Freezing Cold?

This week has been pretty cold, around the teens during my commute times, but my bike riding continues unabated. In fact, this evening I sweated so much, in 17 degree weather, that I jumped in the shower as soon as I got home, as if it were summer time. I was wearing a thin wool shirt, wool winter overcoat, wool tights, tweed pants and all the scarf/hat/glove/boot accessories.

Meanwhile, co-workers express amazement and disbelief that I continue to ride in the freezing cold. My usual answer of, “It’s really not so bad,” does not seem to be convincing anyone.

How do you respond to that kind of attention?

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46 thoughts on “Freezing Cold?

  1. Dr Paul Martin says:

    Hi Dottie,

    Beautiful photography (as always)! I only wish I could try riding a bike in the snow.

    I’ve ridden through hot summer thunderstorm. It is great fun and all I need is a waterproof pannier. My wife would add one other thing though… no white tops!

    Keep up the great work you & Trisha do on this blog! The photos, stories and tips are valuable.

    Paul Martin
    Brisbane, Australia

  2. Cherilyn says:

    Just keep smiling and enjoying my strong, trim body!

  3. Carolyn I. says:

    I think we will always get that kind of attention. I just tell them that I am not cold while I bike, as I just dress appropriately.

    Most people get around in nice heated vehicles, so they can’t imagine bicycling outside in the elements. But any activity you do in Winter, ie cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, etc…can actually make you quite warm while you are doing it. Like others have said, it’s much warmer moving then it is to wait for a bus. :)

  4. Daniel Evans says:

    I get some variant of the ‘how can you stand to ride it that” comment all the time regarding our rainy conditions here in Oregon. I just tell them that when you are dressed for it, it’s fun. Just as being in the snow while skiing is a blast as long as one has the proper equipment and attitude.

    Thanks for your wonderful blog,


  5. michelle says:

    my son and I have been biking to his school this winter also and we’ve gotten the same response.
    you really do heat up fast when you’re fully insulated and pedaling.

    silly people

    • Bettina says:

      This morning, when I wanted to get my bike (it sleeps at the train station and takes me the final stretch from the station to the office), I found my bike lock frozen. I couldn’t even get the key in. Any hints on how I might get it defrosted?

      • Hi, Dottie!

        Wonderful pictures! We have snow here in Paris from yesterday, but it was not very fun to get on the bike (even this morning while melting), as we are not very used to! It was an awful mess, and still is…


      • David says:

        A piece of inner tube slipped over the lock at the key hole (you are using a flat-key U-lock, aren’t you?) will keep water away.

      • cycler says:

        For actually getting the key in, you can buy “lock de-icer” in most hardware stores. You can also take a thermos of very hot water and douse the lock. Unfortunately you’ll have the same problem the next day unless you get all the water out with heat/ some kind of rubbing alcohol or something like the lock de-icer.

        • Bettina says:

          Thanks guys! I’ll get my hands on some lock de-icer and then try and find something to cover the lock in the future.

      • mark says:

        At the construction site we use a bic lighter to heat the end of the lock for about ten seconds, just enough to melt the small amount of ice in there, stick the key in immediately and turn. a squirt of wd-40 will keep it from refreezeing.

  6. Miss Sarah says:

    The last thing I have left to conquer with winter biking is the knees. My knees get really cold. I’m going to see if my mom will crochet or knit me some warmers I can just wear over my pants/tights.

    I think when people see me take off my coat and I look cute they just shut up. Or maybe it’s my teacher’s glare?

  7. Yesterday I parked my bike at one of the coffee shops where I usually go to do work, and the barrista saw me locking it up. “Do you ride all winter?” he asked, in disbelief. We began talking about winter riding, and all the while he was sort of stunned and explaining why he did not feel confident to ride in the winter. Skinny tires, no fenders, slippery conditions, the cold… I introduced him to the concept of an all-weather bike, but I could tell that he did not really believe me. Sigh.

  8. Amy says:

    When people ask me how I can continue to ride in the cold, I just tell them that people go out in the cold and snow to go skiing and snowboarding. Nobody questions the sanity of that, so why is it so crazy to ride a bike in the same conditions? At least with the bicycle, you don’t need special gear. At the same time, around here people are amazed anytime of year that someone with a car and a valid license will willingly choose to ride a bicycle instead of using the car.

