Ditch the Coat, Grab the Coffee

My new year of bike commuting is starting out very well. I’ve been taking city streets and feeling zen about everything. At least 10 other riders traveled my route this morning, a high number for winter. I even ran into another rider I know at a stoplight. The weather is dry and cold-but-not-too-cold (teens F). A few simple changes have improved my winter commute even more: ditching the coat and scarf and bringing along hot coffee to sip. This may sound goofy to some, but it works for me.

I’ve been hot in my wool coat, so this morning I critically surveyed my overstuffed coat rack and picked out a Patagonia vest, which worked perfectly over my cashmere sweater. My arms are never cold anyway, and my armpits didn’t overheat today (yes, I said armpits). I also chose not to wear a scarf. Unless it’s super cold out, a scarf makes the situation worse: my glasses fog up at stop lights, my nose gets snotty and my neck sweats. A cold face does not really bother me, especially compared with these complications. Cold digits remain my weakness, which I’m resigned to at this point, but if anyone knows of good electric mittens (not chemical glove-warmers, which were a disappointment), lemme know.

I ~love~ sipping hot coffee at stop lights with the cupholder I bought last month. Words cannot describe how pleasurable hot coffee feels in the freezing cold. Funny how the simple act of drinking coffee from my cupholder draws looks (more than usual) from drivers and people waiting at bus stops. The Soma mug is not great, as Julian of Totcycle warned(wish I’d seen this before!). I traded it with my usual coffee mug, but there’s still some splattering. A sacrifice I’m willing to make for hot coffee.

Everyone’s different when it comes to winter commuting. Some may think it’s crazy to wear only a vest, while others manage to keep their feet warm with regular sneakers, while others sip…whiskey? How about you – trying anything new? (If you live in a warm climate, feel free to gloat.)

p.s. If anyone’s interested in Batavus, Abici or Velorbis, these brands are discounted at Copenhagen Cyclery. If you know of any other sales out there, please post the info in the comments.

p.p.s. I should have said before, huge thanks to Trisha for creating this new site.  I supplied the vague ideas, she did the actual work :)

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42 thoughts on “Ditch the Coat, Grab the Coffee

  1. Anne Hawley says:

    How long does hot coffee stay hot in the teensF?

    The weather here has warmed up to it more usual 40s and raining, but I agree with your general principle: it’s easy to overdress for cold-weather cycling. I’ve arrived half burning-up from too many layers a couple of times, especially if my head is over-bundled.

    I love your fun, colorful winter look!

  2. Dottie says:

    @Anne Hawley – Thanks! In the Soma mug, the coffee did not even stay hot for half the ride (usually about 40 minutes ’cause I’m slow in winter), but in my regular travel mug the coffee stayed hot or at least warm the whole time. I usually finish it a little before my last stop light :)

  3. Women have armpits?
    Shame on you fir suggesting such ideas!

    I have a collection of down vests from having lived in Northern NH. I wear them in November, but today? Parka. Of course my rides are not 40 minutes long like yours; if they were I’d probably get hot too.

    You are seriously pushing me over the edge to get a coffee holder for my handlebars! What I’d really like actually is to get one that straps to the inside of the basket, but that’s probably complicated to rig up.

  4. Julian says:

    Yes, coffee in an upgraded mug has been making me happy too. But the big new thing for my more temperate Seattle winter is a merino zipped hoodie I got for xmas (closeout Nau – the only Nau I can afford). Perfect mid-layer, and the hood fits well under my helmet, so I don’t have to schlep a hat around anymore. Easy to ventilate on hills too, and SO cozy off the bike, as it’s knit quite soft and fuzzy inside. I wear it every day. My wife may need to start hiding it soon.

  5. philippe says:

    A patagonia vest ? Be careful, next thing you know, you’ll be wearing goretex and lycra…

    I do not deal with those frigid temperature you have in Chicago. In Paris, our typical winter are in between 40 and 20 F°. But I find myself hesitating between technical gear (windstopper and ski underwear) and a regular wool coat for my upper body. My commute is 8 miles one way with some climbing and I tend to over heat in reguilar clothes.
    I think the key is layering. I usulaly peel off a layer of clothes during the trip, as heat build up.
    Regular leather gloves and shoes are fine.

  6. Christie says:

    Hey Dottie

    I am so impressed that you’re out there facing the snow – it’s summer here now and it never gets cold enough to snow anyway so I couldn’t ever imaging being in your position!
    Beautiful new website by the way!

  7. Like the new website. The coffee cup is a great idea, I’ll have to see what’s possible in Europe, Unfortunately the Xreacycle can’t take any more on the handlebars, but the Bakfiets might.

  8. nuliajuk says:

    Whiskey would be a bad idea! Sounds tempting, but brings blood to the surface of the skin where it cools down even faster.
    I have a hoody in a soft wicking fabric – one of those poly knits. It makes a good first layer for winter activities and fits under my helmet as it’s so thin.

  9. The site looks great! Knowing no web design skills myself, I’m very impressed.

  10. anna says:

    Not much new ideas for winter cycling (finally got a lot of snow too, so I count myself in :)). I always had problems with cold fingers as I had to start to write by hand as soon as I arrived at university. For a while I carried pocket warmers with me, but I never actually used them. Rubbing my hands after arrival is more efficient :).

