Dressed to Chill

by CycleChick on January 21, 2012

Well this is more like it. THIS is badass Winnipeg winter.

Since I started this madness that is winter commuting, I’ve had all sorts of people asking what I wear when I ride. Needless to say I am always delighted to share my fashion advice, albeit of the frumpy and androgynous variety.

I thought I’d need to spend a fortune on gear, but so far I’ve managed with items I already had around the house, pinpointing through trial and error things that I need to upgrade to be warmer or more comfortable. I’ve given up on attractive.

So let’s start from the outside in, and from the top down, shall we? I call this the “Honey Badger Winter 2012 Collection”. If you make it to the end, I promise to make it worth your while.

Outer Layer
Here I am in full honey badger regalia. And you wonder why I resisted commuting.

01. My helmet is the one I use year round and cost more than the bike I ride to commute. Not even joking. I’ve had to adjust the neck strap to fit over all the bullshit I have to wear to keep my head warm, and I’ve attached a blinking red light to the back with clear packing tape. It’s ghetto, but it works.

02. Ski goggles. Just a cheap pair I had already had. They don’t fog up like regular sunglasses when I cover my eyes and nose. They also keep my eyes sheltered from road debris, wind, and snow – which can feel like tiny ninja throwing stars on unprotected eyeballs.

03. Hubby’s Columbia shell. A bit big and bulky, but it’s windproof and keeps a warm cushion of nice dry air around my body, which is great when I’m sweating like a Texas linebacker. Plus I have enough pockets to keep a mickey of vodka and half the contents of my house.

04. Hubby’s garbage mitts. Not sure why they are called garbage mitts, but it  makes me think of fish skeletons and empty tin cans. They are warm as hell and I like that they go really high so my wrists are covered. I can’t see my watch though. No matter – it’s motherfucking freezing o’clock.

05. Ski pants. When I was a kid there was nothing that would get you beat up faster than wearing ski pants. I still hate them, but they do keep me warm. I will also point out the reflective ankle band on my right leg – it keeps my ugly ski pants from getting caught in my chain rings and making me do an endo into traffic. I’m NOT dying in fucking ski pants.

06. Ugly Columbia boots. Sylish, no, but if there’s anything I hate more than ugly footwear it’s missing toes. After 30 minutes in extreme cold my toes are very cold. I’ll likely invest in some equally hideous Neos overshoes. I wonder if they’ll fit over my slingback pumps.

Warmth Layer
Sheep may not be the smartest animals, but they are tasty and their wool is great for making clothes that keep us warm and dry.

01. Balaclava. I swore I would never wear one of these, but when faced with the possibility of losing my nose, I reluctantly surrendered. One of the offspring used this one for hockey when he was four, so it’s a little small. And it’s fleece (which ironically contains no sheep products) so it gets all wet and clammy. But it will come in handy when I go rob Mountain Equipment Coop for a better one.

I also wear a headband to keep my ears warm and to block out the sound of assholes who yell at me for having the nerve to ride a bike on the road.

02. Neck Warmer. To properly complete the ninja look, I recommend the use of a neck warmer. Sure it makes you look a bit like a turtle (a NINJA turtle), but it keeps my neck and throat warm, thus protecting my melodious singing voice. Shut up Kristen.

03. Merino Wool Cycling Jersey. The retro-er the better. This is, after all, your only opportunity to have any cycling credibility or sex appeal whatsoever. So work it.

04. Long Johns. Yes, the indignity never ends. These are an old pair from my running days. I’d love a pair of nice Helly Hansen ones (sponsorship welcome), but these ones do the job. (A trap door would be handy for longer rides).

05. Wool Socks. Wet feet suck and will freeze up like a couple of game hens in no time flat. I’ve heard of people coating their feet with everything from vaseline to baby powder to antiperspirant. I haven’t had to resort to this yet, instead I’ve opted for good quality wool socks from deFeet, Sock Guy, or SmartWool.

