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This bike pic Saturday is a peaceful morning for a bike ride and to bundle up junior and get him conditioned for the cooler weather ahead.
So, adjust to the cold and get into the zone when continuing your time outdoors and your #NextBikeAdventure. View all the great ideas and bike destinations in the latest Iowa or Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide. Then plan your next outing with family and friends, and check out more stories at Let’s Do MN.
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Now rolling through our 19th year as a bike tourism media, enjoy! As we pedal forward, we aim to encourage more people to bike and have fun while highlighting all the unforgettable places you can ride. As we continue to showcase more places to have fun, we hope the photos we shoot are worth a grin. Enjoy the information and stories we have posted as you scroll through.
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We at HaveFunBiking are nearly experts at riding in cold weather. Being from Minnesota, it’s a bit of a necessity to manage the cold. For most places in the country, cold means down near freezing, but what do you do when it feels colder than a stare from your ex-girlfriend? I’m talking super cold, like the dark side of the moon cold. Well here are our best tips for managing frostbite and cold weather on your bike.
Cold weather riding be realistic
Being realistic is the most important thing. When the temperature gets perilously cold, your ride can go from fun to life-threatening in a matter of minutes. Start by figuring out the route and a few bail-out points along the way if things go wrong. Next, make sure that your ride isn’t beyond your level of gear (more on that next). Finally, be sure that you know which direction the weather is going, cold weather is a way different thing to handle if it’s cold and windy, or cold and snowing.
Get the right gear for cold weather riding
Riding in temps approaching and dipping below zero requires very different equipment than riding in temps just below freezing. While you can often use the same jacket, pants, tights, and insulating layers, keeping extremities warm becomes a new challenge.
In temperatures below 5 degrees, your eyes will water, and those tears will freeze. Both dangerous and uncomfortable the best way to combat frozen eyes is ski goggles. I find ski goggles to work better than sunglasses because they are typically more resistant to fogging, cover a larger area, and seal around your eyes.
A balaclava (or ski mask) will cover everything on your head but your eyes. It can protect your nose, cheeks, neck, and ears from frigid winter temps. Additionally, they are usually relatively thin, so fitting them under a helmet is more comfortable. To find one that fits well, make sure it will cover your face quickly, but also be able to stretch open enough to expose your mouth and nose (see image below).
Keeping your feet warm is paramount to keeping you warm, and nothing works better than winter boots. There are plenty of winter hiking boots that you can use with flat pedals and a few cycling specific winter boots that work clipped in. In both cases, be sure that the footwear is waterproof.
-gloves or pogies
Claw style gloves work best to keep your hands warm. They bundle your fingers together to conserve heat. I also like to get super thin wool glove liners and use them in conjunction with my winter claw gloves. This first layer can stay on your hands if you ever need to take the outer gloves off. If the gloves and liners aren’t cutting it, you can also look to pogies. A pogie is something that mounts to the bike around the handlebars and creates a warm little pocket.
Details of the Highland Claw.
Pogies are awesome when things get frigid cold.
-hand and foot warmers
Another great accessory that helps keep your hands and feet warm is a chemical warmer. Readily available at most outdoor stores, these warmers react with the oxygen in the are to create heat. When using them, open them and leave them exposed to the air for a few minutes before shoving them in your glove for best results.
I’ve talked in the past about starting a bit cold for winter riding. While this is good advice for the high freezing temperatures, your body will have serious issues creating enough warmth once the temps revolve near zero. Wear enough to be warm walking outside, and your ride will be pleasant. Also, store your clothes and gear in a warm place. Leaving your boots an gloves in a cold garage is a sure fire way to freeze yourself out.
Being dry is being warm at super cold temperatures. For this reason, waterproof clothing helps a ton. Waterproof gloves, boots, jackets, pants, and gaiters will keep the water out and warmth inside.
Above almost all else, a positive attitude will keep things fun in the cold weather. That positive attitude also helps if you need to cut rides short. Be appreciative for the time you had to ride vs. the time you wanted to spend outdoors. You may only get 40 minutes, so enjoy it.
It was impossible to miss the Sealskinz booth at Interbike this year. There in the center of the exhibit was a huge tub of water with a woman standing in the middle wearing nothing on her feet but socks! When I asked if her feet were wet or cold, she responded casually “nope, I’ve been standing here for an hour and my feet are still dry and warm.” I was intrigued, but not convinced, because I couldn’t help but think “how could it be soft and waterproof”? Well, fast forward a few weeks and I am happy to say that Sealskinz recently sent us a care package of products right in time for winter. Take a look for details on the Super Thin Pro Socks.
