Bracing for Winter

It will not be my first New England winter, but it will be my first biking winter. Currently the weather is unusually fall-like but I am trying to wrap my head around approaching cold and snow. After some research and talking to people it sounds like I am supposed to buy a lot of stuff until I look like this:


However what I have learned so far in my years of biking is that no matter what I always take the wrong advice and I always buy the wrong stuff.

So I have been very concerned about researching, being cautious, and making the best decision about the right gear for my commute style. I expected a long process ahead of me. I made a trip to the local sports equipment store to review my options starting with gloves. However I discovered that my gear decisions may not be that hard after all.

Sports Gear?

Apparently they don’t expect women to go outdoors until spring.

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  • Julie H. December 7, 2011   Reply →

    If I can bike all winter you definitely can!

    My fiercest gloves are from K-Mart and my other fierce gloves came from the women’s running section at Adidas. Bicycle-specific clothing and accessories (except for lights and locks) can suck my teet.

    • Bikeyface December 7, 2011  

      Exactly! I only have a couple bike-specific things such as a hat that goes under my helmet and lightweight wind-proof grippy gloves that are all black. No one can tell they are sporty. But I hope to get through the winter with mostly regular clothes smartly put together. (It also helps I have a high-tolerance for uncomfortable weather.)

    • Lovely Bicycle! (@lovelybicycle) December 7, 2011  

      I have zero bike-specific clothing for transportation cycling, and I’ve managed to do it for 2 winters already. Discovering the power of wool and silk was my salvation – but it’s still all just regular clothing, not technical garments.

    • cycler December 8, 2011  

      I’m (mostly) with LB on this, but I do use warmer gloves than I would if I were walking/taking the T, They’re not “Bicycle specific” but they’re closer to Ski gloves. And while much of my clothing is not “bicycle specific” my bicycling needs have shaped the clothes I wear. Smartwool tights are fantastic!

  • Amy December 7, 2011   Reply →

    Mens’s gloves it is then! Or knit you some nice wool mittens. :)

  • Dave December 7, 2011   Reply →

    Well, after all, this extreme sport of riding a bicycle is not suitable for the delicate fairer sex.


    Instead of the sporting goods store, try Nordstrom or Macy’s – or Etsy, for that matter :) I just use some knitted wool mittens with silk glove liners underneath, or a second pair of knitted wool gloves if it’s cold enough.

  • matt December 7, 2011   Reply →

    just get a men’s glove in your size. no worries about pink then!

  • Broadway Bicycle School has some wool DeFeet gloves with grippy silicone thingies on the palms in men’s & women’s sizes, or at least had the last time I was there. I have a pair and love them.

    The first time I tried to buy a pair of full fingered women’s bike gloves the only choice was indeed pink. I still have them but seldom wear them.

  • Dave December 7, 2011   Reply →

    Regarding grip – I have plastic handlebar grips on my bike, and I find that leather gloves grip them incredibly well, almost too well sometimes. They aren’t the warmest, but if you can get ones large enough to fit a thin wool layer underneath, you’re good to go.

  • Mark Muller December 7, 2011   Reply →

    Other than how large a particular size is, is there a difference between women’s and men’s gloves? I mean, women’s hands don’t seem to be shaped differently than men’s, and they tend to have to same number of digits. I say that as a man who owns a few pairs of women’s socks – they are nice wool hiking socks that were on clearance, while the men’s were out of stock. They are the oh so feminine color of gray heather.

  • Steve December 7, 2011   Reply →

    A motorcycle store may offer you some functional glove options as well.

  • Charmaine December 7, 2011   Reply →

    Granted, I live in a little warmer climate (Washington, DC), but it does get cold, snowy and yucky…but I found I can bike up to 3″ of snow….after that, it just gets too difficult. Actually, you really don’t need a whole lot of clothes to stay warm – just a few layers. You warm up as you ride, just as a car engine does. :) You’ll probably experiment and tweak your riding clothes as you go through winter, to see what works and what doesn’t. Bravo for you for even trying! Lots of people (guys included!!) don’t dare to bike in the winter. You can show them that it can be done. :) Just make sure you keep warm (not TOO warm though), and dry. Those are the keys. :) Good luck!! Charmaine

  • Marci December 7, 2011   Reply →

    I biked through a Michigan winter, and I got by with minimal gear! Thick mittens, a fleece + windbreaker (I used a cycling rainjacket), jeans + long underwear, thick socks + hiking boots, and lab goggles + a wool skullcap under my helmet. It worked pretty well! I only fell on the first day, on a patch of ice.

  • Ed in NH December 7, 2011   Reply →

    Yes, pink does tend to clash with the blond Scandanavian beard balaclava!

  • Gary from Dracut... December 7, 2011   Reply →

    You should ride this Sunday ! The ride is out of Arlington called the ‘Jingle Ride’. It starts at Jamn’ Java on Mass. Ave. @ the bike path. It is sponsored by Ciclissimo Classico (not sure if that’s spellrd right…) a bike tour company based in Arlington. Check out their ‘Facebook’ page for video and info. on the ride !

    I’ve done it the past few years, it’s a blast !!!

    Gary from Dracut…

    • Bikeyface December 7, 2011  

      I saw that was happening but can’t make it, though I see it goes on for a while so I may run right into it as I’m out and about.

