Category: Techniques

Friday’s Ride [UPDATED]

I’m happy to report that, having misplaced it for a week or so in early July, I have found my productivity.  This is good, because for the week after we returned our niece, who had visited with us for most of June, safely to her mom in Atlanta, I didn’t really do a damn thing other than show up.  Looking back at my calendar for that week, I can see that I had numerous appointments and meetings, even a conference call, but I don’t really remember doing much else.  I did bike that week, I remember that.  Oh, and I mowed the yard.  That was fun.

It is good to have my productivity back for several reasons, which are, in no particular order, as follows:

  1. Earlier this year I initiated a research project concerned with the effectiveness of the academic early intervention program that U of M uses to improve the performance of at-risk students. Basically how it works is this: faculty report to the University their students who are under-performing relative to their peers.  The University then contacts these students and encourages them to seek help, tutoring, and so on.  This is kind of a big deal, as the program is part of the University’s overall effort to improve its retention and graduation rates.  I generated my first round of results last week, and while the results are very preliminary, it appears that being reported for intervention actually lowers student’s grades, rather than raising them.  I imagine that this is not what U of M would like to hear.  Perhaps some additional analysis will change the results.  Of course, the upside of finding shocking conclusions is that my chances of getting this paper published just went way up.
  2. I have yet another semester staring me in the face.  Classes don’t start until the very end of August, but if I don’t preparations now, it will bite me in the ass later.
  3. Oh yeah, and I’m about to get a great big promotion at work.  Starting in the spring I will take over as the Director of the Center for Economic Education at the University of Memphis.  The Center was started about ten years ago by my colleague Julie Heath and in that time has grown to reach nearly every corner of the state.  The mission of the Center is to promote education in financial literacy and economics to children from kindergarden through high school.  I’m really excited and honored to have been chosen as the new Center director.  I have some ideas for new programs I’d like to try and I’m eager to get started.  Julie will also be facing new challenges, as she will be taking over the Center for Economic Education at the University of Cincinnati.  You can read more about the Center at U of M here.  (First order of business: revamp the website.)

So as you can see, I have a lot on my plate right now.  Normally at the end of each semester I spend a day or two watching the Lord of Rings Trilogy in its entirety, but it’s now late July and I still haven’t done so this summer.  Maybe the week after next I’ll do so, but for now I am content to spend my days reading, writing, and working.  Not a bad existence.

OK, enough about me.  My ride on Friday was pretty uneventful, and by that I mean it was ridiculously hot.  Broiling, boiling, searing, baking … whatever descriptors you can conjure up, it was hot.  As I’ve written before, this is the first year that I’ve been an all-seasons cyclist.  Biking around town in the winter wasn’t that bad; as long as I wore enough layers of clothes, I was fine.  Biking in the more-comfortable seasons is a joy, but biking in the summer heat is something else entirely.  Not to gross anyone out, but normally I shower around every other day.  It just seems like a waste of water to shower every day, even if I bike to work daily.  Once I arrive home, drink some water and cool off, I don’t feel particularly dirty, nor do I stink.  (At least, my wife doesn’t complain if I do.)  And considering that unless I teach, I really don’t interact with anyone at the office, so a little sweat is no big deal.

Those days are gone for now at least.  I’ve been taking up to two showers a day lately, especially if I do yard work in the morning then bike to work in the afternoon.  Gone also are the days of wearing the same cycling shirt for more than one day.  Man I can’t wait for fall to get here.

But really, biking in the heat hasn’t been that bad.  As long as I keep moving, I’m generally not that uncomfortable.  My rides tend to be about 12 M.P.H. on average, and a nice breeze like that will substantially cool down the hottest day.  It’s when I have to stop for more than a minute, especially outside of the shade, that the weather is really uncomfortable.

This happened on Friday afternoon at about the hottest part of the day.  I had biked to campus in the morning on my normal route, Southern Avenue, and left campus around 4:30 PM to run some errands on the way home.  I needed to stop at a package store, and rather than visit that store at the corner of Madison and McLean, I decided to bike to the one at Union and Kimbrough.  Mostly I did so because I wanted to spend some time biking before my weekend began.  I left campus and took the Chickasaw Gardens route west, and just as I turned north from Lombardy onto Humes, I heard the whistle of a train approaching the crossing at Garden Lane.  I sped up a bit to try to beat the train, but just as I turned left on Garden, I looked ahead to see the crossing guards descend and the train enter the crossing.  Sigh.

