How Egalitarian Is Cycling?

Background Reading

The Joy of Winter Cycling/Winter book
Posted by Tom A.K. on November 19, 2014 at 10:08pm

Winter Bike Touring Clothes

Cycling in the cold and snow is not impossible. This past winter I spent two months cycling in and around the mountains of Switzerland and these are the clothes I wore while out on my bike. Not only did these items help to keep me warm and dry when cycling my way  through ice, snow, rain and mud, but they (for the most part at least) kept me from overheating and getting sweaty.

winter-clothing-bike-tourin

  1. Giro Xen Helmet
  2. Scott Snow Goggles
  3. Seirus Innovation Ultra Clava Winter Face Mask
  4. Fox Racing Jersey
  5. Hurley Lightweight Jacket
  6. Burton Snowboarding Jacket
  7. Men’s DKNY Watch
  8. Dakine Snow Gloves
  9. Road I.D. 
  10. Patagonia Snow Pants
  11. Warm Ski/Snowboard Socks
  12. Shimano Men’s Multi-Purpose Cycling Sneaker

What kind of clothes do you wear when cycling in the winter?

Summary

You read a great deal about how wonderfully egalitarian cycling is. It appeals to many Millenials because it holds the promise of being a mode of transportation open to all regardless of income or social background. And that is a good thing! But is it really possible to be a full-time commuter in urban areas where snow and ice are the norm during winter?

What got me to thinking once again about this was a recent thread begun on the ChainLink Forum. I was curious about the book mentioned and began reading through the various links posted. But when I came to the link on how to dress for winter riding I was once again struck by how expensive good clothing and accessories really are!

Club-level riders often spend the money to stay warm and dry. But to do this well often means spending far more money than your average low-wage earner could ever afford. And even if you manage to get the clothing you need there is still the bike and its ‘winter-worthiness‘ that needs to be considered.

And of course there is always the possibility that your bike’s tires will puncture and you are stranded until help arrives.

My Online Shopping Effort

Giro Xen Helmet White $64.99
Scott Adult Duel Black Amp Snow Goggles $32.99
Seirus Men’s Ultra Clava $39.99
Fox Racing jersey $34.99
Hurley Lightweight Jacket (All City Biker) $130.00
Burton Snowboarding Jacket (Stone Block Jacket) $200.00
Men’s DKNY Watch $112.00
Dakine Snow Gloves $23.95
Road I.D. $29.99
Patagonia Snow Pants $149.00
Warm Ski/Snowboard Socks $22.00
Shimano Men’s Multi-Purpose Cycling Sneaker $100.00
Marathon Winter HS 396 $84.05
Marathon Plus Tour HS 404 $63.05

Marathon Plus (Flatless Tires)


TakeAways

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Mikael Colville-Andersen on ‘Dressing for the Destination’

Assuming your inquiries are as superficial as were mine you will probably come up with pricing that is similar to what I found. Clearly someone who is struggling financially and perhaps with a family to feed will find that the costs of ‘good clothing‘ and gear‘ for winter can be daunting. I am under no illusions that this stuff is not invaluable in very bad weather.

If you are stranded it becomes even more important that the clothing be sufficient to keep you warm enough to find a ‘Plan B‘ for getting either home or into work. Of course nothing on this list of items really address what you do when you live in Buffalo, New York and are dealing with 6 feet of snow!

If you are a city resident and have CTA as a bailout, great! If you live in the suburbs or something more rural, you have better consider the best possible gear and be prepared to pay for it. The point of course is that when we start blathering about egalitarian forms of transport bicycles are not quite there yet, especially if we are talking year ’round commuting in places like Chicago or Minnesota or Wisconsin or… You get the idea.

Finally, let me address the rather ‘bullshit‘ idea that you can merely ‘dress for the destination‘. That might work in Copenhagen but it is clearly not advisable in sub-zero temperatures. In fact as a long-time motorist I do not venture out sub-zero temperatures without space blankets, flares, long underwear and a heavy coat, cap and gloves.

I know from personal experience that waiting for a tow truck to arrive is dicey when the temperatures drop. A flat on a dark winter night, miles from nowhere can be deadly. So I stay prepared. I even bring water to slake my thirst because I know from experience that winter weather means very low humidity and if you are breathing you are losing moisture from your body. You probably lose more in that manner during winter than on the hottest of summer days.

About Helmets In Cold

Absolutely worthwhile in my estimation. I have a winter helmet from Giro that is designed for snow boarding use. What is really neat about it is that in addition to the liner than keeps your head warm in sub-zero temperatures it has a mount from my GoPro. So even in winter I can film should I care to. And one more thing, it is a high-visibility orange color!

Last winter a woman in Chicago was heading home from a bar (drunk of course) and made a wrong turn in the dark. She evidently either went into water or fell down an embankment and froze to death. That sort of thing is not uncommon. She was in her late twenties if memory serves. But regardless if you are riding a two-wheeled bike in winter and slip and fall, you are likely to be concussed. That means you can suffer head trauma that causes a brain bleed. So wear a helmet.

Let the Danes do whatever the hell they want. I refuse to argue with stupid people. And believe you me there are tons who find Mikael Colville-Andersen some sort of guru. Me not so much. I like his ideas on how bikes should be built (old school with lugged steel frames and head badges) but aside from that his views are often worthless. Who the hell dresses for a cozy 70 °F office room when riding to work in sub-zero temperatures?

That sort of advice is almost criminal. And shame on John Greenfield for even spreading that crap! Sheesh! It is difficult enough to ride a bike (especially a two-wheeled upright) in snow and ice and bitterly cold wind without having to slog through bullshit in the process.