* of ice. Yes, the bike does go down fast and there’s not much you can do about it. On plain ice (as where the snows melted during the day and the track has become a skating rink at night) you can get over it by just going straight until, you hope, the pavement returns. A slight turn and boom, so dropping both feet (braking is bad too) and skidding to stop is a valid approach too. I’m lucky enough my current commute is only 5 miles and very limited traffic. Just saying it’s doable. “Bach” appears to be a Welsh adjective “little” too (“bachgen bach”, “ty bach”), in German, it’s ‘stream’.

  83. Asher says:

    As the proverbial ‘they’ say, “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.”*

    (*Okay, biking in driving rain when your bat-blind without glasses can be a challenge. I do it anyway … slooooooooooowly.)

    I love winter riding (especially on my roomie’s sproingy, fat-tired mountain bike :D) — I enjoy the challenges of navigating ice and snow (it’s probably worth noting that I also enjoy icy downhill ski runs and moguls — yes, I’m that guy, the one who doesn’t like fresh powder).

    It’s the summer riding that’s miserable for me! Of course, I live in Louisville, KY, where the air in summer is hot, swampy, and heavy-laden with ground-level ozone that sets off my asthma. We have some of the worst air quality in the U.S. in summer: it’s not the heat, it’s the pollution :::sigh:::

    Admittedly, I’m always a little shocked at how chilly the first 20 F or lower ride of the year is — but, then, I’m also always shocked at how quickly I acclimate.

    Now, if I can just rustle up one of those Korean anti-pollution bike ninja masks, I’ll be set for summer, too ^-^

  84. jdc says:

    Agreed. Winter riding is easy once you get your head around it…and then it can actually become fun. Picking your lines through rutted snow is sort of like riding rough singletrack. I’m looking out the window and we had a huge dump of snow last night…but it’s VERY mild temp-wise this morning and the road looks like a deep slushfest. Should be “fun” lol. My sister lives in Kentucky.

Leave a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


20% off ALL Ortlieb Bag Closeouts! Shop Closeouts

Scroll to Top