The information in this post may be a week or even a month overdue, however it is vital to surviving the cold weather on a bicycle. If you are anything like me, only so much time on the trainer, indoor bike, and/or treadmill is tolerable. Sure it’s a great way to stay in shape through the off season, but it doesn’t compare to the fun and freedom of being on the open road.
Luckily, there is gear available that will not only protect you from the elements of winter, but even enhance your riding experience throughout the year. I was fortunate enough to visit Norway twice while serving in the U.S. Marines, and the cold weather survival training I experienced as a result of those trips gave me a leg up on how to cycle in the winter. Utilizing the tips I will share with you, don’t be afraid to get outside and keep cycling through the dead of winter.
WINTER CYCLING TIPS:
1. Eat, Eat, Eat
2. Drink, Drink, Drink
3. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
5. Protect Extremities
6. Maintain Comfortably COOL
7. Use The Buddy System
First, and foremost, your body needs more energy in the winter to keep you going, therefor you need considerably more rest while consuming more food and water. Hydration is just as important in cold weather as in hot, and naturally you need more stored energy to burn to keep you warm, hence eat more.
Clothing should be kept simple, and are similar to summer cycling gear, with a few added layers. Closest to your body needs to be covered with a base layer of a tight wicking material to keep moisture off your body because you will sweat. I recommend poly propylene, this layer includes your head and feet. The next layer should be an insulating layer, but not too thick, and needs to be a breathable material such as polar fleece or wool. Finally, your outer most layer is your shield from the elements. This is a layer that will protect you from the wind, rain, snow or sleet, and gore tex is a great material for this. Full finger gloves, polar shoe covers, and insulating head wear covering ears are all a must. The extremities tend to get colder first, and can make you miserable if not properly protected. Remember, maintain a Comfortably Cool body temperature, not cold, warm, or hot. The last three will certainly lead to frost bite, hypothermia, and/or dehydration and overheating. Allow your layers to vent or simply remove and replace as needed. Listen to your body!
The last basic tip I can offer to help you continue cycling outdoors through the winter season is to do it with a friend. Your layers, when worn properly, will protect you whether you are moving or not, but in the event of an unexpected stop, it is always better to have an extra set of eyes to monitor. Another general rule of thumb to go by is try to avoid riding when precipitation is expected, for example rain, sleet, or snow, for obvious reasons. Keep it safe, check on your riding buddy often, just to make sure all riders are comfortably cool. Also, beware of salt crystals on the roadway for snow melting, as this is nearly as bad as riding over glass, not to mention, what it does to dry out and clog up your chain and cranks.
So get on out there, with your winter gear, rest, stored energy, and fully hydrated of coarse, and keep right on rolling through the depth of winter on your bicycle! I recommend centering your focus on time on the bike, base mileage, not speed and long distances. Keep it simple, keep your butt and legs in shape, and enjoy a spring season with less pain of getting back in bicycling shape.