Freezing When Riding! Solution: Heated Vest

Noreen

Member
So my Stromer is still a work in progress (handlebar grips, from bag/light issue), but I rode to work Friday, then went shopping and did errands on Sunday. Apparently I am also a work in progress, because I was miserable because I was so cold. I added heated gloves for the Sunday ride and that solved my frozen hands issue. I tried the layering that so many people have described for the Sunday ride, and I was still miserable. I even shut off the assist for a while to get my temp up.

The temp was in the low 30s (F), and I was going about 15-18 mph (wind chill of about 17). So, I ordered a heated vest to use as my second layer. Should arrive in a few days, and I will try again and let you know.

I will also added a balaclava that I had kicking around. Hopefully, these will do the trick because I would like to ride until the snow falls (and the salt and sand are dumped).
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
I hope the heated vest works for you. I also ride MC's and have done so year-round for more than 30 years. I thought the heated stuff would be the answer for 65 mph at 25 degrees F (wind chill?) but it wasn't. Just be careful... regulate it well, any amount of moisture (sweat) on the skin can make you even colder when you're outside in a breeze.
 

Brambor

Well-Known Member
Looks like you solved the hands. Where specifically were you cold ? Torso, leggs? everywhere ?

I'm not cold in the torso area but after about 30 minutes I start feeling cold around my hips.
 

PowerMe

Well-Known Member
Wondering if a clothing system like Patagonia for severe back country type weather would be useful for a cyclist in extreme cold? They have a whole layering system and they suggest pieces based on condition of weather and how cold the temps are. They're expensive for sure though, but their stuff lasts and lasts. I had a pullover from Patagonia that I wore for at least 15 years.
 

Brambor

Well-Known Member
I'm a fan of Patagonia stuff. I live close to their outlet store. Most of my clothing is from this brand. I want to say that Patagonia doesn't hold any magical solution to warmth. They made overpriced stuff that is well made, lasts a long time and is backed by a decent warranty.

Warmth is a matter of insulating yourself from cold, trapping warmth between your body and the outside. Somehow in this process you should not get sweaty. sort of.

I think you solved the hands with handwarmers but you would most likely also be successful with Bar Mitts and midweight wool gloves.

you can use a wool balaclava under your helmet, neck gaiter and ski goggles on your head. For helmet use full wintersport helmet. They usually have insulated covering for your ears and parts of your cheeks.

For torso, you can start with thin wool or synthetic, snug fitting long sleeve undergarment, followed by midweight fleece or wool sweater. Then you top it off with windproof shell or windproof softshell. If the weather is really nippy perhaps one more layer of midweight wool over the thin layer of wool and then the sweater and shell.

around hips it could get tricky. Depending on how cold it is and how cold you get. The area around the seat that gets stretched and consequently made thinner by stretching is exposed to the cold wind. You can start with wool undies over which would go biking fall/winter bibs, over which could go midweight wool longjohns and then windproof shell pants. If it gets really nippy you can add one more layer of synthetic insulated pants or down insulated pants. Lets don't usually get sweaty so your down insulation won't get wet.

For your shoes you need some kind of insulated boots. 45north makes dedicated winter biking boots but anything with stiff sole and insulated shell would work fine. Therefore cross country ski boots, backcountry ski boots, hunting insulated boots and such would work fine. Get them at least size larger so that you have enough space for thick wool socks.

Also think about areas that are prone to stretch - that is where cold will get in. So for knees, soft kneepads woould work or knee warmer sleeves. Same for elbows.

In theory if area of your hips is still cold I would think that something like protective foam shorts that used to be worn for indoor roller hockey could have nice insulating effect. :)

you do all of that and maybe you'll get hired for a sequel to Mad Max Thunderdome :)
 

Noreen

Member
Well, thank you for all of the cold weather riding tips. My frozen hands were resolved by the heated gloves, and I was so encouraged by that, I ordered the heated vest today. I stupidly wore a regular vented helmet without any head covering. Hopefully the balaclava will fix that. It does have an extender that goes down my neck.

I am riding to a meeting tomorrow night, and will see if covering my head and wearing rain/wind pants helps at all. The site is only about 2 miles away, much shorter than what I attempted Friday and Sunday. I have winter hiking boots, so will try those as well. Since I was cold everywhere, in my bones cold, I decided to add things incrementally.

My theory on the vest is that I can turn it down, or off completely, if I get too warm. That seemed easier to me than peeling off layers. Although I can't imagine ever being too warm. I have to say that when I was driving home tonight (23F), I looked with new respect and admiration at the cyclists I saw.
 