  11. welshcyclist says:

    As usual you look fantastic with your bike, I am so envious that there are girls, as good looking as yourselves, out there riding their bikes, commuting. Here it seems to be just grumpy middle aged men, like myself. But to get to a more serious point, I’ve been off my commute now for almost 3 weeks, because of snow and ice, how do you cope ?

  12. Step-Through says:

    I love my cup holder, although it is on the wrong bike at the moment. I found a cup that worked great. It’s from the evil empire (a.k.a. Starbucks) and has a plastic/rubber arm that flips down and completely seals all of the holes. I looked on their website and it looks like they still have flip-top mugs for sale. You also have to make sure the lid gasket is dry and seated tightly when you put it on…

    I am really impressed by your ability to stay warm though! I must be cold-blooded. It has been upper teens in Georgia and I finally stayed warm today – with 2 wool sweaters, a down parka, hat, scarf, tights, and the insulated winter boots I swore I would never wear in the South.

  13. E A says:

    Hey Dottie, I’m back to riding this week! :-) Yay! I still swear by my REI brand mitts. They are big and cumbersome, but my digits are warm (so far) and I either layer with the WinterSilks liners or wool liners from the army/navy surplus store (not fashionable, but no one sees ‘em!). :-)

    As for me, I like having a warm neck up to my chin, so I like wearing turtleneck sweaters. I’ve been keeping my face exposed for the most part – it does reduce fogging when I’m just wearing glasses and not goggles.

  14. I rode with coffee this morning and praised the heavens for it. I have a contigo “autoseal” mug (from Target) – there’s a button you press to open it – I just put it in my bottle cage and it was still hot when I got to work. Perfection!

    I’m still trying to figure out the glove situation too. My thinner gloves left my digits frozen yesterday. This morning I rode with my snowboarding gloves and they are just too cumbersome. I couldn’t feel my brake levers and fumbled around too much. Trial and error!

  15. G.E. says:

    Thank you much for the info about the bicycle sale this month! One never knows when a new bicycle could be “necessary.” :o)

    I’m also curious… I’m not much of a coffee drinker (too hyper as it is), but I am in search of a similar style holder that will hold a standard (I think they’re 24 oz?) water bottle on the handlebar. I would prefer this to the frame mounted style (which I know are far more common). Do you know if this style of cup holder would hold one of these bottles?

    As for winter cycling… I’m with you, the scarf tends to over heat me, unless it’s REALLY cold. I’m okay until I start climbing hills and then the overheating begins, and I start shedding layers. I always figure I’d rather have too much though and shed as I go. Finding the perfect layering system seems to be tough, as our winter weather can be anywhere from negative temps (not as common) to mid-forties, or higher sometimes.

  16. Vee says:

    the vest is a good idea. For me the armpit sweat factor really sucks and this is why I haven’t wanted to ride the sorte in cold weather. I’m a scarf girl though- need a scarf even in early Oct. My neck must be wrappyed. I’m not onthe bike for long ( one mile jaunts in winter) so I try to ignore the fingers. But yeah 40 minutes with that degree of cold would do me in. I have no advice though. My pinky is still cold from biking an hour ago!!!

  17. donna says:

    I’m so jealous! Right now I have a broken fender so I haven’t been able to take my bike out in the slush. And I need snow tires. I found a decent pair of mitts that keep my hands warm – they are wool made from old sweaters with some time of fleece liner inside – but I can’t stand my face getting cold because my skin cracks from the windburn. But yeah, scarfs are a hassle. I was going to try just a neckwarmer.

  18. Molly says:

    Amazing what a heavy bike can do to keep you warm! I can see why you only need a vest. When I ride my dutch bike with my boyfriend on his track bike, he is freezing and bareley working while I’m at a light jog and heat up quickly.

    I actually love that I can work hard enough to stay warm on it without having to race through city streets.

  19. Elaine says:

    14F?! wow. If I get coffee-like drinks, I usually put my travel mug in the bottle cage — fits perfectly. Then again, I don’t generally have enough stops to be taking sips during my ride. :)

  20. Trisha says:

    Thanks for the kudos, but don’t discount your own contributions — our beautiful sidebar, for one!

    I will have to give my vest/cape another shot, with a wool baselayer. My arms do get cold if I am not properly dressed; a coat saves me from having to think about it too much. As for coffee, I think I have one of the Starbucks mugs recommended by @Step-Through, but nothing to balance it in. Like LB I am considering a front basket (!! yes, I said it) with a cupholder built in. There’s an empty clementine crate at my house that is begging to be part of a DIY project!

  21. whet moser says:

    Love the new site, btw.

    Those Velorbis are heat, but out of my price range for the time being even with the sale. I’ve heard great things about the Kona Africa Bike, which seems similar in concept; thinking about it. There’s also a sale on Flying Pigeons at Flying Pigeon LA, sort of the Chinese equivalent of the Dutch bike.

    Speaking of classic bikes, this antique Schwinn looks kind of awesome for a project bike.

