Cold Commute Notes

Very cold day today for November. It felt kind of like January. I remember one year back in the late ’80s or early ’90s when we had a November cold snap and temperatures stayed below freezing for several days. Today started out in the low 20s, and looks like it’s going to max out at around 40, which pales in comparison, but is very cold by recent standards. Being a Wednesday, it’s my usual day to go in to the office. While I used to bike in cold weather all the time (and still do occasionally), and I have biked in colder temperatures than today’s and lived to tell the tale, I have to admit that nowadays, it’s no longer my first choice. I considered going to the office tomorrow (Thursday) instead, as it’s supposed to be a little bit milder (upper 20s). Ultimately, though, I opted to stay with today because it fit my schedule better.

The ride was not bad. I could tell the temperature was above 20, because the condensation from my breath was not freezing inside my nose. The wind was fairly calm when I left the house at 7:30, but it picked up during the second half of the ride. I wore three layers on top, and tried out a new REI brand PolarTec hinged balaclava. Although the fit is snug with my current helmet, I think it’s a winner. I have another fleecy balaclava that I’ve frequently worn on sub-20º mornings, but it doesn’t do the greatest job wicking perspiration, and as a result, gets quite damp over the course of a ride, which is not something you want on a frigid day. The PolarTec seems to do a better job. Although I got the sense that my head was beginning to sweat towards the end of the ride, the balaclava was mostly dry when I took it off. My feet got a little bit cold, as they always do, but warmed up as I climbed out of the Patapsco River valley. My trusty Gore-Tex winter cycling gloves, combined with Bar Mitts, kept my hands reasonably comfortable for most of the ride. I rode a shade under 14 miles, which is shorter than my usual morning commute, but not bad for a cold day. The afternoon commute home promises to be about 15º warmer, so I’ll shed at least one layer, and switch to lighter gloves and a lighter balaclava.

On an unrelated note, 7:30 seems to be a good time to leave the house when I’m commuting via road bike on school days. While there’s still occasional foot traffic for the middle school, it’s not really a problem. The biggest issue this year has been dealing with school bus traffic on Lawyers Hill Road, but by 7:30, they all seem to have finished running their routes. It’s also early enough that I don’t have to deal with a lot of traffic for the elementary school in Relay.