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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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i change at work. my work has a few single occupancy bathrooms where i can get naked. i keep a small towel, soap and deoderant at work. i roll up my clothes and stuff them in my panier with my lunch and other stuff.

Alison F. 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.

essentially, you will look like this
Yeah, it's somewhat sad that this winter commuting thread is relevant again, although I kinda miss the peacefulness of winter cycling. My winter commuting route is similar to what Steve said above. I took the lakefront path a lot, exiting at Oak Street Beach and then getting back on at Navy Pier because the city does not plow that section. A day or two after a snow, the path would be cleared. Most often I simply took the city streets - Lincoln and Wells to the Loop - because it was less complicated.

I rode my Dutch bike all winter and never had to worry about maintenance. Everything is fully enclosed: chain, gears, brakes, so no slush or ice affected it. I also had Schwalbe studded tires - more important on the path than the streets. I bought those after falling on ice by Oak Street Beach. My usual winter gear was wool or capeline leggings, jeans, two pairs of SmartWool socks, black leather winter boots, wool undershirt, wool sweater, scarf, built-in earmuffs on winter helmet, two pairs of gloves, and safety glasses. For the coldest days I added either a knee-length wool coat or a regular wind breaker over my wool sweater. I was never really cold, except I never found a perfect solution to my fingers, other than blowing on them a lot. My biggest challenge was that the cold weather made my nose run like crazy, so I was constantly blowing my nose at every stoplight.

I have a cycling blog and you can see all my winter-related posts here. My winter recap post is here. My friend/co-blogger lives in Nashville, so some of the posts relate to their winter.

p.s. lol at iggi. Safety glasses were definitely a must-have for me.
I usually just weara good base layer and a light fleece, no matter how cold it is. You will be surprised on how warm you will stay as you keep moving. My recommendations are some warm gloves. I have some nice mittens that I wear over a pair of thin cotton gloves, which are nice, but limit control with my hands. Goggles are key when riding during the snow. I use my old high school science goggles. I also recommend waterproof pants to keep you dry, and a good scarf. I usually use two. I put one around my neck and down the inside of my fleece to cover the zipper line and the other around my face.
Also, I recommend riding fixed in the winter. That way you can really feel any slippage that might occur on your ride. I usually ride an 18 speed and noticed a huge difference when riding through the snow with a fixed gear.
Merino wool is great and cheaper than you think, since discount sites usually have long sleeved t-shirts for $30 or so and you can wear one of those for days without even having to wash it, so you really only need two. Ortlieb panniers are pricey and hideous but will keep anything dry in any weather, nice when 'wintry mix' comes out of nowhere and you're carrying a laptop. The best thing, though, might be having a cyclocross bike, because then you can have all the benefits of a road bike plus fat knobby tires and fenders
My only problem is keeping my toes and fingers warm when temps go below 0 degrees. Besides that, I'm usually warm by just layering and wearing a windproof jacket and pants.

As for what kind of bike to ride, I find that my road bike works a lot better then my mountain bike. The skinny tires just cut right through the snow. Unlike the fat tires on my mountain bike, they just tend to slid around a lot, and it takes a lot of effort to keep going straight. I'm talking about a lot of snow on the ground.

Your idea for leg warmers seriously just blew my mind! Thank you so much for sharing that. Is it crazy that I'm getting excited for winter now?

Stacey E said:
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.
Good synthetic and wool blended socks are a must. Layer your clothing with a base layer of moisture wicking long johns. Get some nice mittens. Slicks and not treaded tires are better. The treads collect snow and ice and then you are riding snow on snow or ice on ice. Fenders! Thin neoprene beanie that fits under a helmet or a helmet cover, at least a helmet. Grow a beard or get a fake mustache and beard or at least a face-mask for the subzero days. Scarf or turtle necks to keep the wind from going down your collar. You really want to keep the wind out but you also need to be able to expel heat so you don't sweat much. After the first winter you will know more personally what worked and what didn't. Wash the grit, salt and sand off of the drive train regularly. Don't forget to feel like a bad ass when riding in the winter in the midwest!
Do it yourself car-washes, just don't drive water into bearings

M.A.R.K. said:
commute, ride, get everywhere? Yes, most of the time.

Biggest challenge.. Things that are there the rest of the year disappear during the winter(eg. cut-thru's, paths that dont get plowed, traffic moving to fast for conditions, etc., etc..)

Necessary gear..A great base layer and a windproof top layer. A clava doesnt hurt either.

Issues.. Ice in gears, and as of last year where I live since there was a shortage of ice, sand! Man that sucked, the sand swallowed both my derailleurs last year. Probably my fault, but how the hell do you get sand out of stuff?

Really winter isn't that bad in Chicago. It's easy to stay warm, its the roads and traffic that you gotta contend with.
I haven't checked out the rest of the entries, but here's a link to studded bike tires:
Indeed. Quite the authority.

Alan Ortiz said:
I haven't checked out the rest of the entries, but here's a link to studded bike tires:


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