Winter Cycling is Upon Us! Conquering the Cold Weather to Keep Riding Outside
How To Stay Warm- Part one clothing
Temperatures are dropping but you want to keep riding outside through the winter. How do you stay warm? Do you need special clothing? And what about hard to warm things like toes and fingers?
Proper clothing is key to success to ride outside all winter. Sweat wicking base layers to start. Waterproof and windproof outer layers. Insulation between to hold the warmth. These layers can be taken off or put on as the temperature changes. Starting a ride when it’s super cold out but will warm up as the day goes on? Having outer layers to take off and stash away is a necessity; or the other way around to add layers as it gets colder if you are riding later in the day.
Over the years, through trial and error we have discovered certain pieces of clothing are essential to riding when it gets really cold. Insulated and waterproof water boots are a must. Lobster claw gloves help keep fingers warm by keeping them together; but the real trick to riding when its cold is Bar Mitts. These neoprene mitten-type add-ons covers both handle bars and hands keeping in warmth and keeping rain and snow off. Neck gators help hold in extra warmth but can also be turned into ear warmers and head covers and are easily taken on and off as temperatures change.
And what if you do all the above and still find yourself cold? Here are some emergency pro hacks learned due to necessity. Plastic bags-grocery bags, trash bags, poop bags- find what you can from a store along your ride and stuff them under your clothing to make a wind-resistant and heat-keep barrier. Newspaper can be used for the same thing. Always carry an emergency space blanket and “Hot Hands” when out for epic long rides in the winter; when in an emergency they give that little ex
tra warmth needed. Heated bathrooms and laundry mats are great places to stop when cold; you can sit somewhere warm and use the hand dryers or laundry dryers to get dry. Whiskey carried in flask, or even better whiskey in hot tea, is a great mid-ride drink to help make your insides warm.
So now you know how to stay warm to get outside…next episode will be about gear and equipment to keep you pedaling all winter long.
How to Ride- Part two gear
Last episode we discussed how to stay warm. How about other winter riding needs?
How do you conquer the shortened hours of daylight and the adverse weather conditions; how do you keep pedaling through snow and below freezing temperatures? Sure, your body is now good to go with the correct clothing but how about your bike and your ability to ride?
Daylight hours are shortened so many rides occur before/after the sun is out. Good lighting via helmet light and/or bar lights is essential; and don’t forget rear blinky red lights for safety. We recommend at least 600 to 700 lumen of lighting for your front light; if riding on your own in a dark forest at least 1000 lumen is going to be way better for you. Pro tip: always carry a small back-up light with you. Maybe just a small flashlight or have a little low-lumen light attached elsewhere on your bike. Getting lost in the dark when it’s cold is not something you want to deal with.
Bottles and hydration packs can freeze; so a great idea is to keep them between your layers of clothing i.e. between your jersey and outer jacket to keep them warm with your own body heat. Same for snacks. Keeping them somewhere warm will make sure you don’t have a frozen bar to eat.
In general, the same bike you regularly ride will be fine for winter riding in the Lehigh Valley, even with snow on the ground. Fat bikes will be more fun and given better traction along with keeping you warmer. Studded snow tires can also give more grip especially when icy out. So sure, for true winter enthusiasts or those that travel to heavy snow areas these specialty items can be helpful but here where we may or may not get snow your regular steed with make do.
No matter what bike you ride, just be cognizant things gets a little sticky when it’s cold. Suspension will feel a little more stiff and shifting may not be as crisp. Obviously no matter what tires and tread you choose traction will be lessened so expect slipping and sliding on any surface. Add in thick gloves and bike chunky boots to make shifting and maneuvering challenging. A good bike servicing and keeping things clean and clear of water and mud will make sure things run smoothly. Most importantly a good attitude to know in the winter just pedaling is a challenge; don’t expect perfect summer style rides, just getting out there is what it is all about.
Now you know how to keep pedaling all winter. Get out there and ride!