We turned the clocks back a week or so ago, you probably remember that. I noticed that Sunday night that it was full-on-night-time-dark at just past 5:00pm. This was not helped by the fact that we were in the midst of a rain storm, but I guess that ‘counts’ as normal as it is to be expected in early November in these parts.
The next morning it was essentially light by 7:00am. If I’d been riding it would have been foolish not to ride with lights and a full complement of reflective gear but still, it was lighter than night. On the drive in to work Mrs. C mentioned that it was nice to have light on the way to work but also noted that it won’t be long before it is dark both going and coming. Hmmm, well we do have that to look forward to. Yes, about six more weeks before the official beginning of winter at which time the hours of daylight will begin, ever so slowly to lengthen. This is bad: six weeks till winter begins and already I am thinking longingly of longer, lighter, if not warmer days.
Now the riding checklist expands: tights or knickers, base layer, heavy jersey, light jersey, wind vest, thermal vest, light jacket, heavy jacket hat, headband, neck gaitor, helmuffs, long finger gloves, glove liners, extra sox, booties, toe warmers, shoe covers, chem warmers. Of course it's not all these things all the time; you have to consult whatever weather oracle you follow to try to riddle out the best combination of armor against the elements. Shoot, hardly time enough to ride once you’ve gone to the trouble to get ready.
So now we rummage, we sift, sort, and shuffle. The lightweight poly jerseys move to the back of the closet and the wool and heavy weight gear moves to the fore. Actually for many here in the soggy NW those wool jerseys stay in front most of the year. The shorts are pushed to the back of the drawer and the knickers and tights are moved up front. I recall that I planned last spring to send those nice Castelli brushed bibs off to Kucharik for a chamois transplant, but somehow that lost its importance as the days grew longer, brighter, and warmer. There they lie, all balled up in the drawer with the shredded chamois poking out. Perhaps that becomes my Christmas present to myself. They are great tights but the chamois has come unstitched and, well that’s not the place for wrinkles, especially if there is the opportunity to get wet.
And you might just find a pleasant suprise, I did. There neatly folded and tucked at the back of the drawer was a pair of almost virgin bib knickers! As spring limped upon the scene last year, when all the winter wear went on to the sale racks, making way for the gayly colored poly jerseys, apparently I had a momentary lapse and popped for a nice pair of Gore Bike Wear bib knickers. A fancy medium weight high tech fabric, a very exotic looking chamois pad, and a stylish yet functional sewn in splash of reflective fabric spliced into the rear seam, below the knees at the leg closure. Fishing them out of the drawer, I recalled thinking at the time what a lucky find: Not only were they deeply discounted, but they were also functional and they fit me very well, suprisingly better than the other high zoot offerings on the rack. How wise I was back in late May! They're so nice I almost want to dash out into the cold rainy night right now!
Then there is the sorting and organizing of the gloves, hats, headbands, and booties. This is where the creativity kicks in. I always wear something on my head, rain or shine, summer or winter, just my habit. In the last couple years I have really taken a shine to Buff products. Prior to that I was heavily dependent upon the venerable bandanna hanky but the Buff is to the bandana as the transformer is to the match box car. It is not just a skull cap, or a headband. It’s a neck gaitor, a balaclava of sorts, a beanie, a skull cap that allows one item to adjust with the conditions. And they have such a wide range of fabric and pattern choices that there is a ‘style’ to fit just about anyone’s style. (well, not sure there is a Rapha Gentlman's Buff, ... like I would know from style).
But because I sweat from the head I also carry a collection of sweatbands. A brim hat comes in handy too, for the occasional bright sunny day, but more frequently to catch some of that rain that comes head on. I got a couple nice caps from Walz Caps last spring. These came with the local rando club logo embroidered on. One is wool with earflaps and I am confident it will get a lot more wear as the temps plummet. (weatherman say 'snowish' this coming weekend)
Gloves are a bit trying. Getting full finger gloves that also protect the palm is a challenge. I don’t know why manufacturers have not figured out that good gloves like they make for summer riding with a well stitched and padded palm can be easily adapted to winter with the simple addition of full fingers TO THOSE SELF SAME GOOD GLOVES. But no, there has to be some amazing new fabric and process, and oh-by-the–way, the dropping out of the excellent palm padding. Argh! There are good winter gloves to be had, and I have a couple different pair that I like pretty well, but I don’t understand why they seem to be the exception rather than the norm. by the way; Don't you just hate it when, at the convenience store you pull off one of those gloves and the soggy insulation turns itself inside out? Man, getting that all sorted out when you are cold and wet and you need to get yourself on down the road to the next controle is a royal pain!
The last challenge is the feet. One cannot ride through the winter here without some sort of additional weather protection for the feet. Even as slow as I am, the winter wind chill gets to the toes. Add in the constant road spray that comes up off wet pavement, and you absolutely must do something to cut the wind chill and add to the insulation.
I’m getting just stiff enough these days that getting tight fitting booties on over my cycling shoes has become the Tin Man's ballet. If I go out for a ride with friends I make sure to get these on before the group shows up; not because it is such an embarrassing, entertaining show, but because it takes me a long time to get them on. It is a party foul of the first order to keep your ride pals waiting, in a gentle mist as you struggle to get yourself ready.
Booties and toe covers come in a wide variety of designs and with lots of different attributes. It’s hopeless to plan to stay dry, but it is folly not to do whatever is necessary to maintain a decent temperature. Wet feet are annoying, but really cold wet feet are dangerous.
There is a rack on the landing in the garage, my wardrobe stage where I take off the wettest, grittiest, muddiest gear before coming inside. Sounds risqué but the garage door opener is right there above the water heater, so it is usually just me and Chairman Meow, and all he wants is for me to open the door a crack so he can get in, muddy paws and all.
Not my favorite routine, but it is comforting to have a routine for the seasons.