  • Gary from Dracut... December 7, 2011   Reply →

    Ha, ha… (not sure if that’s SPELLED right…) LOL

  • somervillain December 7, 2011   Reply →

    I’m a complete temperature weenie, and I’ve found that the only gloves that can keep my hands adequately warm in really cold temps (20 and below) are the Pearl Izumi “Lobster” gloves. They’re bulky, but they’re the only gloves up to the task. Also, they’re sized really small. I normally wear an XL, but only the 2XL lobster gloves fit me. Try to get a glove fit that’s not too tight, as it will restrict blood circulation through your hands.

    • matt December 7, 2011  

      PI lobster mitts FTW!

      My hands actually sweat in those if it’s not below 20 degrees

  • kyklos December 7, 2011   Reply →

    Hilarious! So true… Since I’ve taken up biking again this year, I have been a tad bewildered by so-called “cycling specific” clothing. With the exception of padded liner shorts (which don’t seem as important now that I think I have successfully acclimatised to biking, and adjusted my saddle), I am more than fine with all my hiking gear.

    There is a much better range of gear in the outdoor/hiking retail world. The principle of layering and close fitting garments is the same anyway. I am a small woman, and the outdoor world offers much more choice. Close fitting merino wool garments: the New Zealand “icebreaker” brand is particularly good (for undergarments and socks as well as other base and middle layers), and bargains can be found in the numerous outdoor online retailers. And right now I am even cycling with my gore-tex ski jacket; it has zips in the armpits which are much better at venting than a lighter weight jacket. I also wear merino wool leggings under my hiking trousers. The merino wool leggings (which are “specific” to hiking) have flat seams to avoid chafing, and my synthetic hiking trousers, while not waterproof, are lightweight and shed water nicely. Even if I get wet (which happens in the UK a lot), I don’t feel clammy, the trousers dry off quickly and the merino wool keeps you warm even when wet. Merino wool, besides being thermal and highly breathable, also does not stink, so even if perchance you overheat and perspire heavily, you’ll still be quite respectable enough to mingle with other humans! You can also wear a lightweight fleece jumper over the merino base layer and under your outer shell if you get cold. And if it becomes exceptionally cold (though personally, I can’t see myself cycling in such extremes) you could even put on a down inner jacket( inside the gore-tex shell. Both the lightweight fleece and down inner jacket are fantastically light, and easy to pack into even a bag the size of a Carradice Barley. And even with it all on, you still don’t look like the Michelin man!

  • GRJim December 7, 2011   Reply →

    Randy of A Christmas Story.

    If I really try I can not see hair, but it is difficult.

  • Kirsten December 7, 2011   Reply →

    Some diving gloves work fine for cycling. Mine have a lightly-padded, faux-suede palm, thin neoprene fingers, a mesh back, and they’re not pink! These keep me comfortable down to freezing, then I switch to shearling gloves or waterproof mittens w/ wool liners.

  • Dee December 7, 2011   Reply →

    I bicycle through the winter in mid-Missouri. We get a fair amount of ice and snow. I agree with you- bicycling specific clothing is for the birds. I use regular cheap long underwear and my gore tex pants I got in the Army. If it’s cold enough, I add another layer of cheap long underwear. Two long sleeve shirts and jacket on top. Thin stretchy gloves (from a big box store, you know the ones) and larger mittens or gloves on top. Mine have had a rip in them for a few years and I hardly notice. I wear a thin silky balaclava if it’s freezing out. I put packing tape over the vents of my helmet. Makes a huge difference. I use studded snow tires when it’s slick out. It’s easy but I do only commute 4 miles one way, through residential streets. Good luck with it! And remember- it’s not hard, it’s not complicated, it’s not expensive. People snow ski and snowboard in much colder weather and they call it “fun,” not “extreme.” Cheers!

  • Rootchopper December 7, 2011   Reply →

    As a friend of Charmaine, I can attest she’s flat out insane! Actually, she’s right. You don’t need a whole lot of stuff. (Although Charmaine will admit to using electric socks.) If all else fails, go to a ski store. They are way better at dealing with cold than bike stores. I ride as much as I can in the winter here in DC. I did spend a decade in Boston and Providence (BU and Brown). I even survived the blizzard of ’78 om Brighton. You can easily cope with the cold but the ice and snow will cause big problems. For snowy and icy conditions, Charmaine uses studded tires. I use a wind trainer in my basement. (Hey, it’s 15 miles to work!)

    My favorite winter biking gear includes lobster gloves (waaaay warmer than regular, full fingered gloves), chemical hand and feet warmers (for below 30 degree wind chill days), a Marmot Precip shell (it’s hiking gear but it’s waterproof and even has a hood), neck gaiters (extremely versatile), and my holey wool sweater (an old sweater made of soft wool. It has a few holes in it). Performance booties (one size too big). No cotton against the skin. Open up the laces on your shoes to make room for wool socks. You want the shoes tied loosely to allow warm air to get trapped.

    Last bit of advice. Lay all this stuff out the night before. Otherwise you’ll never get out the door in time.

    Best of luck.

  • Jennifer December 7, 2011   Reply →

    You are so right! It’s not just gloves, it’s everything—pink this, floral that, sizes XS to M. Yeah, gloves are pretty unisex, but I could never find a yellow outer shell in stock that could fit over my butt without draping under my armpits. And they wonder why more of us don’t bike!

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