Normally I would have biked south on Plainview, to Higbee, Lombardy, then Central, scooted underneath the railroad overpass, then biked north again on Flicker.  But that day I decided to wait and see how long it took for the train to pass.  I figured it would take five minutes tops.

Seven minutes later the train finally cleared the crossing.  It wasn’t that bad of a wait, except that I had the full force of a late-July afternoon sun pounding down on me.  Drinking water helped, but it was still pretty miserable.  I did wait for a minute with another commuter cyclist, a guy about my age that I didn’t recognize.  Normally I would have chatted with a fellow cyclist for a bit about bike commuting, but it was so hot I wasn’t feeling chatty.  After the train left we both continued on our ways, me heading into the welcome shade of Midtown’s residential streets.

Several times in my ride, I felt water dripping from my face onto my arms and legs.  By the time I got home, after the package store, Black Lodge, and the quickie mart across the street, my clothes were pretty well soaked.  Normally I like to relax and have some water before I hit the showers, but sitting in a chair and feeling my clothes clinging to me was not terribly comfortable, so I showered right after getting home.

Here’s a screenshot of my ride.

Screen shot 2011 07 24 at 11 59 40 AM

And here’s a clickable link you can explore.

I’ll probably bike 3-4 days this week, depending on how much I need to be at the office.  My wife is going out of town this coming weekend, so if anyone is up for a Saturday night beer and bike ride, let me know in the comments.

Have a good week Memphis, and try to stay cool.  It ain’t easy, I know.

HOLY CRAP I just realized this is my 100th post!!!  Woo hoo!!!  Break out the champagne, yo!

Cyclists v. Drivers, or, Class and Transportation

I’ve been really fortunate in my time as a commuter cyclist in Memphis in that I haven’t had one single accident, be it single-vehicle (i.e. me alone) or due to a car driver’s error.  I’ve had a few close calls, one of which I wrote about at the end of this post, but mostly I’ve been fine.  And I’m happy to write that the vast majority of drivers are generally pretty cool and give me the three feet of clearance required by law (and common sense, even if they don’t know they are supposed to), if not the entire lane, when I am biking on streets without bike lanes.

I’ve also become a lot more bold about “taking the lane” and thus requiring passing cars to wait until the next lane (whether the traffic in that lane is moving in the same or the opposite direction) is clear.  Granted, I still make efforts to ride as much as possible on residential streets, even when a more direct route on a four-lane road is available.  Nonetheless, I haven’t really encountered much overt car-on-bike hostility in the past three years.

All of that said, when I saw this article come up on my blog reader, I immediately copied the URL to save for a later read.  I’ve just read the article for the first time today, and I very much appreciate the points raised about how drivers and cyclists interact on the road and how each perceives the other.  I especially agree with the quotation about how the car, especially one that is single-occupant, decreases the interaction on roads and the resulting cooperation that can occur when people make eye contact.  (This is why I always stare directly at the driver of a vehicle waiting to turn left across my lane.  If I see them seeing me, I figure they are less likely to run me over.)  Also, when individuals assume that their behavior is largely anonymous, it further encourages unfriendly driving habits.  (Trolling in a car?  Sounds about right.)

But what really resonated with me are the perceived differences in class between drivers and cyclists, and how these differences vary depending on who is driving the car or riding the bike.  To the wealthy suburbanite driving the SUV, maybe I appear to be a loser who can’t afford to drive (although I’m not, and I can).  To the wage earner just getting by in an old beater, maybe I appear to be an elitist who decision to bike only acts as an impediment in an otherwise hectic day.  (It should be noted that I’ve never actually surveyed any non-cyclists about their perception of cyclists, and that I have had pleasant bike-related conversations with both wealthy suburbanites – which I wrote about here – and wage earners – which I wrote about here.  Also, I’m not trying to lapse into stereotypes about the attitudes of suburbanites or wage-earners, just speculating.)

To be fair, I can see how someone might perceive me to be an elitist when I’m cycling.  My bike is not especially fancy or expensive, but the replacement value of the frame, wheels, tires, and all the bells and whistles I have attached to the frame would easily be $1000 to $1200.  That’s some serious bank when you’re just getting by.  It’s not as though I slowly saved enough money to buy my bike over the course of months or years, or bought a used bike at a pawn shop.  I just went to the bike shop one day and bought the thing outright.  And whenever I see a new toy I can’t live without, I buy it.  End of story.

