A F-ing Cold Bike Commute (brrrrrrrrrr)

Have I mentioned that winter’s finally come to Chicago?  And she is not messing around.

This morning I biked to work in 15 F temps.  My alley was an ice rink, but the streets and bike lanes were clear and dry.  That’s good, because I haven’t put studded tires on Oma yet.  I was totally comfortable throwing a puffy vest over a wool skirt suit and wool undershirt, plus cotton tights, snow boots, scarf, gloves, and earmuffs.  I stuck heating packs in my mittens and boots, otherwise I wouldn’t have made it.

By the time I arrived at work, I felt refreshed and happy.

Unfortunately, the day grew colder and this outfit proved to be lacking for the commute home.

The temperature on the way home was effing cold:

For the non-Americans out there, that’s:

Plus, it was windy!  As usual.  Windchill of -7 F, -22 C.  By the time I got home, my fingers and toes were in pain (despite the warmers) and my thighs were bright red.  Not gonna lie: my spirits were low.  But now that I’m warmed up, I feel good for the activity and fresh air.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Since I can bike in -4 F temps, today should not have been a problem.  Now that I’ve been harshly reminded of the reality of Chicago winters, I wont be caught unprepared again this year.

Tomorrow happens to be Chicago’s Winter Bike to Work Day, but up to 7 inches of fresh snow are supposed to fall, so forget that.  I won’t be on my bike, especially without studded tires.  Not my idea for fun, but I hope anyone who rides has a good and safe time.

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48 thoughts on “A F-ing Cold Bike Commute (brrrrrrrrrr)

  1. Amy Gawthrop says:

    Geez, that IS f***ing cold! The coldest I’ve ridden in so far is 11(F). That was just dang cold. :)

  2. Carolyn I. says:

    It has been as cold as -41 (both C and F) this past week. I biked Monday and Tuesday but broke down for rides the rest of the week. The wind is what has made it nasty. I could do it as I have all the right gear, but it’s getting better by the weekend, so I am holding off. Interestingly even though I rode only 2 cold days this week, CBC might be interviewing me about ‘deep-cold Winter’ biking sometime..

  3. Carolyn Ibis says:

    It has been as cold as -41 (both C and F) this past week. I biked Monday and Tuesday but broke down for rides the rest of the week. The wind is what has made it nasty. I could do it as I have all the right gear, but it’s getting better by the weekend, so I am holding off. Interestingly even though I rode only 2 cold days this week, CBC might be interviewing me about ‘deep-cold Winter’ biking sometime..

  4. Robert Guico says:

    Ditto. I know it’s cold when I can’t feel my ass at the end of a ride.

    By the time I was heading home, I decided it was better to break my ride up into three segments… because it was 5° when I started, and 0.9° when it was all over. Brr.

    Tomorrow is, unfortunately, out of the question, what with 5-7″ of snow expected.

  5. Robert Guico says:

    Ditto. I know it’s cold when I can’t feel my ass at the end of a ride.

    By the time I was heading home, I decided it was better to break my ride up into three segments… because it was 5° when I started, and 0.9° when it was all over. Brr.

    Tomorrow is, unfortunately, out of the question, what with 5-7″ of snow expected.

  6. Steve A says:

    You have my sympathy. Your 15F biking in temperature equals the coldest we ever got last winter in North Texas. I’ll admit it was a bit colder than I’d prefer. Who knows how cold it’ll get this winter. The coldest we’ve had so far was mid 20’s. I’m not sure I want to see zero around here…

  7. Luke Wilson says:

    Cold in Upstate New York too. I had -8 with -11 windchill the other day, then 22mph winds the next.

  8. Stephen Hodges says:

    Y’all are animals. I commuted last winter in barely subfreezing temps here in the Deep South and felt like such a stud. Maybe not so much…:-)

  9. Audeamus says:

    Y’all are animals. I commuted last winter in barely subfreezing temps here in the Deep South and felt like such a stud. Maybe not so much…:-)

  10. anniebikes says:

    I know, I know, winter caught us unprepared. It’s finally here. I was all set to try and brave 15 degrees this morning when a couple inches of snow fell. We’ve had ice just two days ago so I don’t want to ride on snow and not know where the slippery parts are. Walking sounds great for today.

  11. anniebikes says:

    I know, I know, winter caught us unprepared. It’s finally here. I was all set to try and brave 15 degrees this morning when a couple inches of snow fell. We’ve had ice just two days ago so I don’t want to ride on snow and not know where the slippery parts are. Walking sounds great for today.

  12. David B. says:

    I, and my fellow west Michigan year-round cyclists, were similarly struck by how cold we were on our Thursday commutes. I’m on a Winter cycling list serve and received an update yesterday from Bob VM who is from Chicago but presently teaching in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The weather forecast in Ulaanbaatar is calling for low temps of -40 and colder for the next 10 days. Here’s a shout out to Bob who is my winter biker hero!

    • LGRAB says:

      Shout out to Bob in Mongolia!

      Incidentally, I hope to be stopping by Ulaanbaatar later this year during a trip on the Trans-Siberian/Trans-Mongolian. How long will your friend be living there?

    • LGRAB says:

      Shout out to Bob in Mongolia!

      Incidentally, I hope to be stopping by Ulaanbaatar later this year during a trip on the Trans-Siberian/Trans-Mongolian. How long will your friend be living there?

