Severe Winter Weather Advisory

Our guest writer today is Doug Rozelman. He is a co-worker of mine and an avid cyclist. Slo
wly he is trying to learn to use his bike for daily task, and to live the cycling lifestyle. Read his first post Why I Go By Bike for good background on his commuting.

Gary Fisher Presidio

As irony would have it, severe winter weather strikes the Southeast on Day Two of my biking commitment. To recap Day One’s activities, I enjoyed a pleasurable ride to work and back home; everything went according to plan. The weather was cool and cooperative with little wind and no precipitation. Though my journey home was dark, I was equipped with a headlight and graced by a tailwind, so the uphill venture was fast and easy. I even managed to put my messenger skills to the test when I stopped by my apartment’s mailbox unit and picked up the day’s haul. I anxiously embarked on Day Two with uncertainty of what the forecast would bring.

According to, I was expecting a windy day with periods of rain, snow, and even some sleet in the mix. Temperatures were to remain steady in the mid 30s with winds at nearly 20-30 mph. Planning on wearing a pair of jeans and my shop’s t-shirt to work, I donned a pair of Pearl Izumi wind and waterproof shell pants over the jeans accompanied by a Gore Phantom Jacket. Accessories included a Trek Brimmed Thermal Cap beneath a Bell Sweep R helmet and Pearl Izumi Soft Shell Gloves. I comfortably arrived at work shortly thereafter. However, by the time I took off my jacket, I could hear the sleet bouncing on the roof. I have always taken weather forecasts at face value, but today’s prediction was right on the mark. Due to the inclement weather, we closed our store an hour early at 6:00 pm. Cold, wet and rainy weather rarely boosts sales in a bike shop, so during the day, I had plenty of time to install some quick-release Bontrager Interchange Nebula fenders.

Prior to my departure, I checked the weather once again. The temperature was hovering around freezing, and there were definitely freezing rain and moderate winds. Although tempted to accept one of several coworkers’ offers to drive me home, I sought after the challenge. Pants, jacket, hat, and gloves were all replaced, and with rear blinking lights in flash and a Light and Motion Seca 400on high beam, I began my ride home. Surprisingly, the trek was not that bad; once I arrived home safely, I contemplated patting myself on the back for not succumbing to the gas-guzzler.

Reflecting upon this experience, I am curious to know how others would handle this situation. I pose the following question: What rain gear and gadgets do you, the veteran commuters, use for inclement weather?

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0 thoughts on “Severe Winter Weather Advisory”

  1. S.K. says:

    One thing I learned years ago while employed as a messenger was that it was ok to get wet. The trick was to stay warm.. Lots of layers of wool, topped off with a REI Novara pant/jacket combo does the trick. For cold and dry I prefer the ‘lobster gloves’ that many companies produce, and for the wet, I have some neoprene Castelli gloves which are incredibly insulative. A wool Swobo beanie keeps my head and ears tucked in, and finally, some Smart Wool or Swobo socks. If it’s rainy with a cold wind, a wool sock, a plastic bag and another sock works well. I wear Shimano shoes, but Lake produces an insulated winter shoe that a good number of my friends in Minneapolis are big fans of. The bike has a standard array of fenders and lights.. Nothing fancy, but keeps the road grit out of my pants and helps me maintain visibility. As I said, if you have a 45 minute commute, or an 8 hour work day, staying dry is a lost cause, but keeping warm is easy.
    Once you’re at work, shower (if you’re lucky), hang your clothes to dry, stuff your shoes full of news paper, and get ready to do it all over again.
    It might seem daunting, but the more you do it, and the more experienced you become, the more you’ll actually look forward to the inclement weather.
    Good luck, and thank you for taking the plunge.

  2. jdc says:

    I myself don’t have a long commute, so it’s wind pants, hiking boots, a “normal” parka, bike-specific lobster claw mitts, and a wool hat. If it’s very cold or wet, I’ll wear winter snow boots. If it isn’t winter, I’ll wear a normal cycling jacket. I use two main commuter bikes, both single speeded with bmx pedals. Wet weather sees a road bike with full fenders. “Just snow” sees a very fat-tired mountain bike with clipon seatpost and downtube styled fenders.

  3. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    Last weekend I rode to REI, 4 or 5 miles, in 33F windy rain. Over 5 years I have aquired some very good gear so even a cold rain ride is fun. This morning got down to 6f with a stiff head wind.. took me an hour to go ~8 miles, including red lights. I was very wet, but my clothes wiked most away from me, so I stayed nice and warm.. Oh, the cold rain ride, water got in to my rear drum brake and froze making mondays ride to work fun with no rear brake and lots of ice on decends…
    So far the only break down I’ve had was when I first started biking, a break pad cut a tire… Nothing since has stopped a commute as I even carry a folding tire now…

  4. Tim says:

    Last week we had pretty warm day for an Iowa winter, 3°F with freezing rain. I arrived at work warm & dry on the inside with 1/4″ of ice over my entire body and bike. I just did a few jumping jacks before I walked in the door to shed the ice and I was bone dry.

