Once I got into bike riding, Christmas became when winter cycling gear was gifted my way. A mixed-blessing of having a passion known by others is people often only think of that passion when it comes to bestowing gifts. Luckily, when I started riding, I was young enough I needed help acquiring the gear to ride through the winter; it was both about a limited bank account and limited choices as cycling wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today. One year, it was winter tights. The next gloves, then base layers, then gloves again, and then better tights. The other kid cyclists I rode with seemed to have the same arrangement; on our Christmas-break rides, they’d also be sporting at least one new piece of winter riding gear. As I got older, I could more easily afford the stuff myself and I also got pickier (“discerning” is the more polite term), as my wardrobe got deeper. For a long time now, my family can skip cycling gifts altogether.
Maybe it’s because of that experience that I find myself wanting to gift winter gear to my loved ones, friends, acquaintances. Not so much for exercising, though if sweating it out in the cold is their bag, I’m happy to help. No, the gear is for hanging out, socializing, in the great outdoors during these cold months.
During the warmer months of the pandemic, one thing was pretty clear. With decent weather, more people were spending time outside. Whenever I rode through a downtown, there were parking spaces, lots, and even streets blocked off for people to eat outside. County, state, and federal parks all had more cars in the lots and at the trailheads. Overcrowding was enough of a concern that park rangers often put out cones and signs along the roads around those lots and trailheads to stop people from parking on busy roads. Police were even patrolling a few places to stop overcrowding.
This outdoor living should continue in the cold.
I think we should all be taking lessons from ice fishers this winter. We should make sure we can comfortably sit around outside for hours in freezing conditions. It’s for hanging out in parks as well as eating outdoors–if that’s allowed in the next few months—socially distant near others. I’d much rather sit outside a restaurant than inside a hut outside a restaurant. And without a propane heater nearby.
For this region, I think the item many are lacking is warm bottoms. Long underwear, lined pants, rain pants, insulated ski pants, maybe two combined, something to keep the cold at bay so we can spend social time together outside. If you have loose enough pants, cycling tights can go under, as cycling tights are a not only a great exterior layer for riding, but a great base layer for standing around. If regular pants don’t fit over, then rain pants should do. I might even bring rain pants with me the next time I expect to be sitting around in the cold.
I figure people who live in colder climes than here probably have much of this stuff already. Sitting outdoor on ski lifts, ice fishing or watching the Bills or Packers play in December is reason for many to have this bit of kit already. But for those who live in slightly warmer zones, the winter typically calls for a winter coat, gloves, and hat, but other than that, most people can get away with very little—if you have a car just outside your house and use it to go “everywhere,” you typically only need to have clothing that allows you to sit in a cold car for maybe five minutes. City dwellers, particularly those without cars, are probably better outfitted to begin with, as they need to spend much longer time outside jut to go about their daily lives. Still, walking isn’t the same as sitting for an hour or more. And when I’ve recently found myself socializing outside in the cold for more than a few minutes, the other conversationalists have been showing signs of being cold; shaking their legs, trying to subtly windmill their arms, performing micro movements while talking. They’re
Maybe I shouldn’t be encouraging people to dress warmly. Maybe it will reduce the likelihood of social distancing, which seems to be pretty important these days.
Regardless, next time I’m seen hanging about outside this winter, I’ll be rocking the warm pants I just got. If you don’t have a pair, now is the time.