Bud

Member
Two cents from someone with no sense to spare: Don't complicate things - keep it simple. In this recent cold weather I have been commuting in office clothing (shirt, tie, suit or sport jacket) under oversized wind pants and shell shell I picked up at a Cabellas close out sale. I wear my ski helmet and gloves, and a pair of Showers Pass over boot/shoe covers. Once you have the wind sealed out you should be fine, but then your enemy becomes perspiration as JR notes. That's where the pedal assist comes in. Rode in yesterday in the low twenties with a smile on my face. In fact, I left the sport jacket at work and road home with only my T-shirt and dress shirt/tie under the shell. Years ago I read great advice about winter cycling that suggested that if you are warm and comfortable in your first 5 - 10 minutes on the bike then you are wearing too much. If you start out warm, you end up sweating and cold. I think the secret is a good wind blocking layer over a dry rider.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do love the the winter and the outdoors in cold weather, so that's the proverbial grain of salt here. In years past (pre-Dash) I would commuted on Monday by car and stock my office with clothing for the week. I would shower before the ride, sponge bathe upon arrival and dress at work. Lots of effort. My principle purpose in purchasing my Dash was to permit me to shower and dress at home and commute (5 miles) by bike without the sweat that was always present. And four weeks in I am pleased with the result. The only thing I wish was easier and quicker is the putting on and taking off of the head to toe wind blockers. Still working on that. Suggestions welcome.
 
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Brambor

Well-Known Member
You're thinking it right.

There is also the ability of our own body to produce heat. This comes from the fuel we consume. Foods with higher fat content give our body an ability to produce heat. I'd say pop a couple of Mars Bars or something like that about 20 minutes before you head out the door. :)

Speaking of the Patagonia brand. I took an inventory of brands that I wore this morning and was surprised that only one piece was Patagonia. I bought a thinner fluorescent green softshell jacket for $60 at the outlet store sale a few weeks ago. The rest of my stuff was as follows:

Alpina NNN BC Boots
Wool Hiking Socks - old pair, don't know the brand name
Walmart synthetic spandex like underwear shorts
Sugoi Knee warmers - dubious performance, marginal gain but still better than full garment
DeMarchi fall cycling bibs - slight fuzzy stuff on the inside, padded, full coverage at waist. I like one piece winter garments that minimize separation around the waist.
Woolpower one piece - amazing warmth, great elasticity, treat it like a baby (dubious longevity)
Core Concepts Alpine pants - softshell, stretchy with Schoeller fabric - great pants, great longevity
Icebreaker lightweight wool top - lightweight wool undegarments have dubious longevity but I found the Icebreaker to be one of the best
Buff headgear - wool - my favorite, most versatile garment
Patagonia wool balaclava - good, works great, it's thin enough to work with the helmet
Bolle - 10 year old ski goggles, red tinted - not recommended but it's the only thing I have right now. I have another pair (newer) of good ski goggles that I plan on using for skiing
Outdoor Research Flurry Gloves
Outdoor Research Goretex Mitten Shells
Bern Hardhat helmet with winter insert
Patagonia softshell jacket - thinner softshell than my Cloudveil but has the right fluorescent high visibility color for cycling

It varies day to day. Yesterday I did not have the woolpower piece but wore a normal wool dress shirt from Pendleton.
 
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Noreen

Member
Hello Bud - those are great tips. Thanks. I am trying to keep it as uncomplicated as possible by adding a layer as needed - to the body part in most need. I use to be a bigger fan of winter. Now . . . not so much. Hoping to change. My first 2 rides in cold temps resulted in the equivalent of a giant ice cream headache that covered my entire body. If I commute, as with your situation, I have to wear a suit. Not impossible, but I am still in the trial and error stage. Mostly error at this point.

Brambor - I am going to stock up on Mars Bars. In fact, I have started going door to door and taking back the Halloween candy I gave out last month! Great list of items you use.

2 things I learned/were suggested to me at the LBS: 1) Winter biking clothing is really expensive. I went to another non-bike store to buy the wicking and thermal layers, and am using a wind breaker I used for golf; 2) For warmer weather, I am going to try one of those disposable painting jump suits from the hardware store ($7.00). I thought that was a great suggestion. Now all I need is warmer weather.
 

Brambor

Well-Known Member
Noreen - another efficiency tip - some people sweat more than others. If you are one who does not sweat so much you could go directly to total windbreaker shell as your top layer

Good luck!
 

Pace

Member
A general note -- without getting into specific brands -- clothing & gear made for XC skiing is often perfect for winter biking
 

PowerMe

Well-Known Member
Yeah, when I mentioned Patagonia I was using it as a "for instance." Plus, their visual guide on how to layer different pieces depending on the temperature and if one is outdoors in dry or wet conditions is helpful. I think you can acquire several layers at much cheaper prices. Pieces that wick moisture are much more common now. Also take a look on ebay. Someone could be selling ski pants or bibs or layers you need and want. And maybe get some hand warmers and keep some available so you can stash a couple in side pockets, in your shoes or boots, and in your gloves.

I purchased an LL bean winter parka many years ago that is the warmest thing I've ever had. Not sure how it would do on a cycling ride in winter, but that jacket is perfectly warm when temps get down to the low 20's. It's like being embraced in a warm hug, and because it's not down, it's not a big puffy piece.
 