  22. whet moser says:

    Oh, and in re coffee mugs, I love my Bodum french press travel mug. Not bike tested yet, however; I have a short commute.

  23. [...] have a good setup for snow and ice, but for now I’ll just read about it on blogs like Let’s Go Ride a Bike and be very, very [...]

  24. Amy says:

    I have yet to figure out the perfect winter cycling clothing combination. My problem is that I’m either climbing up steep hills and getting really hot, or speeding down the other side of the hill getting really cold. I have about 1/2 a mile of flat land out of a 6 mile commute, and then once I get there, I’m working outside (caring for and training miniature donkeys) for the next 4 hours. So trying to find a balance that works for the commute + working outside has been tricky. I knit my own wool mittens and hats, and those are wonderful! I’ve been meaning to knit some vests and pullover sweaters that I don’t mind thrashing at the barn. On really cold (below 20 F) I have some rabbit skin/fur lined mittens that are so warm my fingers sweat!

  25. Dottie says:

    @Amy – I am fascinated by your job! I wish I could give you some advice for the ups and downs of your commute, but that’s not something I’ve had to deal with. I probably could not break my no-fur rule for mittens, even if they actually kept my fingers warm. I would think about my cats too much. Maybe I could find some vintage fur mittens that are just laying around gathering dust anyway.

  26. Amy says:

    I bought my fur mittens second hand, so I don’t feel too guilty about them. I do have to keep them away from my 5 felines though! Donkeys, yes, quite the interesting job. Not something I would have ever envisioned myself doing, but after many years at a computer, it’s a refreshing change. If you want to see some cute photos of them, go to appalachianfarmstead.com. @Dottie@Dottie@Dottie -

  27. My tips?

    Focus my winter diet on warming foods that improve circulation and pay attention to how I breathe.

  28. Angie says:

    I was all prepared to gloat, but the high is 37 degrees here in Orlando! :( The only upside is that your fabulous site (love the new design, btw) has me all excited to try riding in tights and a wool skirt. :P

    I also read Julian’s review and was thinking about this (or something like it) for a coffee holder (though it’s not nearly as svelt): http://www.amazon.com/Liquid-Caddy-Drink-Holder-Different/dp/B000ZPPMC6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1262963911&sr=8-3-fkmr2

  29. hollyn Michaels says:

    I don’t know about electric mittens but Asics Winter Run mitt is AMAZING! it may as well be electric. The outside is windproof and the inside is roomy soft warm fleece. When I run with it on my hands sweat like none other, even in -10 windchill. And even when I’m just walking around with them on my hands stay toasty.

  30. David says:

    Love your blog. I broke my collarbone two days after Christmas, sledding. I was winter bicycle commuting. But my doctor said no bike for 3 months. So I’m riding vicariously through you girls.

  31. Academichic says:

    This post in particular made me miss Nerp so much – it’s that dang cupholder, I was sooo excited about mine to use for my coffee mug and seeing you with yours brings back sweet memories! Happy cycling and coffee sipping! S.

  32. sara says:

    I bought Soma coffee ring holders/mug sets too & TOTALLLLLLLLLY hate the mug– Crappily made (our slider tops never really close, which is completely unhelpful for traveling, esp. when trying to ride). I, too, wish I had seen Julian’s review before because $40 is an investment. They should just sell the ring for half the cost & let us all find good travel mugs. *Sigh* But oh, how I love, love, love my coffee!

  33. jennifer says:

    What a neat webiste! I just bought a bike and was surfing around for commuting tips. Love the coffee idea!

  34. Doug D says:

    I endorse the thermos brand travel mugs. I got mine at MEC.ca but I am sure that they have them in other places.
    I just hook the handle over the edge of the cargo box or clip the carabiner to something.
    They will keep a hot coffee hot for about an hour in -40!

  35. Amanda says:

    For cold hands, I am surprised you can get away with those thin gloves in sub 40’s F temps. When it dipped down to the teens in Seattle earlier this winter, I resorted to my snowboarding mittens which fit nicely over my thin gloves. Dorky, yes, but I would have been frostbitten without them. The mittens I have fit over my sleeves about halfway up the forearem, so they are pretty easy to pull on and seal off the cold from entering my sleeve.

  36. nowhere says:

    I’ve never tried electric mittens but a few years ago I tried a pair of electric socks during a cold, cold late October glider flight and they worked WONDERFULLY. They had a separate battery pack and controller were still going strong after three hours. I can’t remember the brand. I never bought a pair because most of my flying is in warmer weather (and even “cold” weather in Vancouver usually isn’t really cold) and they cost about $200. I didn’t do much riding in the Winter back then so it didn’t occur to me to get them for cycling (could have used them last Winter though!) A similar pair of mittens would likely work well but also cost quite a bit.

  37. Ava Davis says:

    our local shop is giving away some free coffe mugs that are also of high quality,”*,

  38. Molly Moore says:

    i always use Ceramic Coffee mugs because they are quite tough, i dropped them on the floor without breaking.`*

  39. ceramic coffee mugs are the ones that i prefer to use because they last longer ”

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  42. Decore Essentials says:

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    Coffee Mug Sets

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