March 16, 2013

How I stay warm while cycling to work in freezing cold temperatures

This March has seen a cold snap in South Wales.  While today we have returned to heavy rain and 5 degree weather, last week saw -3 up to -12 with windchill. 

It was f*ing cold.

My cycle to work is 3 miles.  It takes about 3 miles for the body to adjust to being in the cold.  My housemate sometimes cycles 12 miles to work.  For him the first 3 miles are the warm-up, and then he's good to go.  For me, the first 3 miles are all I have, and I know I will freeze for 20 minutes if I don't layer up good.

So here's what I do!

Step 1 - Base layers

This is just a cheapie set from Go Outdoors.  I have a really nice Merino Wool set from Wiggle but they're so nice I save them for road riding

Step 2 - Fleece and ski socks

True fact - my Brewer Half got me ski socks for Christmas.  Though this may be the most laughable gift ever, I use those ski socks nearly every day for half the year.  And they're pink.  Though I teased him about it a lot, they're actually pretty awesome socks

Step 3 - Tracksuit bottoms, buff, arm and ear warmers!

Tracksuit bottoms keep the legs warm, buff keeps the neck warm!  I love the ear warmers from Wiggle!  The arm warmers are my own invention because I was once told that how warm the hands are is very affected by how warm the wrists are.  I use arm warmers to cover any gaps between hands and gloves.

Step 4 - Softshell and gloves

Now that I'm layered up it's time to go!  This awesome Montaine soft-shell is wind proof and water resistant.  I'm wearing my Outdoor Designs summit gloves which are wind and water proof.  

And then I cycle.  My fingers are still cold but everywhere else is fine, and by the time I get to work I'm at a good temperature.  If I cycled much farther I would be way too warm in all this kit, but for short cycles with lots of lights it's nice to be bundled up warm.

And sometimes, if I'm super freezing, I break out one of these grabber hand-warmers.  I don't know what they're made of, where they're from, or how they work, but they make heat like magic:
Hopefully all this will be of the past soon, as it's March now and summer is here!  So stay tuned for my post about cycling in the summer --- a lengthy review of the best waterproofs.

The original joke was about Wales!


  1. I ended up to this blog post via twitter :) It was nice to notice that this was a good guide for layered clothing for newbies!
    For your freezing finger problem, try some lobster gloves like these:
    With this kind of gloves my fingers stay unfreezed while cycling on -30C temps without extra warmers. As an allyeararound cyclist in Finland I have learned that cold weather is not an excuse to skip cycling to work / do cycloing workout :)

  2. Hi Mikko! Thanks for the suggestion- those gloves look amazing! I forgot I actually have another pair of gloves that are more like mittens, which keep my hands warmer but don't let my fingers move much to change gears or brake easily. The lobster gloves would solve that problem!

    My brother lives in Chicago and it's -15 there, and -30 in Finland sounds soo cold! But I'm committed to cycling to work even in the worst weather, and if I can't change the weather I can change what I'm wearing! :-)

  3. Right attitude :) there is old saying: There is no such thing as bad weather, there is only bad clothing.

    Believe or not, but you can get used to cold weather as "easily" as for hot. For me it usually takes 1-2weeks to get used to cold and same goes to hot. I would suffer pretty bad, if I should cycle in warm country with +30C. After week or two, it would be ok :)

  4. I find the best solution when the weather is cold is to stay home. Unless you are living in a box under a bridge.

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