  9. 2whls3spds says:

    I saw a comparison between cars, mass transit and cycling in the cold somewhere:

    35 minute bike ride, walk 10 minutes to the subway station in the cold, stand in cold station for 10 minutes, 15 minute ride on semi warm subway, 10 minute walk to the office. Spend 10 minutes warming car and scraping ice of windshield, 20 minute plus drive some of that in the cold), 5 minute walk in cold from parking area to office.

    With the 35 minute bike ride you are pretty much warm the whole time if you dressed appropriately, getting exercise and generally improving your out look.


    • sascha says:

      very cool (cold?) study, I’ll have to remind my co-workers about those little details! Most live extremely far from the office so they can’t ride (and wouldn’t anyway…) so I’m not trying to convince anyone to ride. I use the “have you ever gone skiing… outside?” question.

  10. 2whls3spds says:

    should have been an OR in there…


  11. Frits B says:

    Winter cyclist in Amsterdam (it does look a bit posed, but yet …):

    Everything’s white outside these days.

  12. Roberta says:

    Sometimes I answer serious and sometimes I don’t! The think that gets me is that they almost always ask, “Aren’t you cold?” as I’m taking off the layers and wiping the sweat off my brow and fanning myself.

    Truthfully, yes, my thighs are cold and they often take a good hour to warm up but I don’t really feel that. My knees get cold and man I’d like knee warmers but I think that would look funny!

    I’ve allowed the kids and I time off right now we’re in the – 18 C weather right now and the eldest doesn’t have the right pants. Otherwise we cycle just fine!

  13. Holly says:

    I’ve got a cold so today’s the first day I’m not going to ride.

    My friend likes this one best, and I’d have to agree with her: “I hate being cold more than anything. That’s why I ride my bike all winter.”

    I’m already dreading not being on my bike today. It’s 15º at 8 a.m. Gosh! It’ll probably get up to 25 today! Balmy.

  14. Dottie, funny you ask because yesterday we just had this exact same discussion on our Milwaukee bike to work listserv (milbtw yahoo group). My usual elevator answer is that it is easier to ride in the cold than the heat. In December I can always add another layer, but in August I can only take off so many layers before I get arrested.

  15. John says:

    When people ask how you ride in the winter, they’re not really asking a question but making a point that you’re doing something that is, to them, abnormal.

    To coin Eric Berne, it’s a game just like ‘Why Don’t You… Yes But’.

    This is my third winter cycling and I’m getting the same questions from the same people that were asked last year and the year before that.

    They don’t want to know how I do it, they’re just making a strangely worded exclamation.

    I haven’t been able to come up with a reply that works – I mean the questioner is not really looking for a dialogue or to learn anything. Now I just mutter something about layering up and pass it off as no big deal – i.e. make their exclamation as trivial as possible, as if they were saying something non-sensical like ‘OMG, you’re wearing SHOES!!!!!’

    It’s kind of sad that some people are just like that, but what can you do?

  16. Michael says:

    I tell people you just need to layer and it is really not a big deal. They still think I am crazy. The only thing I don’t like is that I probably spend about 30 minutes between dressing and then changing at work and changing again for the ride home. I do like having my bike lit up like a Christmas tree, Venus is out when I leave, and I usually get to see incredible sunrises on the way in.

    • Treesounds says:

      I agree, the prep time for cold weather riding certainly add a lot of minutes, and that is a little annoying. But if I miss a day, take the car or bus, then I really miss it. I hate the bus and driving a car!

    • cris says:

      a friend of mine on Facebook posted as their status update: “The one thing I love about winter riding is that getting ready every morning makes me feel like I’m suiting up to go into outer space.”


    • Renae says:

      Beautiful photos!
      You know, I just can’t appreciate the kind of cold you ride in because it doesn’t snow here or get much below 10’C. I do know from riding here in Winter though that so long as you’re dressed appropriately you get pretty warm pretty fast! Keep on riding!

