Category: Rides | Tags: adventure riding, temperature comfort zone, windchill
I thought it was cold on the ride to work yesterday. Didn’t realize the air temp was below freezing at 30 F. Add in a wind out of the West at 15-20 mph, and it was cold heading West.
Let’s look at the different feels-like temperature based on which direction I was going:
Going with the wind at 10mph, there would be a 5mph at my back and the temp would feel like 25. But head into the wind at 5mph, there would be a 20mph in my face and the temp would feel like 17.
In actuality, the difference in direction felt like much more than 8 degrees. It was the difference from a pleasant ride to a painful ride for any exposed skin around my balaclava.
Everyone has a different comfort zone, from searing cold to stifling heat; and different band widths of tolerable, comfortable, enjoyable. For me, part of the calculus is psychological as well, until I reach the boundary of prolonged pain from cold in my extremities, specifically hands and feet, or the small area of exposed facial skin. This moves the psychological pain to physically detrimental.
The psychological part comes from understanding the amount of heat we generate while riding. We are a veritable furnace that works like heating a building that uses windows to adjust the temperature, i.e. with layers of clothes that we can adjust via zippers or remove. We can also adjust the temperature by the effort we are putting out. Most of it has to be at low speeds because of the windchill affect. But climbing hills, increasing snow depth, or challenging snow ruts all can be used to adjust our heat to ride in our comfort zone.
For me, it is easier to wear normal seasonal clothing for shorter rides in the cold because I can adjust the heat with effort; whereas in hot temperatures, I sweat just standing around in the 80′s. There, riding at a couple miles per hour will cool my sweating body until air temps reaches about 100, then one must be very careful not to get heat stroke no matter the effort.
In either temperature extreme, the longer rides should be curtailed unless artificial heating or cooling can be obtained periodically. But for a 4 mile ride to work, the windchill needs to be in the single digits or less for me to consider canceling because of physical danger. Time wise, that is putting me outside for 20-30 minutes.
Wind is more critical than temperature. I have ridden at -5 degrees when the wind is dead calm, chimney smoke going straight up like something out of Mary Poppins. This sight is beautiful because of its uniqueness in the crisp, clear air. But about 30 minutes of putting around at 5 mph is about all I want. A trip through the neighborhood and around Standing Bear Lake fits the bill well.
I encourage all of us to push our comfort envelope and ride short distances in slightly uncomfortable temperatures. We may find after the initial few minutes of coldness, our effort is generating enough heat to create a short, enjoyable adventure. And if we experiment further with clothing and varying environments, we may expand our comfort zone and come across new adventures, maybe even replacing the motor vehicle on short trips to the store, restaurant, coffee shop, or pub. We may work ourselves up to night time snow flake rides on quiet streets except for the snow crunching beneath our tires.
Enjoy the ride! Experiment in this Winter season and find new adventures!