I've been biking to Morning Minyan for the last few months, and after freezing my butt off during a few 20°F'ish mornings, I've finally figured out a riding configuration that doesn't have me arriving as a Popsicle. Here's my current setup:
- Base layers: nothing fancy; jeans, a Polo shirt and a fleece. Because I work form home, this is also known as "getting dressed up."
- On top: 2 Windbreakers. I learned this trick from my Dad. Back in the day he'd head off into the freezing cold Rochester morning to run, and he'd be wearing a couple simple nylon windbreakers. This was way before the world of dry-fit, and back when Gore-tex cost a small fortune. The result was a setup that kept him warm, but not overheated. For me, I wear my high visibility windbreaker over my REI Ultra Lightweight Rain Jacket. It works.
- On the bottom: a pair of soft shell pants. I've had them forever, and they aren't any particular brand or technology. But they keep the wind from trivially slicing through jeans, which is what happens when I don't bother to wear them. I wear high-visibility Velcro straps around my ankles to keep my pants from getting gunked up in the chain. This may also help with keeping the breeze from sneaking up my pant let, too.
- On my hands: I recently picked up a pair of convertible glove-mitten things. I'm loving them for both running and biking. They are a basic lightweight glove with a a windproof covering you put over your fingers to make a mitten. And doing so makes the difference between arriving with chilly fingers and numb fingers. Riding a bike with mittens takes a bit of practice, so consider yourself warned.
- On my head: I wear a boring old knit hat under my helmet, and most importantly a Buff to cover my face. The Buff is absolutely key, and again, means the difference between a chilly ride and an unbearable one.
- On my back: I've been carrying my Sea to Summit backpack with a Nissan Thermos bottle filled with boiling hot tea. Bringing along a bottle of hot tea has turned out to be a wonderful little hack. When I get to shul, I can simply wrap my hands around the bottle and they quickly thaw. As I'm riding, the backpack provides yet another layer of wind protection and the bottle itself warms my lower back.
And that just about does it. I arrive to shul and need to spend 20 minutes taking off layers, but I do arrive relatively comfortably. The gloves are probably the item I'd upgrade first.
So what do you do to make riding in the winter bearable?
I've got to confess: I'm OK with riding in the cold and the dark (I know the route well by now), but on mornings when it's slick out, I pass, and take the car. That's probably cheating, I know.