(As for the “loser” epithet, I’ll just leave that for Hollywood to perpetuate.)

But I think there’s something else at work here.  I’m reminded of a story a fellow Memphis cyclist told me about a friend of his who noticed an increase in anti-cyclist hatred three years ago when gas prices spiked so rapidly over the summer.  Maybe this perceived increase was due to observation bias, that the first act of antagonism only served to increase awareness of future incidents which might have been otherwise ignored in different times.  Whatever the case, the feeling of a lack of control over one’s life can cause one to lash out at the perceived causes of (or beneficiaries of) this feeling.  I’ve heard feelings of frustration and helplessness cited as a potential cause of young men to sympathize with, if not engage in, terrorist activities and organizations.  (No, I am not comparing angry drivers with terrorists, just commenting on how those feelings can drive people to behave badly.)  So the driver, feeling ever more pinched by rising gas prices and with few options other than to drive, sees the cyclist tooling down the street, oblivious to the vagaries of the market for gasoline, and feels his blood begin to boil.  Certainly, it’s not the cyclist’s fault that gas prices are so high – indeed, if more people biked, this would reduce the demand-side pressure which tend to keep fuel prices high – but that doesn’t matter.  What does matter is the perception that this cyclist is “above” the concerns of the common person.

This feeds the belief that cyclists are elitists and exacerbates perceived class differences between cyclists and drivers.  Not only do we have the flexibility to avoid higher gas prices, but we also have fewer concerns about how we look when we arrive at our destinations as well as the option of adjusting our schedules to fit our desire to bike.  It is as though the strictures of regular life don’t apply to this special class of people: ironically, the very ones who have the least amount of protection from injury on the roadways.

The perception that cyclists live by different rules is not helped when we do things like running red lights or failing to signal when we turn.  I know that I might catch a little flack for that – no one should try to blame the victim – especially considering that I myself have done both of those things.  Yep, I’ve run red lights (although very rarely) and failed to signal properly.  So am I a hypocrite?  Yep.  And apparently I’m part of the problem as well.

But let me be clear: regardless of how often cyclists violate the rules of the road (and I have a bit more to say about that in a moment, so be patient) or the extent to which we are regarded as elitists, this in no way justifies any act of violence or aggression against a cyclist.  Ever.

(Plus, as this article reports, research indicates that in many if not most cases, accidents involving a car and a bike are the fault of the driver, not the cyclist.  Side note: the commuter cyclist featured in that article is my new hero.)

Unfortunately, simply because we are the exception on the roads, cyclists will likely continue to be perceived as “elitists” or “the problem.”  It’s been my experience with people who are, shall we say, biased against certain demographic groups, that those people only really notice the members of the group when those members do something inappropriate (or which is perceived as such).  I call this “having a book.”  Here’s how it works:

Imagine an average driver tooling around Memphis on an average day.  Very likely that driver will encounter other drivers engaging in defensive driving practices, as well as some drivers who violate the rules of the road.  In the first case, the well-behaved drivers are barely noticed; in the second, the poorly-behaved drivers, if noticed at all, are usually dismissed with a curt rejoinder and then forgotten.  Driving, being the default mode of transportation, is all but invisible to drivers, whether that driving is respectful or not.

Now imagine that the driver in question happens upon a cyclist fully obeying the rules of the road.  Likely the cyclist will be passed with little thought and soon forgotten.  But if the driver sees a cyclist, say, running a red light?  “Oh HAIL no!  Just look at that arrogant cyclist who does he think he is elitist spandex sidewalk!!”  Or something like that.

My point is that the driver keeps a book in which s/he records the interaction s/he has with other travelers on the road,  But, only the negative behaviors of the “other” – in this case, the cyclist – are ever recorded in the book.  Poor decisions by the “norm” are not recorded, nor are good decisions by anyone.

The result of this is that some drivers have a biased perception of how cyclists behave on the road, who has the ultimate right to occupy our streets, and who is to blame when cars and bikes collide.  This bias is made easier to maintain by failing to recognize that there is an enormous amount of variation in the cycling community.  If a driver lumps all cyclists into one bucket, then bad behavior by one cyclist applies to all cyclists.  This generalization is not applied to drivers, of course.

So what do we do with this?  Hopefully as more cyclists take the road, we will be recognized by more drivers as legitimate users of the road.  Increased enforcement of existing laws by local law enforcement will also help.  But I think we are looking at a long-term project, where each successive generation becomes ever more likely to support cycling.  Creating more facilities for cyclists can only hasten this trend.

