Cold Weather Cycling Felix Wong

After weeks of gorgeous, sunny, 50- and 60-degree weather (see Lisa’s Visit) in Fort Collins, we finally got another snowstorm! This one was minor, leaving fluffy white powder in the mountains and our lawns but hardly sticking to the roads and pavement. However, it did bring about colder temperatures that made bundling up to go outside mandatory.

“At least it is dry,” I thought as I commenced a self-supported 100-mile bicycle ride from Fort Collins to Boulder and back on Saturday. A couple of days prior the morning temperatures were the same (28 degrees), but the clouds gave way to a welcome sun in the afternoon. As the weather forecast called for a high of 41 degrees on Saturday I was optimistic the same thing would happen.

To make a long story short, it didn’t—it remained approximately 28 degrees the whole way. Let me explain what happened:

  • Within one hour, both of my water bottles froze.
  • In order to drink, I’d have to stop, dismount, unscrew the tops of the water bottles, and drink from them as if I was sipping from a glass.
  • A few snow flurries fell.
  • My hands—encased in two pairs of gloves—became cold enough that operating the Campagnolo Ergopower shift levers was difficult (particularly downshifting, which requires more finger motion). This reminds me of what happened the next day, when it again was 28 degrees in the morning and I ran 18 miles with my friend Bill. My hands became cold enough that in order to start the car after our run, I had to use TWO HANDS to turn the ignition key!
  • After my ride—which took 6 hours and 40 minutes (6 hours and 8 minutes riding and 32 minutes of stops)—my feet were cold and numb enough that when I tried to run a few miles immediately afterwards, I could not feel my feet. It was a strange feeling, running as if my feet were bags of air, except they were striking the ground quite noisily as I had some “issues” picking up my tired legs.

Amazingly, despite the frigid temperatures, I saw at least three dozen other cyclists out there on the road. My friend Diana—who was training with her cycling team in Boulder—was riding too and says she even saw me! Hardy cyclists, these Coloradoans…

In any case, I suppose it could have been worse—e.g., in Northern California, it was both cold and raining, causing my friends in the Tri-City Tri Club to cancel their Saturday ride again. Indeed, by far the coldest rides I’ve ever done was 1) the 1999 Davis 200km Brevet, and 2) a ride with my friend Dave down Sierra Road in San Jose. Both of those times it was pouring. I’d much rather be cycling in 28-degree-but-dry conditions than, say, 40-degree-but-wet weather.

This is what I was wearing during my Fort Collins-to-Boulder-and-back ride. It was adequate and comfortable enough, though like I said, my hands and feet were definitely a bit on the cold side:

  • fleece beanie cap
  • two short-sleeved cycling jerseys (Coolmax)
  • removable neoprene arm-warmers
  • thin polyester liner gloves + thick Gore-Tex gloves
  • neoprene cycling tights
  • polyester-lined nylon pants over the tights
  • fleece socks
  • neoprene booties over my cycling shoes

I felt a windbreaker was unnecessary (many will disagree with me here), but a balaclava would have been nice.

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One comment on Cold Weather Cycling

  1. Comment by arlen

    i can relate ………i use to live in the northern sierras just north of lake tahoe and just west of glacier park montana……now i am in wisconsin………i bought a pair of storm socks from campmor they are great…….wear them with my tennis shoe when i bike…….bought a pair of cold weather tights from mt. borah great
    i have been out with a 28 windchill ……surface temp of 36…….this great lakes dampness does travel through your body………truly understand about the thermo gloves……..the other day i went out with just my warm weather gloves………..took a bit just to straighten out my fingers…….keep on the keeping on

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