    I use synthetic base layers (Patagonia Capilene 3) under my work clothes and adjust my outer layer based on the temperature. I add a windstopper jacket below 5°F and a rain jacket & pants below 1°F or if it is raining. I would never buy the Marmot rain pants again though, they are wearing in the saddle area and starting to let water through.

    I started using my snowboard helmet & gloves when I put on my rain gear and they work perfectly.

    I switch from SPD pedals to platforms for the winter, and I wear a pair of Gortex boots when it is really cold or wet.

  5. BluesCat says:

    In Phoenix there is hardly ever a problem with rain, and DEFINITELY no problem with snow or sleet! (One recent exception was last week, when we got almost a year’s worth of rain in about three days; couldn’t ride anyway because of other commitments, so the weather gods have been extremely kind to me so far this year: only missed three days of riding.)

    Rode this morning, excellent ride under virtually cloudless skies with the temp at 4°F.

    Wore a pair of Shimano mountain bike shoes, Specialized tights, a t-shirt, light sweat shirt and a windbreaker. Had to doff the windbreaker about half-way on the 8 mile ride into work.

  6. Josh in Michigan says:

    It sounds like you use about the same kinds of clothing and equipment that I do, but I add shoe covers for wet/cold days. The only ones I’ve found to fit over my size 12 MTB shoes are the ones from MEC in Canada:
    I also use studded tires, which I think are a life saver when there’s any chance of ice.

    Commuting through most any weather is not as hard as most people think. It’s a matter of having the right equipment and attitude, and after a few times, it’s second nature.
    Keep it up!

  7. philbertorex says:

    We don’t have a lot of snow here in the Willamette Valley, but we do have a lot of cold rain. I use sidetrax booties, rain pants and jacket for my outerlayer. Underneath are liner shorts, a synthetic base layer shirt, and a high necked jersey. For jerseys I use wicking jerseys made for runners and golfers. They’re a lot cheaper than biking jerseys. I use snowboarding gloves to keep my fingers from going numb. I use a Pearl Izumi clava and a helmet cover. All this makes for a comfortable 20 mile roundtrip.

  8. TomInKansas says:

    It all depends on the temperature. 20 and below sees me in wool pants, wool socks, normal shoes. Down to 15 I use a pair of Pearl Izumi wind blocker gloves with smart wool glove liners if it’s below 35. Below 15, I switch to a pair of Gordini ski gloves. Thermasilk silk/wool mix base layer. On top, I may layer a sweater or a fleece under a Mountain Hardwear windblocker shell. It just all depends on the temperature. Gortex boots when it’s sloppy. British Army surplus rain pants and shell if it’s raining.

  9. john in pdx says:

    I never accept a ride home, no matter how hard it is raining (or sleeting, snowing etc.) I have walked the bike instead of riding on slick roads. I don’t want any kind of accident, because I might get pressured not to ride anymore.

    For equipment, I use Dinotte taillight, Cateye Opticube headlight, Ski gloves, Alaska jacket, full rain gear and foot gear. In Portland, the temperature is seldom extreme, so this keeps me warm and dry.

  10. Deb says:

    My layers are similar to Tim’s, though I rarely wear my capilene 3’s. Mostly the 1’s or 2’s, with a light fleece, covered by a water & wind resistant shell. Yoga pants and if it is below 30, a capilene 1 baselayer under them. For <45 or 50, I have a beanie I wear with a light fleece around the ears. I wear long-fingered riding gloves down to about 40, then soft shell gloves down to about 27, and then regular winter gloves after that. Actually, that's what I wear regardless of wet or dry. Nite Rider for the front, superflash for the back.

    The one thing I'm contemplating getting is rain pants for the really really wet and cold days. I'm looking at foxwear for that.

    My commute is 13.5 miles, which takes just over 1 hr, unless I have a tailwind and catch a lot of green lights.

    I also wear regular winter boots, fwiw. My feet are the only thing I still struggle to keep warm, but only if it is below 25, which we don't get much of around here (DC area) so I don't worry too much.

    I do get wet when it's raining hard enough, but I carry my work clothes with me, so I'm going to be changing down to the skin regardless. I haven't melted yet. Or frozen.

    Though one day I did arrive to work with icicles hanging from my helmet and a thin coating of ice on my entire bike. I was so excited when I got to work, I had to show all my coworkers my icicles! I only wish I had a camera.

    Wind is the most exhausting, and sleet is the most painful. I've ridden in 7" of snow, but that was sort of on accident, and while it was fun I wouldn't do it again unless I had a bike that was actually set up for it. I think 3" will be my limit from now on. (Barring a pugsley, of course.)