Base Layer
Technically, this isn’t really a “base layer”. If you buy “base layer” stuff at the store it’s considered thermals and the like. But this isn’t necessarily by the book, this is just my base layer. The important thing here is comfort. You’re going to look stupid regardless and nobody sees this stuff anyway.
01. Wicking shirt. Personally I don’t really like the feel of wool directly on my skin. I am a delicate flower of a girl after all, as you can tell by the colour of my shirt. Under this I wear a sports bra – unless you are a woman or a triathlete, you can skip this step.

02. Cycling shorts. We are, after all, riding bikes are we not?

03. Extra socks. I only wear these on the coldest days because my boots aren’t quite warm enough. It’s important your boots aren’t too tight. Again, a nice cushion of warm air is important.

And under that, well, I’m naked and look something like this:

Please excuse the gratuitous badger shot.

I thought winter commuting would be really challenging, but it’s really not hard at all. The hardest part is getting the gear dialed in for the conditions that day. On most occasions I have been overdressed, arriving at work an overheated, sweaty mess. But once the gear is put away and I’ve taken some time to fix myself up, no one is the wiser.

It may not take any particular toughness to commute in the cold, but I do take great satisfaction in it nonetheless. It’s better for the planet, more fun, great exercise, and people think I’m totally badass. And I’m not going to tell them any different.


Awesome post!!

by Jp on January 21, 2012 at 8:55 pm. Reply #

Great post.Massive respect to you

by mark norris on January 21, 2012 at 9:14 pm. Reply #

You = badass

Me = fatass

That is all..

Nice post!

by Greg on January 21, 2012 at 9:28 pm. Reply #

great blog and anyone that rides a bike in -20s and -30s is fecking hard as nails badass ……….

by Fred Quimby on January 21, 2012 at 10:23 pm. Reply #

Another convert. Welcome.

by The Brad on January 21, 2012 at 11:49 pm. Reply #

Nice. Your on your way to Arrowhead.

by Halberto on January 21, 2012 at 11:54 pm. Reply #

One other thing, try plastic bags between your base layer socks and the wool socks, this keeps your warmth providing insulating wool socks dry, it helps a ton.

by Halberto on January 22, 2012 at 12:05 am. Reply #

Well played new BadAss winter rider! Looks like you’ve dialed in the WarmAss part of the MB Fat Bike motto “The most fun you can have with five layers of clothes on”.

by Tom K on January 22, 2012 at 4:30 am. Reply #

Haha – great post. Need some freezin’ music to go along with the pics.

Cut up an old fuzzy sweater and put the pieces into the vents of the helmet. Then tape the vents over with duct tape (or use a helmet cover) – worth a layer. Numerous balaclavas – nothing better than a warm, dry neck in the middle of a long event. Wool cycling shorts over wicking shorts…mmm. Old Brooks leather saddle that doesn’t freeze…even better. Leather handle bar grips might work well too. Old-style stems with hinge and bumper might save some hand shock, or a piece of yoga mat in the mitt at the palms. Make sure you can hop off the bike easily, cause there’s no way you’re gonna stop that thing with those mitts. Warm up inside first, towel off, then ride – worth a layer. Emergency down or poly vest to go on over top very quickly and easily if needed… if you’re good, you can get it off while riding no hands.

And make a statement….strap a pair of very pointed, killer red shoes to the outside of the backpack…let everyone know you’re one mean, chic rider.

by Jason on January 22, 2012 at 5:47 am. Reply #

1 less car. Cheers with your mickey of vodka or Jag.

by rick on January 23, 2012 at 12:42 am. Reply #

Great Blog Post!! Thank God it’s not so cold over here in Holland.

by Henk Schut on January 23, 2012 at 4:39 pm. Reply #

that’s very helpful for anyone who want to be as crazy as you. Mind you with the weather this week, everyone should be outside. But I’m not one to get my bike dirty.

Your story was funny as your story stripped you down layer by layer – I bet the guys were wishing for another picture…..but your last picture of that hotty sure ends it well.

by Nettie Neudorf on January 23, 2012 at 9:20 pm. Reply #

I guess I am the wrong gender or sexual orientation because the strip-tease aspect was lost on me, until the guys started to mention it. LOL. Good…. I skip the bike shorts though in favour of good old fashioned gitch. But then again, I never ride at this time of the year for more than an hour and a half.

by Kim on January 23, 2012 at 10:25 pm. Reply #

[...] talking about Actif Epica: about pre-riding the course (and cycling as a 4-season sport), about what to wear, and about the theme of resilience. [...]

by Let’s Get Actif! : Actif Epica on January 24, 2012 at 2:54 am. Reply #

Garbage Mitts aka Garbo’s were favoured by the poor schmucks who would hang off the back of garbage trucks and pick up our refuse in the same weather. Back when the cans were metal, and would drain the heat from your hands.

