Biking in the arctic


Work week – 09-Dec-13 through 13-Dec-13

Ok, I know it’s not actually the Arctic here in Cambridge.  But recently the temperatures have been making it seem like it is.

Monday started out with 18 Deg.F (-7.5 Deg.C), and I biked into work.

Tuesday was a bit warmer, though there were some nice flurries of snow going on as I rode the 6.5 miles.  No, I’m not going to translate that into Km.  Look it up yourself!

Wednesday I drove – I try to make sure that I drive at least one day a week, or more often two days, so that my car isn’t left alone too long… I don’t like the idea of it always being in the same parking spot.  People staring, starting to notice that it might not be missed for a day or so if it just… disappeared.  No stealing my car!

Thursday though.  Thursday, the temperatures in Cambridge his 15 Deg.F (-9.5 Deg.C).  Waltham (where I work) was right around the same, maybe a degree or two warmer.  I still biked.

Friday was almost the same as Thursday, though Cambridge was 18 and Waltham was 15 this time.

Thursday set a new record for me, and Friday came damn close to my previous record: a day last winter, when I had gotten a text from Marla after biking in, simply saying, “wait, did you bike?  It was 17 degrees out this morning!  Congrats!”  So now the temperature to beat is 15.  I think I can do it.


How can I bike when it’s that cold out?  Layering.

Feet: heavy smartwool socks, and hiking boots.  I’ve loosened up my bike pedals so that the heaftier boots fit into the straps.

Legs: Underarmor thermal layer, hiking pants, rain pants.

Torso: Tee-Shirt and my fancy new jacket (see previous post about still overheating)

Hands: thin insulating gloves, and heavy ski gloves on top.

Head: fleece Balaclava, with a helmet on top.  Safety goggles that I totally didn’t commandeer from work over the eyes.

And do I enjoy it?


No, I don’t enjoy it – I love it.  I love every second of it.  The freezing wind on my cheeks, that first breath of snowy air as I step out of my door…  It’s excellent, and a truly amazing way to start out the day.  Even if I stay indoors for the whole work day, I just feel accomplished when I ride in.


The other question that I get asked a lot is what kind of bike I ride in the winter.  People ask about special snow tires, mountain bikes, and unique brakes that they see on sale.

Honestly – I just ride my normal street bike.

I’ve tried a mountain bike, with the heavy knobby tires and the thick brakes, but I don’t find it to be any better except on ice, and arguably much worse in the snow.

You see, the knobs just get covered in snow when there’s powder, and they just float over the slush, hydroplaning you directly into painsville.  My thin street tires, however, cut right through the snow and slush, and have never floated on me.  Too much weight on the thin strip, I guess.

Ice is another matter, but most of the roads I take are salted – and even on ice, good balance and a steady hand usually win the day, even without studs or fat tires.

So there you have it – bike in the winter, because it’s awesome.  Layer to stay warm, and ride a street bike because I said so.

3 responses »

  1. Keep cycling. You should live in southern Alberta: I do cycle down to -24 degrees C when it’s not too snowy/icy right now.

    @-8 degrees C I wear a medium weight spring cycling jacket, heavy fleecy jacket and long sleeve jersey, just cycling tights and shoes. Am fine for a 15-20 km. ride. Well, we had a recent snowstorm when it plunged down to nearly -40 C in the evening. You’ll see the wild bunny that was very cold on my latest blog. Merry Christmas from snowy Canada. We’re up in the mountains, snowshoeing.

    • Jeeze! A friend of mine lives in Vermont, and it hit -11.9 F (roughly -25C) a few weeks back; I can’t imagine biking when it’s that cold. I run into trouble with my beard freezing when it’s below 20 F (-6 C)… must be kind of interesting when it gets that cold, heh.

      But thanks for the comment! I love the pictures you’ve got!

Leave a Reply