Critical Mass

As much as I want to support and encourage bike commuting, here in Memphis or anywhere else, I try to keep a careful eye on my tactics.  Throughout my years in activism, mostly as a participant but occasionally as an organizer, I’ve gleaned a few truths about being a successful advocate for a cause.  I won’t list all of them here, but I have found that it is easier to attract flies with honey than vinegar, and that few people enjoy having a finger waggled at them. Better, I think, to be a positive role model than a scold.

But when it comes to cyclists asserting their right to shared space and insisting on some recognition of the legitimacy of cycling as a means of transportation, I recognize that a gentle nudge or a well-placed shoulder is sometimes necessary.  Many drivers are at least accepting of commuter cyclists, if not occasionally supportive, but for those that are not so encouraging, being assertive (not aggressive) can go a long way toward a grudging acceptance.  At some point, you have to act like you belong on the road just as much as any motorized vehicle.

So I’m little conflicted in my feelings about Critical Mass.  (I’m assuming that you know what Critical Mass is.  If not, follow the link and read.)  On one hand, I do very much believe that cyclists should assert their rights to the road and, in the absence of completely separate bike facilities (which are apparently much more common in Europe), this is of paramount importance.  I understand that driving along behind a mass of cyclists can be frustrating if you’re in a hurry, but it’s not as though most Critical Mass rides commandeer every road in the city.  If you’re running late, take an alternate route.  Or plan ahead.  Critical Mass rides happen every month on the same day (the last Friday) at the same time (6:00 PM).  It’s not like these are flash mob bike rides.  It’s a regular event.  Get used to it.

Plus, having bikes take over the streets for 12 afternoons a year is hardly a universal pain in the ass.  Because guess who owns the streets the other 353 afternoons (and mornings, and evenings, and nights, and days) … motor vehicles. So a bunch of cyclists take over every now and then.  Get over it.

Plus, it’s enormously empowering to ride with a group of people (whatever the motive) and force cars and trucks to stop and wait for you, the cyclist.  Not all group rides are political in nature, as is Critical Mass, but all of them can be very instructive for all users of the roads, and fun for cyclists as well.

On the other hand, being a pain in the ass (or at least perceived as one) can make more enemies than friends.  To the extent that some drivers feel a sense of entitlement over the roadways, cyclists purposefully taking over the streets could really cheese them off.  There are certainly other ways to promote safe cycling than Critical Mass rides (although I do generally support them).  Also, I do firmly believe that cyclists should obey all traffic laws just like cars.  This means stopping at red lights and stop signs, using turn and lane-change signals, and riding two abreast at the most. It really bugs me when I see cyclists running red lights (yes, I’ve done it, but rarely and always with regret) as I think it makes us look entitled in our way, as though the rules of the road don’t apply to us.  That can certainly turn drivers against cyclists and cycling as a legitimate use of the road.

(I do make an exception for group bike rides where group cohesiveness is necessary.  Arguably this does include Critical Mass rides, so perhaps some negotiation with the police about ride-alongs is necessary.)

But whatever you think about Critical Mass rides, there is no justification for this.  A warning: what you are about to see is rather disturbing.

NOTE: the video-embedding plugin I use is not compatible with the current version of my blogging software, so until I find a replacement or the plugin is updated, here’s a link to the video. I just installed a new Youtube embedding plugin (read about it here), so embedded videos are good to go.

I embedded the video rather than just linking to it because I want people to watch this and reflect on it.  It’s not easy to watch; seeing the car plow through the crowd of cyclists is terrifying.  The way the bikes and bodies glance and bounce off his hood and windshield is sickening.  The aftermath is horrifying; seeing the broken bicycles and people lying in the street reminds me of the aftermath of a truck bombing.

But not every agrees on Critical Mass techniques.  After I posted this video on my facebook wall, a friend of mine responded with the following comment.

So the summary is that a large number of very vulnerable people on bikes try to be as annoying as possible for fun (but in the name of protest) and they’re surprised when one out of a million flips out? Way to go self-made martyrs.

Why not behave sensibly, actually promote reasonable car-biker relations, and not encourage wackos to go postal?

I chuckled when I read this, mostly because my friend is an avid cyclist (and tri-athlete to boot) and being so openly critical of the techniques of Critical Mass takes more than a little bravura.  He later amended his comments to read:

I hate to disparage people on “my side”, but I’m not sure that critical mass is the best way to gain acceptance of a fringe group in the broader community.

