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Welp, it looks like dreaded Polar Vortex is upon us again. What is your "go-to" gear to keep warm when riding in frigid temps? Inquiring minds want to know!

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A couple of years ago I bought Smith snow goggles from Sierra Trading Post.  They were closeouts--that is what Sierra does--and they don't have the ones I got. They still carry Smith and Smith does make goggles that are meant for women's faces.  I think mine were actually for small women's faces, cause they fit pretty well.  The pricing was not too bad.  The one problem with them is when I go home in the dark I don't like the tinted lenses.

I wear the plastic glasses down to about low 20s and just try to cover most of my face with a scarf.

S.T.P. rules! I discovered both them and Campmor in the pre-internet days and highly recommend them to anyone unfamiliar.

Lisa Curcio 4.1mi said:

A couple of years ago I bought Smith snow goggles from Sierra Trading Post.  They were closeouts--that is what Sierra does--and they don't have the ones I got. They still carry Smith and Smith does make goggles that are meant for women's faces.  I think mine were actually for small women's faces, cause they fit pretty well.  The pricing was not too bad.  The one problem with them is when I go home in the dark I don't like the tinted lenses.

I wear the plastic glasses down to about low 20s and just try to cover most of my face with a scarf.

I recommend clear MX goggles. They're like $20 and replacement lenses or tinted lenses are only a few dollars.

Wow! The crew in this thread are really hard core. My biggest problem is keeping my hands warm. I'll take a look at the woolen army surplus undermittens that you mentioned Dave, thanks. I was really bummed out when A Z Wallis, near the Uptown Bike Shop retired. I loved that place. 

David of the North (David606xx) said:

These do not let me down. Super cheap at every Army Surplus store everywhere, made of wool so they work wet or dry. Get just the inserts, not the leather shell. On the worst days last year, I doubled up on these with the wool 5-finger inserts underneath and felt fine?

There are two articles of clothing that made a total difference for winter biking.

When it gets under 30 I use a compression type Under Armor top designed for cold weather wear. I know many of you believe in non technical wear but for me this top has just changed everything. My core is always warm, even when it is under zero. Even in my house while getting dressed to go to the gym at 6 I am much more likely to want to go outside with this on. I user a Mountain Hard shell over it to break the window and hold off  moisture.  

And the second critical item is a balaclava. Once I got one of these it just changed everything. I dont' even cover my face most of the time (it is not a full Hanninbal Lecter, there is a big opening for may face). If you haven't tried a balaclava you must. The real protection for me is that as it seals the back and front of your neck your entire head except for your face, stays really, really warm. It is not always great for my hair but hey!  When it is really cold I put the mask part over my nose..again totally changes  the dynamics  of winter biking.

I have not yet solved the cold hands thing so I'm interested in those mittens described above.

J

Polar Vortex is THE most misused weather term of 2014.  Not all cold winter temps in Chicago are the result of the dreaded "Polar Vortex."  It was also not a term that was invented in 2014.  But damn if it didn't become a tsunami of a meteorological meme. 

I saw this article and it made me smile. My favorite reason for riding outside in winter? "You'll bank a little badass."

http://www.bicycling.com/training-nutrition/training-fitness/5-reas...

Some shun technical wear but typically for "religious" reasons. I came to the same conclusion as Josh, if it works, wear it! (Peer pressure doesn't work on me anymore.)

I have two balaclavas and one I had to modify to be able to breathe (came with little holes over the mouth area which I guess is fine if you are sitting still or slow walking). I have another which is pretty light which I wear in roughly forty deg weather and is as you describe, open at the face. In fifty deg weather I tie a bandana on my head under the helmet.

High tech fabrics (which sometimes includes wool) significantly outperform everyday clothing for temperature management during athletic activities. Not everybody cycling is doing it for a work out. So if you cycle for "religious" reasons please disregard....

Josh London said:

There are two articles of clothing that made a total difference for winter biking.

When it gets under 30 I use a compression type Under Armor top designed for cold weather wear. I know many of you believe in non technical wear but for me this top has just changed everything. My core is always warm, even when it is under zero. Even in my house while getting dressed to go to the gym at 6 I am much more likely to want to go outside with this on. I user a Mountain Hard shell over it to break the window and hold off  moisture.  

And the second critical item is a balaclava. Once I got one of these it just changed everything. I dont' even cover my face most of the time (it is not a full Hanninbal Lecter, there is a big opening for may face). If you haven't tried a balaclava you must. The real protection for me is that as it seals the back and front of your neck your entire head except for your face, stays really, really warm. It is not always great for my hair but hey!  When it is really cold I put the mask part over my nose..again totally changes  the dynamics  of winter biking.

I have not yet solved the cold hands thing so I'm interested in those mittens described above.

J

I have bitterly cold hands (and maybe Renaud's) and finally got a pair of Bar Mitts for Christmas. I rode them for the first time today. A soft test, since it wasn't that cold today, but with great results. With temps around 25F and sunny, I wore gloves that I usually wear in the 40s and my hands were toasty warm for the half-hour ride and starting to sweat by the time I got to work. Sweaty hands in the winter are a miracle for me. If you have serious problems with cold hands, they seem to be fantastic.

You got it! As Steven R. Covey would say it expands your "circle of influence"

Yasmeen said:

I saw this article and it made me smile. My favorite reason for riding outside in winter? "You'll bank a little badass."

http://www.bicycling.com/training-nutrition/training-fitness/5-reas...

As I biked home tonight one of the things I realized that makes winter biking so different besides the obvious (temps, snow etc.) is that the "street experience" is dramatically toned down. There are far fewer people on the streets - certainly in the residential neighborhoods, fewer  cars on the road, and most significantly no or little noise. Few dogs barking, radios blaring, people yelling, cars backfiring. I just biked home from the WF on Kingsbury to my place in Uptown.Sheffield to Clark the whole way.  What a lovely experience  it was. Very little traffic, peaceful, outside of a few De Paul students there were no pedestrians on the way, even in Wrigleyville.  Another benefit of winter biking!

Josh

I find that there are some techniques that seem to help cold hands in the event one ends up on the road with less than sufficient handwear: flex your hands at regular intervals as you ride. Try to keep all fingers together to prevent wind passing between the fingers. I will place my hands at the bars with the fingers extended across the break levers (on flat bar bike) which puts the hands at 45 deg to the ground (my break handle placement is strategic) and cuts the wind (it really works).


BTW, I wonder if there could be some kind of Pedal - Mitt for the feet?


Josh L. said:

As I biked home tonight one of the things I realized that makes winter biking so different besides the obvious (temps, snow etc.) is that the "street experience" is dramatically toned down. There are far fewer people on the streets - certainly in the residential neighborhoods, fewer  cars on the road, and most significantly no or little noise. Few dogs barking, radios blaring, people yelling, cars backfiring. I just biked home from the WF on Kingsbury to my place in Uptown.Sheffield to Clark the whole way.  What a lovely experience  it was. Very little traffic, peaceful, outside of a few De Paul students there were no pedestrians on the way, even in Wrigleyville.  Another benefit of winter biking!

Josh

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