Monday, September 28, 2009

Tricks of the Trade: Ah, Autumn.

Shorter days. Nearly perfect east-west alignment of the sun at dawn
and dusk. Cooler Weather. Autumn is officially here.

Getting Acclimated:
Despite being 55*F this morning, I saw a fellow bike commuter all
bundled up in (what I consider) winter gear -- balaclava, thick
gloves, heavy jacket. Whatever's comfortable, I suppose. I'm kind of
guessing the guy's a newbie who hasn't quite figured out how to
appropriately gear up for cooler temperatures. I was the same way when
I started, and quickly found myself sweating through my clothes.
Similarly, he could just need that kind of gear to be comfortable.
About this time last year when I was visiting San Francisco, I noticed
almost all cyclists wearing similar clothing in the high-40s. They're
just more comfy at warmer temperatures.

Nailing your cool weather attire is a trial-and-error experiment.
Everyone's different. What works for me at 55*F (shorts and a t-shirt)
won't always work for everyone. The best way to figure out what works
is to start logging the temperature in the morning, then figure out
what temperature you start getting uncomfortable in your current
get-up. Log the temperature, then try adding a layer of clothing.

If you're into technical, cycling specific clothing, this usually
means getting out the long sleeve jersey and perhaps some arm- or
leg-warmers. If you commute in street clothes, you might want to throw
on some long pants. If you commute in business casual attire, you'll
probably get cold a lot less easily, but when you do, it's probably
time to use a windbreaker and maybe some long johns. Keep logging
temperatures and re-evaluating how you feel. If your hands or ears get
uncomfortably cold at a certain temperature, cover them up. Layering
is important, and it's important to use wicking fabrics next to your
skin on longer commutes. This might mean a cozy wool jersey, or a
sport-performance base layer under your clothes. Wool is very
versatile and I personally think it doesn't pick up the "funk" that
you get with synthetic stuff, but it's expensive and some people find
it uncomfortable. One thing is true, though: It will keep you warmer
than cotton or lycra if it gets wet. Scientific fact. I plan on
picking up some more wool stuff as winter nears.

I say this every year, but you might want to consider changing your
route or altering your work schedule a little bit if you find yourself
riding into the sunlight at dusk or dawn. It doesn't matter how much
reflective gear or lighting you have, you will be very hard to see on
the road as motorists approach you from the rear, driving into the
sun. If you continue riding into the lesser-utilized part of cycling
season (cycling season last year round!) you'll want to make sure
you've got ample lighting for your adventures. If you stay on well-lit
roadways, you can stick with relatively-inexpensive attention-grabbing
devices like the Blackburn Flea headlight and Planet Bike Superflash
tail light that I use. Otherwise, you'll need to look at more
expensive lighting that can help you see the path ahead well enough to
safely navigate. I have a 15W halogen light for that, but LED tech is
advancing quickly and stuff at the $100-$150 price-point is getting
quite impressive.


Jon said...

I have about a dozen Merino Wool sweaters that I use to commute in, when it's chilly. The one I wore, today, is the only piece of Brooks Brothers clothing I own.

It is among the most expaensive of my sweaters. It cost $5.00 at the thrift store. My average cash outlay for a good sweater is closer to $3.50...

Nancy said...

I LOVE wool. I sprung (sprang?) for some Ibex woolies tops and leggings last winter and it was worth it. I wore them almost daily - and will again this winter. Plus, you can just lay them out for a few hours and the sweaty smell seems to vanish. So, less washing, which shortens their life span. I wear the thrift store sweaters over them cuz they're too itchy for me next to my skin. Thanks for the post!

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