Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Bike shorts to Balaclavas



Welcome to November. In most parts of North America fall is well under way.
I guess it depends on your location as to how serious Mother Nature rolls out fall.
Here on the West coast, fall is when the leaves turn colour and drop onto the road/riding surface... And the rains rollin’ off the Pacific Ocean. For that matter that also describes most of the West coast winter, other than the few days in mid-January when we get about five centimetres of wet snow that brings the area to a grinding halt.

The rest of CANADA, that is, from Hope BC East and North gets snow and more snow and cold and wind. Did I mention snow?
Hypothermia becomes a very real concern, along with frost bite to extremities, or anything exposed to the elements.

Cycling is going out and having a great ride, being comfortable in the elements, and doing it safely. Be it clear and cool, or clear and cold.

I realize that temperature is just a number, but it’s a number that has a very direct bearing on what we do, where we do it, how long we do it. What we do while we are there, and if we even go out for what we had planned.

Layering has been the by words for winter activities since we all were little and we were bundled in snow suits to go outside. Mom wasn’t wrong, even though we felt we knew better.

Cold and wind can be the unseen enemy, which if you aren’t prepared and able to see the signs, can cause more problems.

Winter cycling can be great but without taking the outside environment and conditions, at the beginning, during and afterward into account, you could be putting your life in danger.
Please beware when riding during the colder months. Taking that extra time to make sure you are prepared will assist in somewhat controlling the conditions and make the difference between a cold miserable ride and a comfortable great ride.
It can be as simple as mind over matter, if you don’t mind the conditions and can handle them, then it doesn’t really matter.

I have attached excellent information from the Environment CANADA web site.
They have detailed the how’s and whys and why not’s far better than I could.
They are experts in the field of cold. Please take a look at their web site for more information.

I am of the opinion that functional and warm is better than looking good.  Safety comes in many aspects, knowing what to wear, how to layer, in what order, and being seen are what is going to allow you to make it through and survive.


From the Environment CANADA web site,


What is Wind Chill?

Anyone who has ever waited at a bus stop, ridden a bike in the winter or taken a walk on a blustery winter day knows that you feel colder when the wind blows. This cooling sensation that is caused by the combined effect of temperature and wind, is what is known as wind chill.

On a calm day, our bodies insulate us somewhat from the outside temperature by warming up a thin layer of air close to our skin, known as the boundary layer. When the wind blows, it takes this protective layer away, exposing our skin to the outside air. It takes energy for our bodies to warm up a new layer and, if each layer keeps getting blown away, our skin temperature will drop and we will feel colder.
Wind also makes you feel colder by evaporating any moisture on your skin, a process that draws more heat away from the body. Studies show that when skin is wet, it loses heat much faster than when it is dry

How does Wind Chill affect you?

Living in a cold country can be hazardous to your health. Each year in Canada, more than 80 people die from over-exposure to the cold, and many more suffer injuries resulting from hypothermia and frostbite. Wind chill can play a major role in such health hazards because it speeds up the rate at which your body loses heat.

How much heat you lose depends not only on the cooling effects of the cold and the wind chill, but on other factors. Good quality clothing with high insulating properties traps air, creating a thicker boundary layer around the body which keeps in the heat. Wet clothing and footwear lose their insulating properties, resulting in body-heat loss nearly equal to that of exposed skin. Your body type also determines how quickly you lose heat; people with a tall, slim build become cold much faster than those that are shorter and heavier.

We can also gain heat by increasing our metabolism or soaking up the sun. Physical activity, such as walking or skiing, increases our metabolism – which generates more body heat. Age and physical condition also play a part. Elderly people and children have less muscle mass and as a result, generate less body heat. Sunshine, even on a cold winter day, can also make a difference. Bright sunshine can make you feel as much as 10 degrees warmer.

Over time, our bodies can also adapt to the cold. People who live in a cold climate are often able to withstand cold better than those from warmer climates.


Beating the chill

The best way to avoid the hazards of wind chill is to check the weather forecast before going outside, and to be prepared by dressing warmly. As a guideline, keep in mind that the risk of frostbite increases rapidly when wind chill values go below -27.


A simple way to avoid wind chill is to get out of the wind. Environment Canada's wind chill forecasts are based on the wind you would experience on open ground; taking shelter from the wind can therefore reduce or even eliminate the wind chill factor.

A recent survey indicated that 82 per cent of Canadians use wind chill information to decide how to dress before going outside in the winter. Many groups and organizations also use the wind chill index to regulate their outdoor activities.

