Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ask Doctor Wally: winter riding

Here's the December 'Ask Wally' column from the Red Dirt Pedaler's newsletter. The Lanterne Rouge piece is over on the Examiner.

Dear Doctor Wally... For the first time, I want to keep riding through the winter this year. What do I need?........... Resolute in Red Fork

First, I admire your determination. Riding through Oklahoma winters can be both challenging and a ton of fun. Here are some brief tips:

If you don't already have fenders on your bike, fit them now. They reduce the grunge factor when riding on wet roads, so you stay cleaner, drier, and perhaps most importantly, warmer than you'd be without them. It's not uncommon for winter riders to have an old beater bike specifically for bad weather. Even if you don't normally ride at night, have lights and reflectors on your bike and be certain that they work.

Get some good quality cycling tights. They come in different weights, some with bib tops, and some with double fronts. They're one winter riding essential. Don't wear sweatpants, long underwear under your shorts, or that big puffy down parka. The first two scream 'dork' and can put you in danger of hypothermia if they get wet. The latter will turn into a wearable sauna. You'll sweat like crazy, then freeze as it evaporates.

Wear multiple thin layers so you can regulate your temperature, and have a bike bag or messenger bag to carry items you have to shed. Keep a balaclava, gloves, and a scarf or neck gator handy. They make a huge difference in comfort.

But most important of all - enjoy those crisp, clear mornings!

Dr. Wally

Next month: CDC finds link between classic French bicycles and dementia in bike collectors.

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Blogger Steve A said...

It's difficult to tell where Dr Wally is being serious here, particularly since I routinely violate about half his rules and carefully obey the other half. Perhaps he will suggest ways to keep one's toes comfy when the wind chill gets into single digits.

Besides, don't neck "gators" bite?

6:25 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...

Wally's columns are meant to be both humorous and informative, Steve, and this one was more on the informative side.

As for keeping your toes warmer - try wearing an additional layer over your torso. Think of it as your body's furnace. If it's warmer, it tries to dump the excess heat by moving blood to the extremities. Adding a layer over your head - like a balaclava rather than a skull cap, or a scarf or 'gator' around the neck - serves the same purpose since so much blood flows through the head, producing heat loss.

And I missed the 'gator' bit. I'll have to instruct my spelling checker.

7:08 PM  
Blogger RANTWICK said...

@ Steve A - It is pretty easy for a Texan to ignore winter riding advice without much of a penalty...

9:46 AM  
Blogger RANTWICK said...

@ Steve A - Texans are at liberty to ignore Winter cycling advice...

9:48 AM  
Blogger Ed W said...

Rantwick, don't be so hard on Steve. I grew up in snow country, so learning to drive on hard pack was a normal part of winter experience. I actually enjoy driving up north in the winter.


Oklahoma and Texas seem to get more ice storms than snow storms. That's a whole different game. It often looks as if the road is merely wet, but there's a skim of ice out there. Throw in strong winds and unpredictable temperatures, and it winter riding or driving can turn into a real adventure! For instance, it was 77F when I left work yesterday afternoon. It's 31F now, and it probably won't get above that.

Now, we can all make fun of California, where winter cycling apparel consists of a long sleeve jersey and daring to go without sunblock.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Steve A said...

California, as in where the Donner Party went.

Say what you will, the outfit at

works well, with the addition of yellow raingear and polyethylene shoe covers if rain is around. The day that photo was shot, it was 11F on the way to work, with a wind chill down in the single digits.

8:11 AM  

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