  17. cris says:

    personally, it’s not the coworkers who don’t ride but ask questions that bum me out. I’m used to that. It’s the coworkers who ride during the spring and summer; and stop after the first cold snap — and the look of guilt that crosses their face when they see me come in with my balaclava and heavy gloves. I don’t want to discourage them or make them think that they’re “too wimpy” to bike commute just because of a little winter.

  18. David says:

    Sure, I get the OMGURSOHARDCORE!! comments sometimes, but it’s not something to get bothered over. Whether meant as a question or as a statement, I respond good-naturedly. It was 8F when I was out at 7A today but it felt rather nice! I often point out that it’s bunches easier to stay warm (except for my poor hands) riding than it is walking.

    I am The Guy Who Rides To Work at my office, so I usually only get comments of surprise when I drive to work, about once a month.

  19. Treesounds says:

    Well, I get comments no matter time of year! LOL!! So when Wisconsin winter hits I really get the comments. I’m tired of it. So I don’t say much anymore, just “it’s not that bad, mumble, mumble….”.
    I get a few questions on whether or not I wipe out sometimes. I say I’m usually not in the mood for wiping out.

  20. NancyB says:

    I don’t ride as much as I like during the winter but, I just bought some wool tights to put on under my pants. I’m hoping this will do the trick and will encourage me to bike more. In case anyone is in the market, Orvis has Smartwool tights on sale for $29 on their website. I thought this was a good deal. An early Christmas present for me!

  21. Jonathan R says:

    Nice pictures, and great comments above. I stick with one standard response to “Aren’t you cold?” “I make my own heat.”

  22. […] has also still been to ride my bike around, even though everyone is just being shocked about what superheroes the lady and I are. Note that link is to an article about biking in Chicago, which is a whole nother kettle of fish. […]

  23. Melissa says:

    When my mother tried to lecture me about riding in the dark winter evenings, I told her I feel much less likely to get mugged zipping down the road than moseying down the sidewalk. That worked!

  24. Julie says:

    My co-workers aren’t surprised, but in New York City there are still as many delivery guys on bikes as there were in decent weather, so I’m definitely not alone.

    There are drastically less speed-racers on road bikes whizzing around Central Park.

  25. Scott says:

    Yesterday, as I was leaving the Sears Tower late at night, I walked into the parking garage with a guy who said “if it’s this cold in here, we’re really in trouble outside.” He was stunned when I told him I was riding a bike. All he could say was, “in those clothes?!” (I was wearing a suit and wool coat).

    They think it is so impressive to ride a practical bike when the weather is cold. But they are so wrong! I am warmer than all the schlubs who stand up on the exposed L platforms waiting for their heated trains.

    It has been a good cold weather season for me so far. There have been some cold toes, but otherwise it has been a real dandy.

  26. Doug D says:

    Everyone who asks has probably never tried biking in the cold. I usually point this out and mention that all the folks I know who have tried winter cycling have liked it. I’m not a superbeing, it just isn’t as hard, cold or far as everyone thinks.

  27. I hate the cold and get cold easily. If I didn’t have my morning ride to warm up I don’t think I would ever warm up on those chilly days. But people do find it hard to understand that I ride IN the cold because I hate BEING cold.

  28. Murphy says:

    usually i just smile slyly and play up my badassery.

    i saw someone on the street yesterday, she was on foot, and she yelled at me and my co-biking housemate: “it’s snowing, what are you doing biking?!”. so i yelled back “we’re awesome! we know! we’re awesome!”…

    by the time we were another block the wind was whipping into my face and i was shrieking in time with gusts of wind. but noone besides bikers-in-solidarity can know that i get cold and uncomfortable.

  29. Nicole says:

    There’s also something incredibly uplifting for me about layering up and getting ready to ride. It’s not nearly as cold here in the south east of England as it is in Chicago, minimum -4 or -5 in the day so I think you’re all awesome for riding in it. But I’m much warmer on the bike than I ever was, shivering from car to train to office. I get less colds, I feel more energised and I feel pretty good about myself, without being smug. All these comments really inspire me too. I love the community you two are building up here, Dottie and Trisha.

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