The Chainlink

Anyone commute in the winter? Biggest challenge? Necessary gear? Bike maintenance issues?

I am determined to do some commuting this winter.

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M.A.R.K. said:
wet wipes, always needed just in case.

True. Love the wipes.

On the clothes, it depends a bit on what your office attire is like and how opposed you are to adding another 1lb of stuff to carry.

I used to race with a woman who had a very heavy corporate job, like full dress suits 5 days a week. Worked like 55 hrs a week and was training in the ~400 mi per week range. So she would make 1 trip per week to the office on the weekend just to get clothes for the week there. Then her daily grind was less of a pain.

FWIW if people are reading this and thinking, "err my office doesn't have places to stash clothes, shower, change, fill-in-the-blank..." there's probably fellow employees who think the same and aren't commuting for the same reasons. Change happens at this level. Seriously.
Equipment:

Fenders, good tires (I like Schwalbe Marathons- they have some tread and are SUPER flat resistant).

I'm also a big proponent of single speeds in winter- less stuff to clean, and you really have to get the salt off or your stuff will rust quick. With a single speed you just clean the chain and you're done.

Lights, lights, lights... White headlight and red rear rear reflector is required by law if you ride at night- and if you ride in the winter you're bound to be riding at night.

I also like specific lubes for cables. Cables tend to collect water and freeze during the cold months. This can cause brake failure or shifter failure. I like to use a teflon base lube like Tri Flow or better yet, a dry base lube like Bike Aid. These lubes don't freeze up and cause more problems with cables.
I read somewhere if you cannot lug clothes, take a day once a week to bring a bunch of clean clothes to the office and hang them, that way you don't have to lug for so many days.

Alison Fisher said:
What about work clothes? Do you all change/shower at work? I am not sure I can bear lugging extra clothes in addition to a laptop and books.
Yes, this is a good idea. There's also pannier bags that are basically garment bags that you can just put over your rear rack.

Ammo said:
I read somewhere if you cannot lug clothes, take a day once a week to bring a bunch of clean clothes to the office and hang them, that way you don't have to lug for so many days.

Alison Fisher said:
What about work clothes? Do you all change/shower at work? I am not sure I can bear lugging extra clothes in addition to a laptop and books.
check out the Oct 12 event "Stay The Course: All-Season Cycling Made Simple" in Logan Square on the calendar brought to you by bikewinter.
Adam said:
I thought cars gave you even more room then in the summer months maybe they feel bad for you but they seem more generous…

Wow... I was about to say the exact opposite thing. Only related to when it's snowy, though, which is that drivers seem to stagger themselves instead of staying in a proper straight line. I think they are anxious about moving so slowly and think that they will be able to see ahead of them better if they position their car a couple feet to the left or right behind the car in front of them. It is unbelievably frustrating--it's like if they can't see the bike lane, they can act like it's not there. That is the #1 thing that bothers me in the winter and there is nothing really that can be done about it.

Necessary gear for me includes wet/wind proof outer layer and insulating/moisture wicking inner layer, and in between depends on how cold it is. DON'T wear cotton as an inner layer. It will get wet and stay wet and you'll be really cold. Also, this is a weird trick I learned from winter camping... it will help to do some jumping jacks or something that will warm up your body before you get dressed or before you leave the house. Then you will start off warm.
Heather said..
"do some jumping jacks or something that will warm up your body before you get dressed or before you leave the house."

Excellent advice.
One tip that I have for any commuter, not specific to winter commuting, is to get a clothes folders from Eagle Creek. These are made for packing shirts and pants in suitcases without getting them wrinkled. I slide one into my backpack and am able to be wrinkle free when I change at the office.

http://www.epinions.com/review/Eagle_Creek_Pack_It_Folder_18_Inch/c...

They have these at most luggage stores like "That's Our Bag" in the Loop.

vxla said:
Yes, this is a good idea. There's also pannier bags that are basically garment bags that you can just put over your rear rack.

Ammo said:
I read somewhere if you cannot lug clothes, take a day once a week to bring a bunch of clean clothes to the office and hang them, that way you don't have to lug for so many days.

Alison Fisher said:
What about work clothes? Do you all change/shower at work? I am not sure I can bear lugging extra clothes in addition to a laptop and books.
Does anyone have a recommendation for a water proof pannier that isn't the ortieb? The problem with the orteib (pictured below) is its "bottomless pit" feature. I need a water proof pannier that has a pocket for keys, etc.

There's some awesome advice in this thread. My winter will be better because of it!
I wear work clothes too. I have some fairly waterproof, warm stretchy mid-layer pants I can wear over almost anything, even other pants, but I usually wear skirts and tights anyway. I just wait til I get to work to put on the skirt if it's snowy.

As for shoes, I have a pair of waterproof hiking books that are my best friend. if it's super cold I wear ziplock bags between the boots and wool socks.

Other items that have proven invaluable:

Legwarmers made from chopped sweater arms (the cuffs make them stay up, but they're roomier than storebought legwarmers--the part by your feet is really wide though so wouldn't work with fixed unless you can rig a strap to secure them under your soles)
a zip-front midlayer top (from REI outlet)
Down vest! down vest! down vest!
Burley wind/rain shell about 2 sizes too big for me. The kind with armpit zippers. This is the most expensive item I've purchased for riding, has lasted 5 years, and worth every penny.



h3 said:
Alison Fisher said:
What about work clothes? Do you all change/shower at work? I am not sure I can bear lugging extra clothes in addition to a laptop and books.

I bike to work in the wintertime in work clothes.
The main challenge is shoes. It helps to have a place to keep the nice ones at work to change into.
While it's not especially fun in the cold, I hose my bike off whenever road dirt, salt, sand, etc. are on it. Any wet, dirty day, I hose it down, dry it off with an old towel, then clean my drivetrain. I let it dry out before lubricating my chain. An old toothbrush, some rags and some citrus degreaser [I like Pedro's] is all you need.

The bike stays in good shape and I don't have to replace the chain and cassette as often.

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