Winter Riding Tips / Video Round-Up

One of these days, I’ll get a helmet cam and create thrilling videos of my daily commute for all of you to enjoy. In the meantime, I’ll present you with three cycling-related videos that were recently posted on the internet.

The first is an earnest, but fun look at winter cycling tips in Chicago:

BikeSnobNYC did his usual job of mocking the video frame by frame, so I won’t attempt that here. I’ll just point out that the video was shot and edited by my former classmate, Elizabeth Press, seen here in the middle of putting on layer after layer of winter clothing.

This video does bring up the issue of cycling in the winter, something I have not yet addressed. It seems like many of the “other” bike blogs have already addressed this in earnest, prescribing all manner of wool (both technical and traditional), silk, gore-tex, gore-mex, splats, &c. My commute is very short, so I’m not sure that I have the best advice to give w/r/t winter cycling, however, I lived in the frozen wilds of Edmonton Alberta for two winters, where I did pick up a thing or two. Actually, I picked up four things during my Canadian exile that I consider essential to my winter commute.

Thing 1: Waterproof Pants.

These aren’t the exact ones I have, but they look pretty close. I prefer waterproof pants that go over whatever I’m wearing to the office that day. Then I just whip off my pants, and I’m ready to go. So to speak. These are useful in warmer seasons as well because I don’t really like getting my pants soaked by the rain.

Thing 2: Face Mask

I wear this when the temperature gets below 30 degrees or so. That’s not such a low temperature, but my ride includes speeds up to 25 miles an hour, so there is often more windchill than one would experience while walking.  Some riders might prefer a Balaclava.

Thing 3: Thin Balaclava, Headband or Skull Cap

I have a thin balaclava that I fold up over my head so that I get a thick layer around my ears, but a little bit of a stovepipe effect to release heat out the top of my head. Some people prefer to just have a headband to keep their ears warm, then have a full stovepipe out the top of their helmets. These people are crazy.

Thing 4: Lobster Gloves

These provide the warmth of mittens, and the dexterity of a lobster. Some people just use mittens, although it can be difficult to use some shifting systems without lobster-levels of dexterity. Either way, most cyclists will tell you that regular old gloves aren’t going to cut it when it gets really cold.

Keeping with the earnestness theme, what could be more earnest than social justice advocates’ concern with immigrant communities’ transportation needs?

There’s not much footage of people actually riding bikes, but what footage there is features people riding on the sidewalk.

This is certainly something I see around here: cycling on the sidewalk instead of in the street. I understand why people are tempted to do it, riding in traffic can seem more dangerous, but it is almost always safer. Cycling advocates like to spend a lot of time focusing making cycling safer for people just like them (mostly white, mostly middle class). I’m reminded of when I helped RIBike with the “light up the night” event. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but it’s something that could use more attention. And since I’m not sure where I’m going, I’m going to shut up before I put my foot in my mouth.

I forgot to mention earlier, that I also wear a jacket in the winter. I think it would qualify as a “snowboarding” jacket. It’s mostly water repellent, but not 100%. It’s not particularly noteworthy except for the fact that it is not a very heavy coat.  Even with my short commute, I can generate quite a bit of body heat while cycling. A medium-weight jacket over my work clothes is plenty on most winter days. When it gets particularly cold, I add a hoodie for one more layer of warmth.

This jacket was one of those bargains you always remember. It was originally $90, then marked down to $50 because it was out of season, then marked down to $25 because it had been on the racks for a while. It’s served me well for about 10 years now, but I guess I could get rid of it in favor of a $400 cycling jacket from Mission Workshop:

We begin this film with our hero riding a ferry from one part of Amersterdam to another. I’d say that he is on his commute, but it doesn’t look like he actually does any work during the rest of the day.

it's cold out here, luckily I have a $400 outer jacket to wear over my $235 inner jacket. I'd better put the hood up.

After I get off the boat, I'll take a gratuitous shot of row after row of Amsterdam bikes

Could you do this with any normal jacket? I don't think so.

This video has more rack focus than a Scorsese film

I think my favorite thing about this video is the fact that he is modeling a cycling-specific jacket, one that is designed for use on a road bike – or some other bike where the cyclist leans forward. But he’s riding a completely upright Dutch city bike. There’s nothing wrong with a Dutch city bike, but if you are going to ride one, you can just wear regular clothes. That’s pretty much the whole point of a Dutch city bike! Okay, back to our story, where our hero has returned to his canal boat home.

Uh oh, what’s this?

This doesn’t look good. The jacket has cable routing for portable audio devices.

phew, it's cold again

I guess I should put up my hood in order to further insulate myself from hearing any noise from the outside world while I....

....haphazardly mount my city bike

Biking through the city while wearing headphones. Always a safe idea. Note the skinny jeans – the perfect complement to cycling-specific jackets. Of course, this is an Amsterdam cyclist, so he is coddled by:

Protected bike lanes! (Note that even the bike symbols in Amsterdam have chaincases.) Alright, now I’m just being a hater. Who wouldn’t want bike lanes like those?

