Get out your old gear and get outside! The German winter brings cold, rain, fog, ice and occasional snow to Berlin. Relocating here from Tucson, Arizona, I don’t have all the latest greatest weatherproof cycling gear. But do I really need it?
In Berlin, the serious roadies and triathletes speed along in high-performance, black outerwear from the trendiest brands, and everyday transportation cyclists wear their regular clothes and coats. I fit somewhere in between, but my helmet generally gives me away as a roadie.
I have clothing from 15 to 20 years ago when I lived in Virginia and rode in the winter. (I hear the Canadians chortling at the thought of a Virginia “winter.”) I also own what is now considered a vintage or classic bike—my first racing road bike, a steel frame LeMond from 1994. This is the beater bike I ride in Berlin, rolling over cobblestones, pavement, and occasional dirt roads. Because the default condition of Berlin roads is wet, I added a small plastic fender that sticks out like a stiff tail from my saddle.
To stay warm, I choose a blend of natural and unnatural fibers from the olden days. Yes, polyester and neoprene are bad for the planet, but they last for years as you will see from my riding outfit described below. And it’s better to use old stuff than buy new stuff, right?
From toe to head, staying warm the vintage way:
- Neoprene toe covers (relatively new, that is, from 2007)
- Hand-me-down wool socks that reach to mid-calf, sometimes accompanied by silk sock liners from 2005
- Bike shorts, covered by discount brand polyester wind/water proof warm-up pants from 2002
- Discount brand long sleeve undershirt from 2005 that wicks, but also smells after a ride
- Long sleeve polyester Virginia cycling team jersey from 2001
- Insulated rowing vest, a gift from the early 2000s
- Polyester Virginia team jacket from 2001
- Neoprene headband, year unknown
- Yellow lens sunglasses, circa 2007, for brightening dreary days
OK, I concede that I wear a few newer items:
- High visibility yellow waterproof long sleeve windbreaker
- Neck gaiter
- Insulated gloves
I generally ride two to two and a half hours, with my air temperature limit of 0 degrees (32 F). I wait until mid day to ride when it’s generally warmer with occasional shafts of sunshine. I unzip and zip assorted layers as I climb or descend hills, or in response to the wind. I have good luck with timing, with only 2 partially rainy rides out of 28 this winter.
The old stuff works for me.
When donning vintage gear and riding a vintage bike, be prepared for comments from other cyclists. “You ride a steel bike,” said the roadie, after giving me and my bike the once-over. I had stopped and offered my bike pump for his flat tire. I responded, “Yes, it’s a classic!”
What vintage gear are you using this winter and early spring?
Mary Reynolds splits her time between Berlin and Tucson, and blogs with her partner at https://laschicasinberlin.wordpress.com/