When considering how to ride comfortably though all of Ohio's wild weather, two truisms bear repeating—first: "There is no bad weather, only bad wardrobe," and second: "Layer, layer, layer". But when it comes to the particulars of outfitting for rainy, snowy or just plain frigid rides, there are a couple schools of thought:
"When people ask me for tips on winter bicycling, I have very simple advice: Wear what you would have worn if you were going to walk outside in the winter. If it’s wet, throw on some water-proof pants on top of your regular pants, and that’s it. It’s very simple."
The argument from this camp is basically that people (i.e., marketers and hardcore cyclists) overcomplicate dressing for weather, causing the average person or fair-weather cyclist to balk at the expense of acquiring all the required gear, and/or the stigma of looking too much like a whack-a-doo. They claim that most weather-appropriate cycling gear is already in your closet, and that a trip to the thrift store for wool layers and the like should suffice to get you through most weather conditions—stylishly!
Cue photo of an adorable Dutch cyclist riding her sexy self through a whiteout:
Also, though not explicitly in any article I could find, this side of the aisle gives nod to the so-called "invisible cyclists" among us who ride all year long out of economic necessity, regardless of their ability to afford special gear. Clearly not everyone can afford the luxury of fabrics that wick!
"I'm not a fashion victim who's been gulled by marketers or taken for a ride by the bike shop sales staff. I'm a rational adult who is quite capable of making choices based on my own experience and on the advice of other cyclists. My winter cycling equipment and clothing have been evolving for several years, as I discover what works for me, in my particular climate—and more days than not, what works looks like the images [of cyclists in weather-specific gear] you point to with ridicule."
The argument here is pretty simple—the gear works. It was designed to work for cyclists riding in a specific set of circumstances, and it does. So if you want to ride in all conditions, these cyclists say, you will invest in a wardrobe that makes it possible. After all, no matter what you spend it's still cheaper than driving!
THE "YAY 'BIKES!-ISTS'!"
We at Yay Bikes! tend to be a practical bunch, and accommodating of all styles on the spectrum of "gear-full" to gear-free. If it works for you? Great! There are posts here and here that reflect that 'tude, and you should check them out.
Bottom line? Our best advice, in a nutshell?
Regardless of whether you're going for style, function or both: employ extreme measures to protect your extremities! If your hands or feet are cold (and they will be), your ride will be misery.
But of course we always encourage you to make your own informed decisions—by actually riding your actual bike in actual real-word conditions alongside actual cycling friends. We invite you to join us and learn first-hand the tricks that will allow you to go from a fair- to an all-weather cyclist! Our Year of Yay! rides occur on the second Saturday of every month, so together we experience the full spectrum of Ohio weather. Case in point:
Good luck out there, friends, whatever you wear! May this be the year you tackle Nov–May!
Oh, and for some additional reading pleasure, see our article on Columbus Underground for some winter riding tips.