Friday, October 19, 2007

Gearing up for the colder weather- literally
Here in Buffalo, NY, USA it can get moderately cold and the weather vacillates between just below freezing and just above. Paired with significant snowfall and the use of salt on the roads, it can get very sloppy in the winter.
Last fall I shifted from my road/touring bike to a low end Diamondback mountain bike. Putting fenders on it and its lack of toe clips made it a very pleasant bike to ride in the cold and slop.

There have been two problems which continue to plague me and both involve cold rain. The first concerns wet feet. There are a few solutions to this; the first is to wear boots. This is a pretty good solution when the temperature wavers around freezing, but is less appealing at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit or 7 degrees Celsius. The other possibility is shoe covers. Hmmm. There must be another better answer.

The second problem involves the top half of the body. In warmer weather, I am prone to doing nothing, letting myself get wet, then changing my clothes when I stop. In colder weather, however, this is not practical. Pricing out rainwear has been depressing. A trip to REI results in a bill approaching $150 for just a suitable jacket. "Suitable" entails something with enough ventilation to allow you to adjust your body's heat and robust enough for commuting. Pit zips are ideal. I found an outfit in Oregon which is designing, manufacturing and selling their own stuff. The outfit arrived in the mail today. For $89 I got a "seconds" jacket and rain pants.

I was apprehensive about even opening the package, feeling that for the price the quality or functionality would be poor. A great surprise awaited me. I opened the jacket first. It was vivid yellow, just like a cycling tourist would wish, had pit zips, an extra long "tail", reflective tape on the arms and tail, ample velcroed wrists, was fully lined and the collar had a soft polar fleece lining as well. It even had a tab on the back for a blinky light. I am still trying to figure out why it is a "second".

The rainpants were not quite as excellent, for they are not lined or fleeced. Otherwise, they are very functional. They have ample flare at the leg bottoms and velcro tabs to tighten them to your ankles. The "pockets" are not pockets at all, but zippered access to your shorts' pockets. I don't generally use pants pockets when I ride, so this is okay with me. Technically, these are made to be worn over tights or long-johns.

The ultimate question will be one of durability. Time will tell. I will try to reassess them next fall. The company which makes them is J&G Cyclewear. They shipped them the same day I ordered.

For another view on winter cycling try IceBike.


Ray Klein said...

Hi Leslie,
I just heard your e-mail on MHTH. I am a (fair-weather) bike commuter from Buffalo also. I rode until mid October then,(enter excuse here)I stopped. I think I'll be getting my stuff together and role out a few more times.

iz said...

How far do you commute to work? I was bike commuting to work, until I no longer felt safe riding in the dark.

Leslie said...

Hey, Ray
Every climate has its challenges. Our greatest are salt and cold/wet. Good luck!

Leslie said...

Hi iz!
I don't feel I go far. 4 miles every other day, mostly against traffic. Do you feel unsafe because of the lack of visibility or because of security? I have altered my route in the winter/dark due to safety issues and also because of security concerns. If you use mapquest or google maps, you might be able to find something which more or less parallels what you are already riding. Living in a city allows me more flexibility in routing.

iz said...

I'm in Erie PA, and have a 12 mile commute (one way!). The darkness worries me, as there are plenty of potholes and things to avoid. No more riding this year for me, I'm afraid. Summertime, though, I've found lots of different ways in.

I did the commute in the dark a few times, but it was just a bit too worrisome for me - plus, I didn't feel like getting run over. That was as much a concern when it was light out!