  13. Stephannie Roy says:

    I’ve been off my bike for over a week. First it was cold and rainy. Then really cold and snowy and now just cold (and the bike lanes are totally clear in Toronto). I guess winter finally decided to make an appearance (though the forecast Monday is 9c and rain–sigh).

  14. DrSteph says:

    I’ve been off my bike for over a week. First it was cold and rainy. Then really cold and snowy and now just cold (and the bike lanes are totally clear in Toronto). I guess winter finally decided to make an appearance (though the forecast Monday is 9c and rain–sigh).

  15. Jack Nolan says:

    Rule #9 noted !

    You go girl.

  16. Coreen says:

    -14C would be really nice right about now. It’s -20 today (before windchill) and feels balmy because of how cold it was earlier this week (with windchills in the -40 to -50 range). I’m sick of dressing like the Michelin man.

  17. Coreen says:

    -14C would be really nice right about now. It’s -20 today (before windchill) and feels balmy because of how cold it was earlier this week (with windchills in the -40 to -50 range). I’m sick of dressing like the Michelin man.

  18. Trisha says:

    I hate the unprepared ride home. Happens to me all the time here. I blame it on my natural optimism! (“It’s not THAT cold.”) Which is also my excuse for my perpetual five-minutes-late-ness (“It only takes 5 minutes to get there!”).

    So basically I’d be freezing my ass off on the way home all the time in your shoes. :) Good thing I’m the Southernly portion of this blog contingent.

  19. Trisha says:

    I hate the unprepared ride home. Happens to me all the time here. I blame it on my natural optimism! (“It’s not THAT cold.”) Which is also my excuse for my perpetual five-minutes-late-ness (“It only takes 5 minutes to get there!”).

    So basically I’d be freezing my ass off on the way home all the time in your shoes. :) Good thing I’m the Southernly portion of this blog contingent.

  20. Tires feel as if they were made of stone at those temps. Difficult to fend off numbness in the extremities!

  21. leafygreen says:

    Have you ever fallen off your bike because of the ice? I slipped on black ice before Christmas- I’m not very experienced and it’s shaken my confidence. I’m scared to go out on my bike if there’s any chance of ice, and I want to go out when it’s all beautiful and frosty!

    • LGRAB says:

      I’ve slipped and fallen on ice once, my first winter in Chicago. Yeah, it sucked, but luckily I was on the lakefront path and not injured. Immediately afterward, I bought studded tires. Highly recommended. Type “studded” into the search box and you’ll find a couple of posts I wrote about them.

    • LGRAB says:

      I’ve slipped and fallen on ice once, my first winter in Chicago. Yeah, it sucked, but luckily I was on the lakefront path and not injured. Immediately afterward, I bought studded tires. Highly recommended. Type “studded” into the search box and you’ll find a couple of posts I wrote about them.

  22. Bchulka says:

    How far is your commute?

  23. Bchulka says:

    How far is your commute?

  24. HOLY FROZEN TOES!!! That’s super cold! It was 10 F on my ride the other morning, but we didn’t have any snow on the ground. I think that makes a huge difference on how cold it feels. Put the white stuff down and it suddenly feels much colder.
    You are a brave woman, Dottie! My hats off to you!!! Keep up the good work. :)

  25. We are finally coming out of a week that saw temperatures here in Calgary plummet to -30c with -40c windchills – not pleasant. After temps like that -20c feels positively summery! What was truly amazing was the numbers of people still cycling. For the curious Twitter people out there, search #yycbike and there are plenty of posts to contemplate.

    Thankfully a chinook has rolled in and we will be above seasonal all next week. Maybe our warm temperatures will eventually get to you?

    Happy Winter cycling To All!

  26. Johnmancino says:

    Dottie, Thats some x-treme cold dear. Hats off to you. Stay warm. John

  27. Johnmancino says:

    Dottie, Thats some x-treme cold dear. Hats off to you. Stay warm. John

  28. John H says:

    More power to you. If its under 40 degrees, the moon and stars must align just right for me to consider riding my 5ish mile commute.

  29. John H says:

    More power to you. If its under 40 degrees, the moon and stars must align just right for me to consider riding my 5ish mile commute.

  30. Angie Kritenbrink says:

    Girl, don’t be a hero! Put on some pants!

    • LGRAB says:

      In my experience, pants are less warm than tights because they don’t hug my leg, but if I put tights under pants, then I’m burning up, unless it’s extremely cold out. Skirts and tights work for me all winter long; my mistake on this particular day was wearing cotton instead of wool tights or not putting my thin wool leggings over my cotton tights. Also, I generally don’t wear pants because I find them extremely uncomfortable, except for some jeans and jeggings, but I can’t wear those to work.

  31. AngieKritenbrink says:

    Girl, don’t be a hero! Put on some pants!

    • LGRAB says:

      In my experience, pants are less warm than tights because they don’t hug my leg, but if I put tights under pants, then I’m burning up, unless it’s extremely cold out. Skirts and tights work for me all winter long; my mistake on this particular day was wearing cotton instead of wool tights or not putting my thin wool leggings over my cotton tights. Also, I generally don’t wear pants because I find them extremely uncomfortable, except for some jeans and jeggings, but I can’t wear those to work.

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