Noreen

Member
Much better experience tonight! 35F and I was perfectly comfortable, which is a big step for me since I was afraid my riding days were over until Spring. I concentrated on the torso, and wore a wicking layer, a thermal layer, a lighter layer, then another thermal layer, then a wind breaker. I also wore a knit cap under my helmet, and my heated gloves. Aside from feeling like the Michelin tire guy, I was very comfortable.

I did make sure to arrive early for the meeting so I could remove some layers not feel like a dope. I still think the heated vest is a good idea for me so I can eliminate a layer or two. Since it has 4 settings, I can start on high heat, then dial it down. Once I get to where I am going, I can shut it off and it looks like a regular vest. But, based on the tips I got here, I know I can ride in the colder weather even without the vest.

Plus, it was a lot of fun!
 

Noreen

Member
Update on my heated vest: It is great. I ended up ordering a Volt heated vest, that has 2 panels in the front and a larger single panel on the back. It works really well for me, and I found that I can eliminate a layer. I don't have to be as concerned with which layers to wear since I can adjust the heat levels (4 options). If you are considering one, read the descriptions carefully, because some vests have only a back panel.
 

Reddy Kilowatt

Well-Known Member
Glad to hear you found a way to keep warm Noreen. I wish I'd had a heated vest back when I rode a motorcycle. But I was a lot younger then, and I could take a lot more adversity.
I just put a pair of Bar-Mitts on my Grey Ghost at the end of last week and I'm loving them. I got some incredibly warm boots which took care of keeping my feet warm and I haven't even broken out the silk scarf and balaclava for my cold face yet. Cold hands on the other hand, I just can't abide. Bar-Mitts for the win.
It's nice that I've gotten used to this bike to the extent that I can shift without seeing the shifters or gear indicators, cuz' those parts are now hidden inside the cozy Bar-Mitts along with my formerly frosty hands. (When the bike was new, I was dropping the chain regularly. Thankfully that hasn't happened in a few weeks.)
Stay warm. I'm in the quiet corner of Connecticut, so it's not much warmer here than where you are. I lived in Amherst for many years and my four kids (and two Grandchildren) are all in (or near) around Boston.
Allen
 

Noreen

Member
Now if only I could make it stay lighter in the afternoon! I think it may actually be colder where you live Allen. I am just outside Boston, and generally the temps are moderated because of the water temps.

One thing I found out: trying to transition to a more cycling lifestyle takes a heck-of-a-lot of time. I have to plan things more carefully, and errands that would take 30 minutes if I drove, take a lot longer on a bike. It takes me at least 15 minutes to get the right clothing, in the right order, properly charged up. Install the battery. Then it takes me time to lock up the bike at my destination, remove some of the clothing, pack it in the bag and finally start accomplishing things. BUT, it is so much more fun than driving that it is worth the time. Presumably, I will get better at the process.
 

Reddy Kilowatt

Well-Known Member
Hmmm… It was 14º F when I rode in to work on Monday (5 mile, 25-minute commute). My feet and hands were warm for the first time on a cold day thanks to my Columbia Men's Bugaboot Plus II XTM Omni-Heat Cold Weather Boots (whew! thank you cut-and-paste) and those aforementioned Bar-Mitts. So this time it was my face that was as cold as a well digger's ass.
When I rolled in to work, I took off my gloves and thought I should feel my face to make sure it wasn't front-nipped. I went, "oh nos," when I touched my cheek and it felt kinda' weird; like cloth. Then I realized I'd cut myself shaving and it was the fabric bandaid I was touching; not my skin. Yay!
Even so, the next time I ride in conditions this cold I am so gonna' wear my incredibly foppish silk scarf and a balaclava. I mean, my face is pretty goofy-looking now, but it'll be worse if my cheeks fall off or such.
Sure Spring is coming, but it's gonna' get worse before it gets better.
Take heart Noreen, the days start getting longer at the Winter Solstice (Sunday December 21st) though not by much at first.
Happy (and warm) trails all.
Allen (in the quiet (and cold) corner of Connecticut))
 

Brambor

Well-Known Member
Yeah. Monday was cold. I'm in Maine so we get a few degrees less than Boston. Coldest for me on a bicycle. I started at home and it was 5 degrees. I was experimenting with new boots and was freezing badly. I thought I would have frostbite but I guess it was ok. At work I switched back to my ski boots and the ride back home was great. Both rides that day were in temperatures less than 10 degrees.

Besides my toes I was warm but it was important to cover all exposed flesh.
 

FitzChivalry

Active Member
For those who ride in cold but not crazy temps, something I found out about this week that I've already ordered are toe-warmers that slide up over the front of your shoes. I bought a pair from Amazon for $12.50. I've added Bar-Mitts to my Christmas list, but regretted it because now I need to wait until the 25th (or later) to start using them!

My two rides last week (the first rides in about 7 weeks due to extenuating circumstances) were in 31 and then 28 degree weather. I had just the right amount of clothing on both rides, but was surprised that on the rides home I required the balaclava. I don't remember using it on the ride home last winter when I bought my Pedego City Commuter.