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We're Going To Get You Through This Winter Matt!

Ben Kieffer
A few years ago it was -23 when I biked into work, and there was steam coming off the Iowa River because the water temperature was warmer than the air.

Dear Matt,

I’m sure I can speak for both myself and all the IPR fans who weighed in to offer advice in saying that we’re glad you made it through your first blast of winter. I can see you’re doing some valuable reflection in preparation for the next polar pulse…

When the temps dip to zero, and you wear the balaclava, it’s true that the exposed skin around your eyes is an issue. My bad.  I failed to mention that part.  

Moving forward, I want to share the Winter Defcon Scale I’ve developed for how to best prepare to bike in the extreme cold in the more than 10 years I’ve been biking into work year round.  (I’m a Cold War Baby, thus the scale’s naming convention). Here goes:

Winter Defcon 5  (air temp 40-20 degrees)
Easy peasy pleasant winter biking. You need a light jacket, light gloves, and a light skull cap beanie under your bike helmet.

Winter Defcon 4 (air temp 20-10 degrees)
Now we’re noticing a bit of wind-chill. You’ll need a down jacket, gloves, a thicker beanie, and thicker gloves.

Winter Defcon 3 (air temp 10-0 degrees)
Exposed skin starts to hurt, then goes a bit numb. You’ll need layers under that down jacket, the balaclava, and mittens.

Winter Defcon 2 (air temp zero to minus 10 degrees)
Is that really ice forming on my nose? Add even more layers under that down jacket, definitely put on the balaclava and a stocking cap. Consider long undies under the layers, and also think twice about putting gloves inside the mittens.

Winter Defcon 1 (air temps below -10 degrees)
You are Matt Damon on Mars!  Put on even more layers with a down vest underneath a down jacket. Wear the balaclava with a stocking cap. Put gloves inside your mittens. Do not leave the house without the long undies, and your best bet is to wear a ski helmet with goggles.

A few years ago, I biked into work in -23 degrees weather. That’s -23 *without* the wind-chill factored in. On my commute into the office, I ride across the Iowa River. Looking down from the bridge to see waterfowl huddled on the ice, I could see areas of flowing water around the ice that were steaming because the water was so much warmer than the air. It really did feel like I could have been on Mars. 

We’re gonna get you through this winter, Matt!  If I can do it, so can you, and I predict, not only will you survive, but you will thrive and come to love the winter months. After all, many of us Iowans would never move because we “love having four seasons.”   

Your Head Winter Coach,
Ben Kieffer

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River