I've lost count, but including this winter, it has to be almost 20 years of bike (as in bicycle) commuting for me. That's not including commuting to school (it would be close to 40 years for that, but that's dating me....). So, what have I learned? A lot. For one, it's cold out there! Two, no matter how experienced you are or how cool your bike is, you're a fool to try to ride when it's icy. And three, if you live in Portland, Oregon you can count on at least one icy day in the winter. This week, we had three and since I learned lesson number #2 above, I didn't ride. I was lucky enough to be able to work from home Monday, the worst day, and Tuesday and Wednesday I took the bus to work.
Ahhh, the bus.... I'll spare you my thoughts on that (did I mention I've been commuting by bike for 20+ years?). Anyway, I will say, I'm thankful I have access to a good mass transit system and I'm thankful I can decide when, and when not to take it. More than any other transit mode (and yes that includes bikes) mass transit is, in my opinion, the future of transportation. But back to the bike...
Today I was FINALLY able to ride my bike to work again! It felt great! So good, in fact, that I realized I forgot to share a couple items I purchased this winter for bicycle commuting.
Besides at least one day of ice, you can count on about 300 days a year of rain in Portland (ok, that may be a slight exaggeration, but it feels like that). If there's one thing I hate, it's riding in the rain with rain pants on. I find myself slipping on the seat and the extra bulk on my legs feels uncomfortable. I've been eyeing these awesome bike ponchos in the bike shops lately. Unfortunately, I couldn't justify the price ($250) since I already had a decent rain jacket. So, I did the next best thing, I bought a $10 one on Amazon!
I figured getting this would be a good test to see how I liked riding in a cape. If I found I liked it and it kept me dry, then I might go get a $250 one. Well, it took me several times of riding in it before I was comfortable with it. I kept worrying that the cape would get caught in the front wheel and I'd end up flying over the handlebars, into traffic, where naturally a semi truck would run over my head! Gross, I know, but sometimes my mind plays out the worst case scenario (or worst-case-ontario! HA! Shout out to Trailer Park Boys! Hilarious! Netflix it, worth it.). Anyway, what I found was thankfully this didn't happen, but I never did really get comfortable riding in one. Oh, and the wind, I forgot to mention you can count on at least a week a year of good 40-50 mile per hour wind gusts in Portland. Wind and capes, yea, not so much.
Unfortunately, my test with the cheap rain cape wasn't conclusive. I still feel that the more expensive capes are better in the wind (they have thumb holds where you can hold the cape down) and they aren't as long in the front so getting caught in the front tire isn't much of a problem (although it wasn't really with my cheap cape either, it was all in my mind). I haven't ruled out getting an expensive one but I won't be getting it until I need new rain gear, probably a couple years from now.
The other thing I purchased for winter riding has been AWESOME!!! Besides my feet and my face, my hands get pretty cold when riding in 30 degree weather. They also get pretty wet in the rain too. Cold and wet is not a good combination when you depend on your hands to save your life (*brakes*). So this past December I picked up these at a craft bazaar.
Here they are on my bike.
I've ridden with these now about 3 weeks and I can honestly say my hands have stayed warm and dry! Warm in weather that was 14 degrees (factoring in the windchill) and dry in multiple days of Portland rain.
The inside of these 'pogies' (can't say I like the name) is warm fleece! The outside is
waterproof fabric. They simply velcro onto your handlebars, either flat or drop bars, and cover your shifters and brake grips. I've also found it is still easy enough to remove your hand to signal when necessary.
Sure, they may look a little strange but when it's cold and wet who gives a damn?