Ahh, now he’s leaning forward about 2 degrees, which utilizes many of the features of the “slim-fit, seam-sealed, waterproof jacket cut for life on the bike.”

Soon he reaches his destination: Pristine – a “Lunchroom/Gallery”

…where the depth of field is so shallow, you need a rack focus to read from one side of the menu to the other.

There are a few other product demo videos on Mission Workshop’s Vimeo Page, all of which are equally entertaining. I’d go through them all, but I’m working at mocking Mission, not providing them tons of free exposure to my dozen of readers.

But I can’t resist one more, the video for the Shed Messenger Bag. This one was filmed in Paris, where our protagonist (let’s call him Claude) rides a fixed gear bike from the top of Montmartre. It even sports an aerospoke front wheel. Epic.

I’m going to skip the part where he packs his MacBook into the bag, but I have to mention that every Mission Workshop video shows and Apple product at some point.

After Claude orders his coffee, the barista rings him up in slo-mo.

maybe it's just that all French coffeeshop employees work very slowly

Almost everything is in slo-mo. I guess owning one of these bags turns every day into an epic urban journey of self-discovery. Just about the only time the video approaches regular speed is right after Claude runs across a fellow cyclist, this one on what appears to be a vintage track bike. They gaze at each other knowingly….

because it’s on!

The film is back up to full speed as we get to enjoy some serious Cat 6 racing action.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you the details. These guys even made a video about installing a product display in a store in Portland. Maybe I’m trying to compensate because I just bought a new jacket from a different hipster-clothing brand based in San Francisco. But I totally needed that. And it was on sale… and it will make me go faster, right? Product review to follow.

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13 responses to “Winter Riding Tips / Video Round-Up

  1. People do lots of crazy things on bikes in bike cultures. When I was in Japan, in the rainy season, I frequently saw people riding bikes holding an umbrella over their head with one hand. Once, I even saw a couple riding along side by side holding hands.

    • I’ve seen pictures of people riding-with-umbrella in Japan. I think I may have seen it once here as well. I think Spouse and I would run into each other if we tried to ride while holding hands. I’ll stick with drafting.

  2. Regarding the second video, I went on a guided bicycle tour of Hollywood 8 or 9 years ago, and we were told that the law in L.A. was that bicyclists ride on the sidewalks rather than the streets. So the video is geographically appropriate. One of many many reasons why Los Angeles is weird. Sadly, the bike shop that ran the tours no longer does them. I’m not usually a fan of organized group tours, but it was a lot of fun!

    • It’s legal in most cities to ride on the sidewalk. It’s even legal in Cambridge except in “business districts” (Somerville too, I think). A few years ago, in my more law-scoffing days, I was biking down a sidewalk in Cambridge, just outside of Central Square. (I was on the sidewalk because I needed to travel 2 blocks down a one-way street and didn’t feel like going around the blocks). A cop was outside of Man-Ray and yelled over to me, “No bikes on the sidewalk in the square, please!” I yelled back, “Sorry!” I miss the Cambridge police, so polite.

      So it’s legal in most cities, but not really advisable. You are much more likely to be hit by a car turning into a side street or driveway. I could write a whole post about it, but I’ll leave that for another day.

      • “So it’s legal in most cities, but not really advisable.”

        I know this and I’m not disagreeing. I’m saying that I was told (by the bike tour guide), that in L.A. (or maybe just around Hollywood), that the law REQUIRED bicyclists to stick to the sidewalks. I never checked to see if he was right, though.

        • That seems odd. I did a little searching on LA Bike Laws and it looks like they’ve changed here and there. LA even required bicycle licenses until 2009. Maybe it was a particular district where cyclists were required to ride on sidewalks. My guess is that the tour company just wanted to keep the tourists from being hit by cars so they told them it was against the law to ride in the street.

  3. “My guess is that the tour company just wanted to keep the tourists from being hit by cars”

    That seems likely. It’s also possible that, as a part of whatever licensing they had to go through to allow bicycle tours through the city, they were told they had to stay on the sidewalks.

  4. On the “immigrant/poor” community topic: Most bicycling advocates that I’ve met are painfully aware of the cultural and economic divides and do try to find ways to reach across. We haven’t been actively doing much on this here in RI/PVD, but it’s on my list of things to figure out. I work off Valley street and see lots of people riding on sidewalks, wrong way riding and crossing randomly in front of cars that I think people in cars are not very prepared to react too. In my dreamland of a cycling dominated Providence, the work that we white/middle class folks are doing will benefit everyone by getting bike lanes and protections for all cyclists.

    • Sorry Matt, I shouldn’t have generalized so much about cycling advocates. I tend to speak in absolutes in my blog posts because it’s easier to make a point. I will continue to dream of that world with better bike lanes and more respect for cyclists! A world where cyclists ride in the most safe way possible.

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