I notice you didn’t have your BFF’s or your favourite metal band scribed on the leather with a bic ball point. maybe fix that! (BTW you didn’t meant ion what big hair metal band playlist is playing in your head when riding like this)

Love how you cobbled everything together with what’s around. SO awesome.

by ian on January 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm. Reply #

[...] post, called “Dressed to Chill” documents her patented Honey Badger Winter 2012 Collection – a home grown layering [...]

by How to Ride in -20F Weather (The Portland Pity Party is Over) | Grit & Glimmer on January 24, 2012 at 8:10 pm. Reply #

Love it .. you go girl! Don’t think biking to work is an option for me, everytime I would walk into a new client’s office they would think I was trying to rob them… although it does give new meaning to the phrase “cold call”. I do run outside in this weather so I’m not a complete wimp, but cycling in this definately puts you in the badass category.

by Sandi Goertzen on January 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm. Reply #

genome468 on January 14, 2011 i checked out your site. not bad. its done prttey much like craigslist so i enjoyed the familiarity. A question tho. how long has the site been up? This can grow to be a big thing just like craigslist.. good luck to ya

by Eurica on June 9, 2012 at 9:49 pm. Reply #

Have you noticed any damage to your bike riding in the slush and snow?

by ED W. on January 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm. Reply #

No damage that I’ve noticed, mind you there’s so much gunk and shit caked on it I can’t be sure. I do have to keep an eye on the chain to make sure it doesn’t get rusty.

by CycleChick on January 25, 2012 at 9:06 pm. Reply #

Nice post! In Montreal it’s fortunately a bit less fierce but still there are few people out riding. How long/far is your commute? I find the cold gets exponentially worse with time. Half an hour: no biggie. 1.5 hours? No way!

Re: chain: I don’t bother too much with the rust on the chain. Just get a nickle plated one and the rust will come off again easily after winter.

by Harald on January 26, 2012 at 7:59 pm. Reply #

Thank you! My commute is only 30 minutes though the city – short enough to be a very pleasant ride, even at extreme temperatures. Longer would indeed be a different story. I have been training for a 130km winter race that could conceivably take 10-12 hours (with sheltered rest stops every 20km or so). In preparation I have been doing rides of 3-4 hours on the weekends. I will make some adjustments to my gear, including better boots and a good supply of chemical hand and foot warmers. Thanks for the chain tip – the rust was stressing me out.

by CycleChick on January 26, 2012 at 8:32 pm. Reply #

130km winter race sounds cool. The Club Vélo de Randonneurs Montréal has an annual “200km sous zero,” an unsupported brevet in early February. I’ve been thinking about doing it but it’s probably one level too hard this season. Maybe next year…

by Harald on January 27, 2012 at 3:19 pm. Reply #

Nice summary – I look a bit like you when I ride, but with a few mild modifications. I use big fur mitts, and I only wear one thin layer underneath my outer winter shell. Here’s my winter commute: http://northsixty.com/2012/cold-weather-commute/

by Sierra on January 27, 2012 at 12:02 am. Reply #

I use a snowboarder helmet; nice and insulated. There are still some vents, but not near as many as an ordinary bike helmet, plus it has padded / insulated ear protectors.

So I’ve got the head figured out for myself! It’s my…uh…other region! You know, the family jewels? Uh…yeah. Even with a double layer of military polypro longjohns and a pair of windpants (admittedly, very cheap and thin windpants), I still freeze my nuts! I’ve not seen any site that addresses this problem for males! I haven’t tried any formal winter cycling pants yet, such as those that MEC carries. Once somebody buys one of my kids (so far, no takers) perhaps I can start looking at those. I had to…ummmmm…use a glove on one ride (boosting my appearance…or perhaps not!) and bike home without a glove on one hand!

