Apparel/gear for someone using their bike to commute....

I ride my bike every day to work. I need to wear a suit, so I’d prefer clothes to wear over my suit in the cases listed below. Any ideas on things that I’m ignoring would be helpful. The main point is the cold. I’m from the south, and I live in DC, so I’m sure I’m neglecting something that has to do with the cold. (I know a lot of you from places north of DC say, “oh, don’t worry, DC’s not that cold.” Well, it is. It’s already a lot colder than any place I’ve ever lived.)

[ul]
[li]helmet (never had one before)[/li][li]lights (I ride at night)[/li][li]fender (when it rains, my biggest problem is rarely the rain, it’s mostly the water spraying up on me from my front tire, my back tire is already covered by the rack for my panniers.)[/li][li]cheap impermiable pants that the wind and rain won’t go straight through. [/li][li] some sort of mask for when it’s really cold. [/li][/ul]

Any recommendations for good products that cover the items listed or for any products I might be neglecting would be greatly appreciated…

Booties to put over your shoes when it’s really cold.

Good gloves.

Something to make sure you don’t show up at work a sweaty mess because you wore a suit while biking. :smiley:

Too late. No matter how cold it gets, I still manage to start sweating once I enter the building…which is why I have started carrying a handkerchief.

Unfortunately cheap and impermeable are a hard to find combination. They usually tear very readily, and give up in a heavy rain. In my opinion a rain shell (either jacket or pants) is worth buying a good one. But if you keep checking places Like Sierra Trading Post and Patagonia outlet they will eventually have good ones on clearance. Although the colors and sizes on clearance may be less than ideal for your tastes.

Somthing like this.
http://www.columbia.com/mens-rain-pants-shell-pants/men-pants-rainshell,default,sc.html?sz=1&start=1

All the usual suspects make good ones, and eventually they get rid of some.

Keep your suits at work.

Wear comfortable biking clothes for the commute and change at work.

Gloves as mentioned above, are important.

A hairstyle that recovers well from helmet hair.

Second the vote for wearing gear to cycle in, and changing at work if at all possible. You will end up sweating, and this will be made even worse if you get waterproof tops and bottoms - they will act like a mini sauna.

In terms of other suggestions, depending on how fast you ride, you may find a pair of sunnies/clear lens glasses come in handy for wind and bug protection. I also use a skullcap under my helmet during winter, as my helmet is quite vented.

Booties for the feeties-- I have some that go mid-calf over my cycling shoes. Or at least slush-covers to go over the pedal clips. Cuts down on the wind and cold feeties, too.
If you don’t want to go with pants, and your commute isn’t really long, I love my Jackson/Gibbs cycling poncho thingie (totally can’t find them online-- they’re in OR. Anyway, there are cycling-specific ponchos that ROCK)
A beanie-style hat that fits on under your helmet, and/or a helmet cover, and/or a hood on your coat that will fit over your helmet. I also have little polar-fleece doggie-ear style flaps that velcro onto my helmet straps to cover my ears from the wind.
The mask would probably be listed as a balaclava.
I have a pair of gloves called “lobster gloves” that are awesome-- two fat fingers-- enough to brake with. Pearl Izumi might make something like them these days.

Best things for commuting:

Pearl Izumi Lobster Gloves - around $50 - heavily insulated and water resistant. Your pinky and ring fingers share a single (large) fingerspace in the glove. For less than Arctic conditions, a pair of Seirus neoprene gloves - around $25?.

I’ve used the booties that go over riding shoes, and I’ve used winter riding boots. Winter riding boots are more confortable both for keeping warm and for how they fit. I’m using Lake boots - +/- $220. This item is only if you’re riding with spd pedals. For platform pedals, decent warm hiking boots will do. Smartwool socks - $15 - are useful in either case, and you might want sock liners.

I don’t think you’ll find anything to fit over dress pants that will cut the wind and not make you sweat. You might want to wear light longjohns under your suit pants and then stash the longjohns when you get to work. REI’s Novara winter riding tights -$85 - are windproof on the front, breathable in the back. You are going to want to vent vapor somewhere, and your legs will be generating all the heat.

I would go to an army/navy store and get a light polypro balaclava for your head. You might also get a cheaper helmet (cheaper helmets typically have fewer vents).

[ul]
[li]helmet - Specialized’s Air Force Helmet is a good choice, if available. It’s cheap, comfortable, and meets the more stringent Snell safety standards. Other helmets which meet this code are listed here. A good bike shop assistant should guide in suitable sizing and adjustment, which is necessary for effective protection. Make sure you try a few on in store. If you don’t find it comfortable, you’ll probably end up not wearing it.[/li][li]lights - If you’re riding on lit streets then Planet Bike’s Blaze/Superflasher set will make you very visible, and is worth the extra expense. Unlit streets would require a stronger front light.[/li][li]fender - Zefal Swan Croozer (road or MTB as applicable) is cheap and effective.[/li][li]mask - a Buff (or a cheap imitation of).[/li][/ul]

If you have spare money after this & gloves, consider investing in a hi-vis shell.

For a mask I use a Schampa model actually made for motorcycles. It covers from the nose down and has a sort of flap that goes under the coat/jacket providing a scarf effect without hindering movement or vision.

I don’t ride my bicycle in traffic as much as I used to but when I do I stick my motorcycle jacket on. I don’t heal from road rash or broken bones as well as I did 30 years ago. I don’t look as cool as the usual cyclist ------ but I look even worse in plaster. :slight_smile:

A good tip for waterproof trousers is army goretex stuff on ebay - very cheap (£25 for German army surplus troosers here in the UK) and works really well. They’re not a perfect fit for cycling (they are perfect for hiking), but they’re OK, certainly for a commute. Completely waterproof, and as ‘breathable’ as you’re going to get.

Gloves have to be a priority - if it’s properly cold and you’ve no gloves you won’t get 100 yards before your hands start to burn.

Even with a short five-mile ride, I need to change clothes (and shower if possible), but if it works for you, go ahead.

You’ll absolutely need gloves. I like Swix cross-country ski gloves, with a leather palm and fabric back. I get them loose enough that when it gets really cold I can wear thin polypro gloves underneath. But other people like lobster mitts or whatever.

My advice is spend money on a decent Gore-tex (or similar breathable) jacket (make sure it has underarm vents, too. ), but go for cheaper pants. In my experience, the seat of rain pants tend to wear out quickly when cycling, because of all the stresses and friction.
You definitely want lights, but just get whatever LED lights the bike shop has (red for rear, white for front). Modern LED lights last forever on a few AAs, and they’re all going to be basically similar.

It rarely gets cold enough in DC for a hat to be absolutely necessary, IMHO, but can’t hurt to try one. Remember to adjust your helmet if you’re wearing a hat.
If it’s raining hard, I wear rain booties over my sneakers. I like the cheap ones from Campmoor.

Gloves don’t cut it so great, you need a windproof shell or have the back of the glove be a windstopper material. Also, gloves isolate your fingers and they will get much colder than if they are snuggled up together in some way. So lobster claw type gloves tend to be recommended for winter bike commuting because you get the warmth of mittens but enough dexterity to use your breaks and gears.

Or go to work early so you have time to fix your head. I did that back when I thought it was cool to have a faux hawk (it made me look like a chicken).

ETA: Oh, and I heartily second a mask, buff, or neck sock. I have clear cycling glasses to keep the wind out of my eyes as well as debris and chunks of ice and roadsalt but you’ll need something else to keep your face from hurting when the wind bites. I used to freeze my frakking nose!