  11. Ringer says:

    Before moving to Tennessee last August, I lived and biked in New Hampshire. My biggest challenge was watery eyes, especially when it was windy or really cold (single digits and under). I am utterly blind without my glasses, so wearing something like ski goggles wasn’t always the best (read: most comfortable) option. I’m curious as to what other folks do–especially those who live in places like Minnesota or Michigan.

    My commute here in TN is MUCH shorter than what I had in NH (my wife and I selected our neighborhood based on its proximity to campus and our local bike/pedestrian path), but that cold stretch we had down South a couple weeks back forced me to dress like I was back in northern New England!

  12. welshcyclist says:

    What tyres were you riding, so as not to succumb to slipping on ice, from the freezing rain?

  13. DougRoz says:

    Right now, I’m just using the stock Bontrager Jones CX 700×30/34 that came on my presidio.

  14. DougRoz says:

    Other than the occasional storm, we don’t get too much ice here. On my way home, i do have the option to ride on the dirt shoulder.

  15. Sean says:

    This time of year here in Canada I’m running several layers as the weather is running between 0 degrees Celsius and -20 C.

    Endura wool longsleeve shirt, Icebreaker wool sweater, covered by a Sugio Firewall softshell jacket (actually an XC ski jacket)

    Below, I’m wearing fleece lined bib knickers, Smartwool long socks, Sealskins chillblocker socks and a Shimano high top MTB shoe with thermal footbeds, one size bigger than I wear in summer for wiggle room. I cover that layer with a Sugoi firewall softshell pant (baggy style xc pants).

    I am using Descente winter gloves, a snowboard fleece neck tube/skull cap combo, Oakley ski goggles and either a Giro open face snowboard helmet or a Giro MTB helmet with an MEC nylon helmet cover.

    Lights – Dinotte 800 lumen bar mount, 400 lumen helmet mount and Knob Bullfrog rear light. I also use a reflective safety vest and reflectiove triangle patch on my messenger bag, 3M reflective tape all over the bike and Schwalbe Winter Marathon studded tires with reflective sidewalls. My crosscheck is setup 42/18 singlespeed with drop bars and Time ATAC MTB pedals and fenders.

    Like someone else said, keeping moving is the key to staying warm. Wool remains remarkably warm, even when soaked. Freezing rain or deep snow are the only things that make me share a ride as cars are simply all over the road in those conditions.

  16. Talimom1997 says:

    I’m in my first year of commuting to work by bike, and enjoying the quiet and peace of my ride in each direction. As a 55 year old woman, I also enjoy knowing it’s good for my heart at the same time.

    I use an early 90’s Cannondale aluminum hybrid with commuter tires.

    I have adapted various name brand discount winterwear from TJ Maxx and Marshalls. I usually ride unless the temps will dip below 10 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Or if heavy snow is expected, because I live in WI near Lake Michigan, and we can get some pretty wet and heavy now here, with over a foot accumulating while I’m at work. If the winds are whipping across the lake, it can be very cold and damp.

    I wear Smartwool ski socks, wool base layer with a thermal jersey over, and a softshell laminated fleece outer jacket that really blocks the wind, and Marmot ski gloves. I use Lands End shoe boots, and two layers of tights, outer is thermal.

    I wear a thin but effective wool balaclava, a Gore face mask over my nose, chin and ears, and borrow my 12 year old’s vented ski mask over my eyes. This combo under my helmet effectively blocks my face completely.

    For my commute home from work in the very dark (my community has no street lights) I have two lights on the front of my bike – one very bright flashing on the handlebar to be seen by, and one below the handlebar to see by, a small red blinky light on my helmet, a hardware store LED “cap light” on my helmet visor so I can have directional light should I need to look right or left, and a ultra bright strobing Planet Bike rear light on the back of the rack that holds my panniers. I added some dollar store red blinky light clips (dog bone lights, actually made for a dogs collar) to the side of my panniers to increase side visibility and added Pedalite battery-free, bright strobing pedals.

    Rather than remove the panniers when I need to change at work, I have a nylon sport sack that just slides in and out of the pannier. I keep a couple pairs of shoes, and a brush in my cubical so that I don’t need to carry that stuff with me every day.

  17. Talimom1997 says:

    One question for you long time commuters:

    How do you handle riding on the bumpy packed down slush (that becomes ice) which accrues on the less used other lane that bikes normally use? It’s usually about a week after a heavy snow before it’s all worn/melted away. I’m not comfortable swerving back and forth around it, it’s impossible to ride over, and I don’t want to hold up all the school buses and parents taking their kids to school by blocking the remaining lane. How do you winter commuters tackle these winter hazards? And iced up pavement is rather scary at anything nearing a normal commute pace.

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