Schools use wind chill information to decide whether it is safe for children to go outdoors at recess; hockey clubs cancel outdoor practices when the wind chill is too cold; people who work outside for a living, such as construction workers and ski-lift operators, are required to take indoor breaks to warm up when the wind chill is very cold.

Seven steps to cold weather safety

  1. Listen to the weather forecast
  2. Plan ahead
  3. Dress warmly
  4. Seek shelter
  5. Stay dry
  6. Keep active
  7. Be aware

1.) Listen to the weather forecast

  • Check the Environment Canada weather forecast before going out in the winter.
  • Listen for a wind chill warning. Wind chill warnings, based on local climate, are issued when significant wind chills are expected to occur.

Environment Canada’s weather forecasts are available through radio and TV broadcasts, Environment Canada’s Weatheradio network, and online at

2.) Plan ahead

  • Develop a cold weather safety plan in advance to ensure that safety concerns are addressed when it’s very cold, or when the wind chill is significant. For example, schools could hold recess indoors, outside workers could schedule warm-up breaks, and those involved in winter recreation could reduce the amount of time they spend outdoors.

3.) Dress warmly

  • Dress in layers, with a wind resistant outer layer.
  • When it is cold, wear a hat (a large portion of body heat is lost from the head), mittens or insulated gloves. You should also have something to keep your face warm, such as a scarf, neck tube or facemask.
  • Wear warm and waterproof footwear. When it is very cold, or when the wind chill is significant, cover as much exposed skin as possible. Your body’s extremities, such as the ears, nose, fingers and toes lose heat the fastest.

4.) Seek shelter

  • When the wind chill is significant, get out of the wind and limit the time you spend outside.

5.) Stay dry

  • Wet clothing chills the body rapidly.
  • Remove outer layers of clothing or open your coat if you are sweating.

6.) Keep active

  • Walking or running will help warm you by generating body heat.

7.) Be aware

  • Watch for signs of frostnip, frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Some people are more susceptible to the cold, particularly children, the elderly and those with circulation problems.
  • The use of alcohol, tobacco and certain medications will increase your susceptibility to cold.

Cold injuries

Exposure to the cold can be hazardous or even life-threatening. Your body's extremities, such as the ears, nose, fingers and toes, lose heat the fastest. Exposed skin may freeze, causing frostnip or frostbite. In extreme conditions or after prolonged exposure to the cold, the body core can also lose heat, resulting in hypothermia.


  • Being cold over a prolonged period of time can cause a drop in body temperature (below the normal 37°C).
  • Shivering, confusion and loss of muscular control (e.g., difficulty walking) can occur.
  • It can progress to a life-threatening condition where shivering stops or the person loses consciousness. Cardiac arrest may occur.

What to do:

·  Get medical attention immediately.

·  Lay the person down and avoid rough handling, particularly if the person is unconscious.

·  Get the person indoors.

·  Gently remove wet clothing.

·  Warm the person gradually and slowly, using available sources of heat.


  • A mild form of frostbite, where only the skin freezes.
  • Skin appears yellowish or white, but feels soft to the touch.
  • Painful tingling or burning sensation.

What to do:

·  Do not rub or massage the area.

·  Warm the area gradually – use body heat (a warm hand) or warm water. Avoid direct heat which can burn the skin.

·  Once the affected area is warm, do not re-expose it to the cold.


  • A more severe condition, where both the skin and the underlying tissue (fat, muscle, bone) are frozen.
  • Skin appears white and waxy and is hard to the touch.
  • No sensation – the area is numb.

What to do:

·  Frostbite can be serious, and can result in amputation. Get medical help!

·  Do not rub or massage the area.

·  Do not warm the area until you can ensure it will stay warm.

·  Warm the area gradually; use body heat, or warm water (40°C to 42°C). Avoid direct heat which can burn the skin.

Try this neat experiment to better understand wind chill

Turn on a fan and stand in front of it. You will feel colder because of the wind cooling your skin, but the temperature in the room has not changed. You cannot make the room any colder, no matter how high you turn up the fan. Just like outside, no matter how strong the wind blows, the temperature of the air outside does not change.

Now dab some water on your skin and stand in front of the fan again. The wet skin should feel much colder. This demonstrates how important it is to stay dry when outdoors in cold and windy conditions.

Where is the coldest wind chill in Canada?

Wind chills below -70 have been recorded in northern communities in Canada. On January 13, 1975 at Kugaaruk, Nunavut, the air temperature was -51°C and the winds were 56 km/h, producing a bone-chilling wind chill of -78! 

Special thanks to the folks at Environment CANADA for the above information.

Thanks for Stopping By
           Safe Ride Home




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