Women's Biking Commuting Clothing NYC
October 28, 2021 6:02 PM   Subscribe

Hi - I'm commuting by bike (or hope I will continue to be) as the weather gets colder. I commute in to work on the subway and will (citi-)bike home for approx 45 minutes. So...I need clothing that will keep me warm, but also is either work friendly, or can be carried in a bag to work.

Again, I will have to carry bags on public transport and then by bike. Any suggestions? I love Patagonia, Arteryx (spelling) and similar companies but an frugal and want to make the right purchase. I was thinking re Patagonia retro-pile fleece but want to be water-resistant as well, and I like the down jackets, but they aren't good for long (sweat inducing) bike commutes. Shells may be too light though..... So I'm looking for the perfect NYC women's (one way) bike commuting apparel. Thank you. I don't want to give it up once the weather and light changes next week.
posted by bquarters to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My cutoff for biking in NYC is 35F if it is sunny, and 40F at night or in damp or windy conditions. Given that, I have found that a long-sleeved wool half-zip base layer (mine is a smart wool hoodie I got from REI outlet years ago) and a water-resistant mid-length shell with pit zips is a great combo. I’ll generally have everything zipped up tight to start and then loosen as I get warmed up. My shell zips from the bottom or the top, and that is a great feature to have; sometimes just unzipping the bottom third of the shell is the perfect amount of ventilation.

I’m generally always carrying two pairs of gloves - a super insulated lobster pair plus wool liners. But my hands are always cold, so YMMV.
posted by minervous at 6:45 PM on October 28, 2021

My go-to cold-weather jacket is a Marmot soft shell that gets me through most of the winter. It’s wind-proof, is decently insulated, and is boxy enough for layers underneath. I layer with thin wool base layers and sweaters. Pants are less of a concern; my legs don’t get that cold unless it’s below 30. Good gloves, wool cycling cap, a neck buff, and warm socks are also crucial.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:49 PM on October 28, 2021

Best answer: What kind of clothes do you wear for work? I think you're right that the heavy jacket you might wear for your way in will feel too heavy for your ride home, but it's a real challenge to have two jackets. So you could wear your down coat and ... zip it up and down for the ride? The less you have to duplicate clothes the easier it's going to be to schlep everything around.

Having said that, a great jacket for riding my bike at night is this Shower's Pass Odyssey Jacket. It looks like a black hooded jacket with light gray lines, but the lines are retro-reflective, so vehicle headlights will make you incredibly visible. It's got a light lining so it's too heavy for summer rain, but great for three seasons in Portland. They also make some great knit wool gloves that are waterproof but look like regular gloves (I'm not a huge fan of bike clothing that screams "I just got off my bike"). Below 40 degrees, those don't keep my hands warm enough, but they're great til there. Your temperature ranges might be different, of course.

I think it's hard to know what you'll want before you start doing this ride. The more I've bike commuted, the more I just wear the same clothes, but it took me a while to get there. Can you try to make it work with what you have for now? Then add things as you figure out what you want. I wouldn't start out buying an expensive jacket if you're trying to be frugal.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:37 PM on October 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

I bike commute in Anchorage until the street is icy-- down to 30 or so, lower if it's dry. I wear black or dark jeans with long underwear (I keep a dry set in my office), ankle rain boots with good traction or running shoes, a tshirt and fleece sweater and sometimes a jean jacket with a warm lining, Thinsulate mittens with a finger cap I can take off, and a headband under my helmet to keep my ears warm. I often regret it if i bring the jacket as it warms up over the course of the day, so i try to just suck it up and be a little cold for the first 20 minutes until I stop noticing.

If it's raining I wear a poncho that has straps that keep it from flapping up in my face, if it's not raining a hi-vis vest. I bring my nice work shirt in a waterproof pannier or backpackn on top of everything else so it's not super wrinkled. I also keep a nice set in my office just in case, and my work shoes live at work, with an extra deodorant and hair stuff. I run really hot in general and work in a casual industry, so it works for me. I prefer the poncho to a jacket because i get an updraft and don't get sweaty underneath, plus I can wad it up in my bag or use it as a tarp in other situations. For a while i just accepted I would be wet and changed when i got there, but that gets miserable after a while.

