Kristin Wentworth is the sole female staffer at Planet Bike, a professional road and cyclocross racer, and now, a mom-to-be. She contributes regular stories chronicling her active pregnancy. Note: We’re a little late posting Kristin’s November blog – Wisconsin is now buried under the latest snowstorm and Kristin’s bike is on the trainer in the basement!
As we enter the holiday season the weather in Wisconsin is officially cold. I’m a solid 5 months into my pregnancy so I guess I’ve got an increased volume of blood pumping through my system on my side anyway!
On my ride in to work last week the thermometer on my cycling computer never budged above 22 degrees. Luckily I was relatively toasty warm with all of the gear I’ve accumulated over the past couple of years. Riding in the cold and/or dark doesn’t need to be as miserable or intimidating as it might seem. With the proper clothing and lights it can actually be really fun and peaceful. I’m finding that my growing belly is pushing the size limits of a lot of my clothing and my plan to stop riding once the snow flies should be timed about perfectly for when I’m too big to comfortably and safely ride. But for now it’s still working out and I figured I’d pass along my list of essential gear for winter riding.
I find the key to being comfortable is having warm feet, hands, and head. I realize this is a fairly obvious statement but still deserving of mention. I have several pairs of gloves but when the temperature dips into the low 30s I reach for my Planet Bike Borealis gloves. They’re extremely warm and I can’t wear them above 40 degrees or my hands will sweat like crazy. On my feet I’ve got wool socks and a pair of Planet Bike Blitzen shoe covers over my cycling shoes. If it’s below 30 I’ll throw on a pair of toe covers for some added warmth. On my head I wear a windproof headband covered by a Smartwool balaclava. If it’s really cold I might put a neck gaiter on but generally I don’t like having something over my mouth as it seems harder to breathe and just ends up getting damp.
Layers and Avoiding Sweat
One thing you want to avoid while riding in the winter is sweating. This will just create moisture which has the tendency of making you cold. Basically you want to be almost slightly cold while you’re riding which usually means the first 5 minutes are going to be a bit uncomfortable until your body warms up with your activity level. Layers are key and I’m a big fan of wool for its ability to keep warm, wick moisture, and resist odor. I’ve got a heavy weight Icebreaker baselayer with a nice tall zip neck for keeping out the chill. I cover that with my sweet Planet Bike Team Winter Jacket (made by Vermarc) which is both fleece lined and windproof. It’s really warm and I’m always amazed how little I can wear underneath it. For my legs I just wear a standard pair of bib shorts (the bibs are essential for pregnancy!) followed by a pair of Pearl Izumi Alpine Pants which have a wind proof front and fleece back. I love them as they’re great for a range of temperatures. If it’s below 25 I’ll throw a pair of fleece lined tights on underneath them for added warmth.
Light the Way
I love that we have more sunlight in the morning now that we’ve moved back to standard time – it makes getting up so much easier! But it can be a bit frustrating leaving the office at 5pm and seeing how dark it is. Having proper lights is essential. Lucky for me I work for a company that makes some of the best in the business! I use two front lights – a Blaze 1 Watt on flash mode and a Blaze 2 Watt (reviewed by Women’s Adventure) on steady. Helps me see what’s in front of me while also keeping me visible to oncoming traffic. I’ve got two Superflash Tail lights – one on my backpack and the other mounted on my seatpost. With those lights flashing I’m confident that I’ll be seen by any vehicles coming up behind me.
There’s something very peaceful about riding in the dark and not being able to see all of your surroundings. Granted most of my commute is on very lightly travelled roads or bike path so my situation is probably vastly different than someone who has to share the road with a lot of car traffic. Turning onto the path and seeing the city all lit up in the distance is really beautiful. And my route takes me right past the seasonal holiday light display at a local park where you’re supposed to drive through and tune your car radio to a station with Christmas music. I may miss the music but I say the lights are better viewed from my bike than in a car!
So as I progress further into my pregnancy my commuting by bike is dwindling. The cold and rain have convinced me to drive many mornings now and this weekend’s predicted snowstorm should have me hanging up my commuter bike for good for the year. November was pretty mild though and I’m happy to say I easily surpassed my 300 mile goal for the month. Now with December here I’m done with counting miles and instead will just focus on trying to stay active and get outside when I can. I’ve started going for more walks in the neighborhood (which the dog loves!) and have also logged a couple of basement trainer sessions. I’m eager for the snow to fly and get some cross country skiing in before my center of balance gets more thrown off in the coming months.
The fact that a little person is growing inside of me becomes more and more obvious as the weeks pass. I feel him or her (we’re not finding out!) kicking and moving around on a regular basis and our recent ultrasound produced some amazing 3D images of the baby’s face. The whole process is pretty remarkable and we are very thankful that everything has gone so well thus far. Just under 4 months left to go! I hope everyone is out enjoying the weather wherever you are – Happy Holidays!