A blog by Joe Thomas
OCTOBER 16, 2012
In my last entry I’d written about how I’d gotten into commuting on a Brompton folding bicycle. This entry is about the gear I use year round without which bicycle commuting wouldn’t be possible every day. In order to be comfortable getting into the office every day on a folding bike, one needs to be wearing the right layers for the current weather- which can change dramatically by the time you leave work at the end of the day. Being in tune with what it’s like outside is key to enjoying your commute.
Before riding your Folding bike, tune yourself into the weather
Besides what you wear, other gear contributes to making your commute a more pleasant experience, or at least a bearable alternative. Let’s start with the piece of gear I use before even getting out of bed. The alarm that goes off at 5:30am every day comes from my Oregon Scientific projection alarm clock. It’s an inexpensive device that projects the current time on my bedroom ceiling. Just as importantly though, it shows the current outside temperature, which it receives accurately from a transmitter outside my house. Just a quick glance before I get up indicates what layers I’ll want to wear on my commute in.
Everyone who lives in the northeastern part of the US knows that weather can change between early morning and evening, sometimes dramatically. With exception to winter and summer, I always have layers with me that can accommodate balmy weather above 60F, down to a frigid 10F, sunny or inclement.
Riding your folding bike: warm weather to cold
Let’s start on the more pleasant side. Above 60F, I wear a moisture wicking T-shirt and trekking shorts.
On my feet, I wear an inexpensive pair of Champion sneakers made of a mesh-like padded material, with an ordinary pair of socks. That’s it.
Between 50F and 60F, I put on a Patagonia long sleeved running top. It’s made of a stretchy material that’s light, blocks wind reasonably well and provides a little warmth. It’s my favorite riding apparel because it compacts well, has two chest pockets (ideal for a cell phone) and an arm pocket.
Between 40F and 50F, I put on a pair of Bellwether Aqua-No pants. These are a must-have for anyfolding bike commuter. Made of a slightly elastic and very breathable material, they wick moisture away so fast your legs hardly have a chance to sweat. They block wind reasonably well and are also surprisingly water resistant; I’ve ridden through driving rain in them and kept mostly dry. All this and yet they’re ultra thin and light, and compact small enough to fit in your pocket. I usually also put on a pair of lightweight cycling gloves mainly to block wind on the way to the train, but get a better grip as a bonus.
When it dips into the 30s I put on merino wool top and long bottoms before adding my other layers. Merino wool is one of the best fabrics for keeping warm during a folding bike commute in the winter, because it’s lightweight, adds substantial warmth, and just as important, it wicks moisture away from your body. It tends to be pricey for an undergarment but you’ll realize it’s money well spent on a chilly day.
Below freezing it’s time to add an outer layer. I wear a Mammut trekking jacket. It’s mainly a shell, light insulation but completely blocks wind. It needs to be light in order to compact in my bag. In addition, I put on a pair of Pearl Izumi “Lobster” gloves.
They’ re winter gloves, but specifically made for cycling. Sort of a cross between a mitten and a glove, they have two fingers each, hence the “lobster” claw. They work really well and have kept my hands very warm on the colder days during the past winter.
Finally, on the really cold days I have heavier weight merino wool top and bottoms. I also add an UnderArmor balaclava, made of a thin material that I can wear under my helmet.
Commuting on the Brompton Bike when the weather turns rough.
This past winter wasn’t as harsh as many I can remember before my brompton commuting, but there were a few days I remember setting off when it was 18F outside without factoring wind chill. Even on those days I was toasty warm.
Well, what happens when fair weather turns inclement, sometimes in the middle of the day? No problem- myBrompton Rack Sack always has what I need. To start with I have a waterproof shell, with a hood that covers my helmet if I need it to. The Bellwether pants I described earlier keep my legs reasonably dry, even in heavy rain.
My Brompton C Bag came with a cover to put over it in wet weather, which has protected it from heavy rain and splashes- always dry when I arrive at my destination. I also put a cheap pair of Totes rubber shoe/boot covers over my sneakers.
In the industry I work in, I don’t need to wear a suit to the office every day, but do need to have corporate casual attire. How do I get that to work every day? In addition to everything else, technology has brought us wonderful new fabrics that are highly wrinkle resistant. I used to be a Brooks Brothers man, but today I wear Eddie Bauer and even LL Bean shirts and pants that look great, and fold nicely to fit into my Brompton Rack Sack. I keep two pairs of shoes at the office.
All the gear I’ve described fits in my Brompton C Bag and rack sack, along with my coffee thermos, water bottle, laptop and lunch. This is what I take with meevery day, along with several other items that make my commute more pleasant or enable me to make minor repairs or adjustments to the Brompton should I need them. I’m not encumbered with a back pack while riding, which leaves you with a sweaty back when you arrive at work. Just comfortable layers, which I can easily add or remove during my commute as needed.
So that’s my cycling gear in a nutshell. If you had been wondering about how you could commute on your Brompton Folding Bike all seasons, doubt no more- just do it!