I agree with this sentiment much more than his first one.  As I wrote earlier, I too am conflicted about Critical Mass rides.  So I’d really like to hear your thoughts, dear reader.  I have a comment section for a reason, you know.  If you enjoy this blog, please take a moment and share your thoughts.  I would very much appreciate it.

Today’s commute

After taking yesterday off, except for a short ride from home to my local watering hole – less than two miles round trip – I saddled up and set off this morning (OK, this afternoon – I worked from home until around 3:00 PM) to ride to work and get a few things done.  The ride to work was great.  I continued to take it easy, especially on the uphill sections of my ride. I managed to get to work in about 20 minutes, much closer to my regular commute time that in recent rides.

After checking off a few items from my to-do list, I saddled up once again to run a few errands.  Fortunately, most of the errands were in very close proximity, in and around the stores at Poplar Plaza.  From work I rode to the Post Office on Prescott Street then to the UPS Store on Highland.  (I had to drop off an empty canister of CO2 for shipment, which is not something I do very often, but my wife and I are huge devotees of our Sodastream soda maker, so when duty calls, I answer.)  After the UPS store, I biked to the best video store of all time, then home.

Overall the ride was really good.  My knee started aching a bit toward the end, probably due to pushing a little too hard and riding a little too far, but after some stretching and relaxing at home, it feels better.  The weather was a bit nasty; cold throughout and rainy toward the end.  I was fairly well soaked by the time I got home, but nothing a hot shower couldn’t fix.  I forgot to turn MotionX GPS back on when I biked home from Black Lodge, so the official trip length estimate of 8.41 miles is a bit low.  But my maximum speed is slowly increasing, which I take as a good sign.

I even got some good biking love today.  When I was waiting in line at the post office the woman in line in front of me struck up a conversation.  She said that she had passed me in traffic on Central Avenue and seemed a but surprised that I was in line behind her.  I joked that she had probably seen me make a few obscene gestures toward the drivers passing me in traffic.  (More on that later.)  I was surprised to hear her say that she didn’t blame me.  (It might’ve been her fur coat that rendered me so taken aback.)

She went on to say that the bike lanes recently installed on Southern Avenue have inconvenienced her a bit, as it slows down her commute somewhat.  But she didn’t seem at all cheesed by this – in fact she said that the bike lanes were a long time coming to Memphis.  That made me really happy.  Outside the post office an elderly gentleman remarked on my multitude of taillights, saying how I looked ready to go.  I laughed and said I was.

It’s not often that I hear positive comments about my biking from two strangers in one day, and it was especially welcome after my ride down Central Avenue, from my building on campus to S. Reese St.  Reese is an ideal connector between Central and the Poplar Plaza.  A two-lane residential street, it’s not very heavily traveled, especially compared to Highland between Central and Poplar.  Plus, the Chickasaw Gardens route is accessible from Reese, so I can bike from Kroger all the way home on any number of routes without accessing four-lane roads.

The ride down Central from my building to Reese is maybe half a mile, not even five minutes in duration.  In that time I had at least two vehicles break the three-feet rule.  I was certainly holding up my part of the deal, riding as close to the curb as is “practicable” (a direct quote from the updated municipal cycling code).  Unfortunately, drivers often don’t do the same.  Once there was a car in the left lane stopped waiting to turn.  As I overtook the car in the far side of the right lane some douchebag in a minivan decided to shoot the gap between me and the car.  He came so close to me that, had his passenger window been open, I could have reached in and adjusted the volume on his car stereo with little effort. Another driver just made no effort to move over in his lane when he was passing me.  Rude and illegal.

I should sign off now as this is really getting my dander up and I have a crap-ton of stuff to do today.  I’ll try to reserve my energy for a later post on driver (and cyclist) etiquette.  (It’s not only the internally combusting inhabitants of the road that cheese me off.)  To end on a positive note, in a few hours I’m off to the (annual?) Bicycle Swap Meet then to Shelby Farms for a photo shoot of me and my bike.  I was going to spend my entire day on my bike today, but given my slightly ambitious commute yesterday, I think I’ll going to take it easy.

Today’s commute (pt. 2)

Hey, want to see a map of my commute home today?  Of course you do.  Well feast your eyes on this.  OK, I know. Nothing too monumental.  A relatively short ride home, even by my standards.

