Cold weather cycling tips: Know thy enemy – snot!

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We’ve already covered a lot about proper cold weather riding gear (like jackets and footwear) for the high latitude areas where the dropping mercury effects our kit choices. But what about when your face starts leaking on those frigid morning commutes?

No worries friends, I got your back. What I’ve begun to understand is that there is a constant battle to arrive at your destination without strange excrement frozen to your face.

The best way to fight any war is to know your enemy.

That snot all over your kid’s face, or yours, is actually mucus, and it’s good stuff. Mucus is a slippery secretion produced by your body to protect organs systems and your health. On normal days the liter of wonder produced is not a problem as it traps germs and particles in your nose.

Although on those frigid morning commutes, the tiny hairs called cilia in your nostrils that sweep snot to the back of your throat move about as quick as the upward interest on your 401k. So what normally gets swept to the back of your throat, ends up running down your face. On top of that, the increased blood flow in your nostrils to raise the temperature of the air we breathe leads to more mucus production.

The problem only increases when you come indoors. That mucus thaws a bit and becomes thinner with warmer conditions much before your lazy cilia kick in. So have some Kleenex at your desk or in your pocket for when you get inside. Although your sleeve or fingers may work just as well, and hygiene might not be important to you, it might be important to co-workers and friends.

Keeping your face warm will help during the ride. Since the air we are breathing is cold already, it’s tough to fight snot because the cold air cools the nostrils which in turns cools the cilia and affects the amount of snot produced. But helping to keep those cilia warm will help keep your face clean. The traditional scarf is a solid choice to keep your face and neck warm—just watch out for long ones getting tangled in your spokes though. It’s also likely you have one lying around which could save some coin. You could also rock a bandanna bandit style, and after you rob that bank it can double as a snot rag at the office. But then you’d have to put the dirty snot rag back on your face for the commute home.

Here at Bicycle Times we are big fans of the Original Buff from PlanetBuff.com. The seamless tubular microfiber is wondrous. It’s moisture wicking, warm, and versatile in the number of ways to wear as well as easy to care for. All the good stuff. Whether you’re looking for something for your head, neck, face, or tube-top in the summer, the buff is an excellent choice.

In my experience having a garment that warms your face and is breathable is pretty important, since you have to actually breath through it. Plastic bags definitely cut the wind and are notorious for keeping our feet dry, but a plastic bag wrapped around your face probably isn’t the tool for the job.

There are some good working options that are popular with some skiers and snowboarders, and they help you look like a ninja. Neoprene facemasks are a great way to protect your face from various weather conditions and great for cold weather activities. There are several options here in terms of price-point and coverage. Some are full head that cover face and neck that will fit under your helmet. Others are simply face-masks. Both will help keep your face warm and those cilia working to shovel snot down your throat, not your face.

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But when dripping is unavoidable the clutch item is on your hands. A glove with a Microfleece wiping surface on the thumb is worth its weight in gold when you can’t help a drippy face.

Snot is pretty much unavoidable in cold weather, but hopefully this at least helps you get to where you gotta go without your face being an example of our complex respiratory biology.

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