Suggestions anybody?

by Steve Sloat on January 27, 2012 at 4:34 am. Reply #

Forgot to mention that, with my helmet on, I look like one of those stormtrooper-like dudes from the movie Spaceballs!

by Steve Sloat on January 27, 2012 at 4:35 am. Reply #

Now you just need an “after” photo. I don’t know why my forehead didn’t freeze after 30 minutes in -30°C. http://www.flickr.com/photos/darcy1b/6712202963/in/photostream

by Darcy Reynard on January 27, 2012 at 5:11 am. Reply #

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by How to Dress for Winter Biking: -28 to -40C (-18 to -40F) | Mrs. North of 60 on January 28, 2012 at 2:25 am. Reply #

Very fun post! Now I will always think of you and feel warmer on the bike here in winter New England. Thanks.

by Susan Minnich on February 1, 2012 at 2:58 pm. Reply #

Great Post! Just one thing – those are not true garbage mitts! Garbage mitts are leather with no lining and only come up to the wrist; you insert a pair of wool mittens that come up a bit higher and you’re good to go! They can tuck under the jacket sleeve or you can wear them loose, depending on how cold it is. I commute in Winnipeg in winter with my garbage mitts, which I’ve been using since the 1970s. Hubby’s mitts look wussy to me! That being said, his or mine, nothing beats garbage mitts!

by tom on April 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm. Reply #

Hi Tom

First of all, thanks for writing! And thanks for correcting my improper identification of the garbage mitts. You forgot to mention that true garbage mitts are covered with pen doodles and include at least one rendering of the Iron Maiden logo. I hope your do, because that would be awesome.

Second, I’m going to forget you said “wussy” and just chalk it up to you being old school badass, and me being more new school. You may choose to eat your cobra raw and with your hands, while I prefer to eat mine sauteed and with utensils.


by CycleChick on April 20, 2012 at 4:09 pm. Reply #

[...] the next 100 kilometres, additional thought is going into winterizing, although few of us are at Winnipeg Cycle Chick or Actif Epica levels yet! We definitely have much work to do to get on Bikescore’s top Canadian [...]

by Ode to Summer Cycling: Winnipeg Insights from the Trails | PlaceMakers on October 1, 2012 at 5:32 am. Reply #

You’ve given me inspiration to ride through the wimpy winters we have here in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Si se puede!
Foggy and mostly 30-40 F on most mornings. My commute is rather long, about 9+ miles, but at least I don’t have to worry about ice or frostbite.

by Peggy on October 4, 2012 at 7:45 pm. Reply #

Haha! Thanks Peggy! Man, if I lived where you do, I’d probably never make it to the office – or at least I’d take the long way. Glad I’ve inspired you to ride! Cheers!!

by CycleChick on October 4, 2012 at 8:00 pm. Reply #

[...] 1. Dressed to Chill This post documented in words and pictures the layers I wear when riding in ridiculously cold weather. It also included a striptease, which seemed to go over well with the boys. Much to my surprise, it also caught the attention of Heidi Swift – photographer, blogger, racer, and editor at large of Peloton magazine. Now that was pretty fucking cool. [...]

by Top 10 of ’12 « Winnipeg CycleChick on December 28, 2012 at 9:38 pm. Reply #

Awesome! I used to bike in Regina in the winter and I loved it, almost miss it. My get up was similar, hideous and multilayered. And yes everyone thought I was nuts. One thing, in all my years in SK, I never had to wear long underwear even though I’d be out in the worst weather. I move to the west coast and it’s so friggin’ damp, what do I start wearing? Long underwear.

by Heather on January 7, 2013 at 5:52 am. Reply #

I’m impressed – and what a great rundown on what you wear. I see lots of cyclists in Calgary in winter but also wonder about crashing on ice.

by Leigh on January 21, 2013 at 11:54 pm. Reply #

[...] murky grey area between art and science. It’s hard to believe that a person can wear up to eighteen articles of clothing and still be cold, but it’s true. Between the base layers, vapour barriers, warmth and wind [...]

by The Glorious Indignity of Winter « Winnipeg CycleChick on January 21, 2014 at 4:24 am. Reply #

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