I am most concerned with being seen, so I am most concerned about my lights and high-vis. I have thought about pogies but I don't think they're all that much better than good gloves or mittens at the temp I'm at. If you ride in serious weather or very fast you might want pogies-- I don't ride in the snow, so maybe that's what i'm missing about pogies. And I have Yak Trax in the bottom of my bag if I have to give up and walk.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:13 PM on October 28, 2021

You might want to consider a 3 in 1 coat ex.
posted by oceano at 1:10 AM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

oceano speaks for me! A coat that disassembles into a set of layers is a godsend for in-betweeny weather.
posted by humbug at 8:03 AM on October 29, 2021

My hands are the first thing to get cold while riding, and bulky gloves make it hard to shift/brake. One way to keep them warm without the bulk is to get some bar mitts (aka pogies), which are like fleece or neoprene mittens that stay attached to your handlebars, with a wide enough opening that you can easily pull your hands in and out, but that still protect your hands from the cold.
Good example photo in this article
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 8:26 AM on October 29, 2021

I bike commmute all winter, and though it's colder in alberta than NYC, I find it pretty easy clothes-wise - I have found the best success with a snowboarding jacket (since they're designed to be used for a physical activity in the cold and wet) mine has a series of zippers in strange places to let extra heat out if needed. Also my snowboarding jacket is like TRAFFIC CONE orange, but still somehow cute, so that's kind of nice.

I wear a pair of long johns or fleece lined tights under my pants if it's very cold, and I do have a pair of waterproof pants I sometimes wear if it's snowing and then change into different pants.

honestly I'm pretty comfortable in regular clothes even for riding in very cold conditions, the most important part for me is warm hands and warm feet - I have electric hand warmers that I can throw in my mitts (I put them on top of my fingers so they don't interfere with my braking, and I pretty much never change gears, I just stand up for hills) but I often have to stop and turn them off halfway. and I DO have electric socks (hilarious!) but I don't often use them unless it's like -20C or more. Otherwise just wool or wool blend socks and my winter boots are sufficient.

A thing that sort of helped me is to try and accept being a little cold? like, it's okay as long as you're not losing feeling in your hands and feet and face.. you can be a little chilly, you're biking outside in the winter! I think adjusting my expectations of how cold I will feel weirdly helped a lot.
posted by euphoria066 at 9:54 AM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think the biggest things you'd need to get are gloves, a buff for your neck, and maybe a headband or thin hat to keep your ears warm. If my body's too cold it isn't pleasant but it's bearable. If my hands, ears, neck or face are too cold then I'll be cursing myself for not planning well the whole ride home.

The difference between what I wear in the summer for my commute and what I wear in spring/fall are that I'll add a base layer up top and tights or my legs so as long as you've got a place to change you can just wear what you'd normally wear and put on the base layer and tights under them for your ride home. I'll use UnderArmour "heat gear" base layers when the temp is between 10-15C and their "cold gear" base layers once it gets below that but that will depend on what you're wearing on top of it. I'm not endorsing the UnderArmour ones, they were just available when I was looking to get some and they do the trick for me, YMMV. When it drops below 0C I wear my rain jacket/wind breaker on top of it and if it's below -10C I'll add a thin down vest underneath the jacket. I already owned the jacket and vest so was making use of what I already had but I think it makes for a good system because every day I can check the weather and see how it compares to the previous day, and also my own experience of how comfortable my ride was, and make my outfit warmer or cooler to match the conditions.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:30 PM on October 29, 2021

I also really struggle to keep my hands warm on the coldest days (in the 30s) on my bike without pogies. Mine are pretty bulky, though. So if you find your hands are cold even with good gloves, you might want to look into sky gloves or mittens or something like that. But you have a few months to figure that out.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:34 PM on October 29, 2021

I've got the men's version of these gloves and they were fine for me all winter last year. If it's above 5C your hands will be sweating in them though.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:21 PM on October 29, 2021

1) Layers, layers, layers. Undershirt + buttondown + vest + sweater + coat. Pants + skirt (and leggings underneath in really cold weather). Add/remove layers as needed. All of the above can be nice work clothes. Optionally add windbreaker or rain jacket and rain pants/spats for extreme rain or cold.

2) Wool. It doesn't hold smells, it's breathable, and it'll keep you dry in light rain. Also, there's a lot of nice-looking wool outer layers suitable for office wear.

For extremities: Scarves, thin beanie that fits under a helmet or silk scarf tied around head, pogies (they're magic) and thin gloves, wool socks. Insulated boots are very nice in extreme cold, but the only ones I've ever owned were steel-toed construction footwear. I don't know if there's an office-appropriate version.

(I am not a woman, but I often wear "women's" clothing. I've bike commuted in a fair bit of cold and wet weather in PDX.)
posted by sibilatorix at 2:17 PM on October 30, 2021

Response by poster: Bluedaisy- I ordered the Odyssey Shower Pass jacket right away as I had already ordered the gloves you mentioned earlier in the week so I felt like we were on the "same page". It arrived today and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I also don't want to look like I just jumped off a bike since I also have to take the subway and leave my job in my commuting clothing... so this is perfect. It looks super functional but still has the "urban cool" (or as cool as I can pull off, haha) factor and great fit. I can't wait to try it out. Thank you. I wish I could outsource all of my decisions so easily:)
posted by bquarters at 4:34 PM on November 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Hurray! I'm so pleased that you love your new jacket! Happy bike commuting!
posted by bluedaisy at 4:47 PM on November 1, 2021

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