You might be wondering, how did I get such an amazingly accurate map of my commute home from work?  I owe it all to MotionX GPS, an app I recently downloaded to my iPhone.  I’ve long wanted a GPS-smart way of measuring my commute to work and home as well as other trips, and I seem to have found it.  I’ve only used it twice so I can’t attest to its long-term value, but for its ridiculously low price, how could I say no?

Read more about on the iTunes store website.  Pretty impressive features for only $2.99?  Sign me up.

You might also be wondering about the circuitous route I took home.  That was due to poor planning.  I needed to stop by the grocery to get some soup for my wife, who is currently suffering from a sinus infection, and I didn’t choose the best route possible.  No matter though – it was a good ride.

Public Bikes

My love for Public Bikes is deep.  I’ve long appreciated the beauty of well-designed products, and the bicycles produced by Public are among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

That said, I don’t know what my next bike will be.  Maybe a road bike, maybe motocross, maybe a commuter bike. Whatever the case, this primer on bike security is worth reading.

Mind the Gap

I haven’t watched it yet, but there’s a new documentary on Vimeo.  It’s called “Mind the Gap” and it’s about sustainable urban transportation.  One of the topics the webisodes covers is biking.  As soon as I get a free few hours I’m going to give it a watch.

Anyway, here’s the link.  Note: I had to open a Vimeo account to subscribe to the webisodes, but I think you can watch it without subscribing.  Enjoy.

[shiver]

This is the first winter since I started riding where I didn’t stop biking to work when the weather turned cold.  Biking in almost any climate requires certain considerations, most notably what clothes to wear, but winter cycling is unique in how the elements can interact and turn an otherwise ordinary ride into something fairly miserable.

Wind and rain are among the two factors that exhibit a multiplier effect when combined with frosty temperatures.  Riding into a head-wind is a pain in the ass no matter what the weather is like, but drop the outside temperature to around 40ºF and even a small breeze can feel like death is sighing on your neck.  Rain also is a game-changer: a nice shower during a summer ride is very nearly a blessing, but in the winter it becomes a pace-slowing, runny nose-inducing cluster fuck.  Not to mention the ever-present danger of gutters full of slick wet leaves.  Yikes.

I am aware that I’m writing from a position of relative privilege here.  Note that I didn’t include snow, ice, slush, or sleet in my list of winter weather perils.  That’s mostly because, here in Memphis, we don’t get that much frozen precipitation in the winter, so spending a lot of time expounding on it here seems unnecessary.  Plus, I’ve never biked in such conditions, so what would I have to say anyway?

This isn’t to say that I haven’t encountered any extreme conditions while biking to school.  Just recently I set a new record for the coldest temperature (not including windchill) in which I biked to work: 21ºF.  My previous record low, 22ºF, was set the previous day (this was back in early-December) and broke a record that had stood since last winter, that of 30ºF.

Twenty-one degrees is cold weather by nearly any standard, unless perhaps you consider diving into ice-covered lakes a form of entertainment.  Surprisingly though, it really wasn’t that bad.  In fact, the key to biking in cold weather (not taking into account ice or snow on the ground) is simply to dress in layers.  Preferably, many layers of relatively thin clothing.  I usually start with a long-sleeved, wool-blend shirt by Icebreaker as my first layer.  If it’s really cold, I’ll add a second long-sleeve shirt, usually Capilene, then a cotton t-shirt on top of that.  Note: cotton provides almost no insulating power; I just wear it to cover my chest and stomach.

Below the waist I wear biking shorts, long Capilene bottoms, and some old hiking pants I bought years ago at REI.  The pants are rather thin, but they do a decent job of stopping the wind and reducing exposure to rain.  Some Smartwool socks, a Pearl Izumi shell jacket, a Bontrager hat to cover my head and ears, and my ratty old running shoes completes the ensemble.  Plus a scarf and some gloves if it’s really nasty outside.

Note what is missing from my outfit: down and fleece.  Down jackets are great if you’re freezing your butt off in an outdoor sports arena in winter, but are terrible for exercise.  Why?  They over-insulate you, to the point that the sweat can freeze on your skin during stops.  Fleece is good, but it need not be three inches thick.  A thin fleece jacket under a shell provides more than enough insulation.

The good people over at LifeHacker posted an article about biking in winter which I enjoyed.  I didn’t read the article before I started cold weather cycling, but it covers most of what I already knew or figured out.  Also, here’s an article about using zip ties to create homemade snow tires.  I haven’t had to go that far in preparing for winter biking, but it’s good to how to mod your tires if needed.