Sealskinz socks construction
The Sealskinz’ seminal product was a waterproof, insulated sock designed for the rigors of wet English winters. We received SealSkinz’ new Super Thin Pro sock. The great thing about this sock is it retains all the waterproof and insulating properties of their exiting socks with a third less weight and bulk. To achieve a lighter sock, Sealskinz employed a new knit pattern for the outer layer and bamboo fiber for the insulation layer. Because a sock has a huge hole in the top of it to accept your foot, they cant be 100% waterproof. What Sealskinz does to combat water coming in from the top of the sock, is to employ a silicon band along the inner cuff of the sock. It rests against the skin and seals off most of the water that would normally migrate down into your sock.
How they fit
Immediately upon putting them on I could feel the liner embedded in the fabric. Why they feel different is the waterproof membrane gives the socks a structure that is more substantial than your normal socks. The fabric bonded on the inside and outside of membrane is really soft to the touch and comfortable on your skin. I did have a concern that the socks would not be able to stretch and flex enough to conform to my feet, but I was proven wrong, again. nearly immediately. Also, I had concerns about the silicon cuff. On many cycling shorts with “grippers” at the bottom of the leg cuff can be uncomfortable. I am happy to report that I never felt any discomfort with the Sealskinz cuff.
Socks in the real world
Although I haven’t had a ton of time to ride these socks, I did have an exceptional first experience. My commute to work is about 40 minutes through the rolling terrain of the Twin Cities suburbs. The day I received the socks was just under 30 degrees and spitting a rain/snow mix. I left for work wearing my standard cycling shoes and a good quality wool cycling sock. In those conditions, I arrived at the office with numb toes that when thawed, hurt a ton. Fast forward to the end of the day, where conditions were exactly the same as the morning, yeah! (More freezing temps and rain). In the evening, I wore that Super Thin Pro Sock instead of my wool sock. In contrast to my ride in, by the time I got home, my feet were still nice and toasty. To clarify, I rode 40 minutes in rain/snow mix and 30 degrees with my feet warm and cozy.
So the Super Thin Pro Sock has passed all my initial tests. However, I’m not done yet. So over the next few weeks, I will test them again. As Minnesota’s temperatures continue to drop I plan to find the lowest temp these socks will work on my feet. Additionally, I have gloves and booties from Sealskinz that will be subjected to the worst Minnesota has to dish out. Stay tuned for more!
Finding a cold weather glove, it has finally happened. I found the bottom of the Sealskinz Halo glove’s effective temperature range. Before you start to think I went on some wild adventure like the Goonies search for One Eyed Willie, you should know that it has been a pretty mild winter by Minnesota standards around here. Basically, the Halo leaves me looking for more around 15 degrees. Normally, that’s colder than 90% of the riders out there will endure, but like me, there are a few lost souls who ride through it all (or almost through it all). For us, Sealskinz promises to have us covered with the Highland Claw glove. Let’s take a look at what makes it special!
A cold weather glove ‘Out of the Box’
The Highland Claw glove is a “lobster claw” style glove that intends to maximize your body heat by pairing your fingers together. You are left with the pointer and middle finger as well as the ring and pinkie finger paired up like a Vulcan salute. These gloves are fully water/windproof and boast more insulation than the Halo glove. Like always, special care is taken with the packaging to ensure no holes are put in the glove.
Details of the Highland Claw.
Cold weather glove construction
The gloves have what feels like a durable outer shell and soft synthetic suede thumb. Closure for the glove is handled by a single Velcro strap paired with some elastic in the cuff to keep things snug. The palm is similar to the Halo glove so I expect it to be just as durable and comfortable. Additionally, the glove has a couple cool touches to aid in visibility. Between the fingers, at the knuckle, and on the fingertips, Sealskinz has included reflective material to keep you visable.
Palm detail of the Highland Claw
Cold weather glove fit
I received a pair of XL gloves Highland Claw Gloves. They come in sizes ranging from small through double extra-large. While I usually wear the largest glove size from any manufacturer the XL seems to fit really well, which is good news for my large fisted friends. When trying on the glove I found that my fingers easily found their place and came out of the glove easily. Usually, when you add insulation, gloves don’t always want to release your hand well, but it appears Sealskinz has worked some magic to bypass this problem. The Velcro cuff is a nice touch, but probably not needed as the elastic held things in place well.
The cuff detail on the Highland Claw glove.
Right off the bat, these gloves felt warm, noticeably warmer than the Halo glove in fact. This isn’t a dig on the Halo but a testament to the Highland Claw. I’ve worn the gloves as low as -2 with no issue, but haven’t yet gotten the chance to ride with them much below the teens.
It appears the mild winter we all were hoping for here in Minnesota in unlikely. We are expecting highs in the negative range next week, so I will have ample opportunity to see how warm these gloves can be. In reality, if they stay warm through the single digits, that’s more than I can hope for. Riding below zero takes a commitment of mind and gear that I really don’t encourage for most. Also, once you get into the negative temps, there is no amount of gear that does anything but buy you time. The right gloves might give you an hour, but eventually, jack frost wins. Stay tuned to hear how much of a fight these gloves put up in my mid term review.