Cold Weather Cycling

Winter is here and I am a firm believer in riding right through it.  Although, there are days that are simply indoor days (snow, sleet, 60 mph winds, sub-zero temps) there are also a lot of days that are acceptable for training in the cold.  The key is two-fold for me: I must be motivated and doing something interesting, 2: I must be sorta warm.  The sun helps, even if it is 10 degrees out.

Motivation.  Instead of pushing 5 hours of endless riding.  I try to mountain bike more.  If those trails are snowed in, then its more interval or cross bikes on the dirt to keep it mixed up.  I also tend to mix riding outdoors and indoors.  Start of indoors early and then transition to an hour outdoor when the trainer is insufferable.  Make sure to dry off before heading outdoors.

Warmth.  Riding on the mountain bike or the cross bike can help.  You go slower and therefore aren’t fighting the warmth sucking wind as much.   Clothing approach:

  • For me it is all about the feet.  My feet freeze often and I don’t seem to ever find a way to keep them totally warm, but here is my approach formed over 15 years of trying.  I tend to wear very light wool socks to give my feet room to breathe.  I’ve found that thick socks create sweat then iced feet.  I also use the chemical warming packs at below 45 degrees.  I actually swap them out hourly for longer rides.  Remember to warm them up close to the skin right after opening when on the ride or they will never warm up.  I place all of the above inside a thermal shoe sock or shoe cover.  I go thicker on cover and thinner inside the shoe.
  • Legs.  I go tights over regular cycling shorts all the way.  I have several pairs of tights that are a variety of thickness/warmth/wind-breaking and pair according to temps.  I’ve found that this is one area that I feel better overall if I go a bit warmer than I  would like and it ends up helping warm blood get to my feet.
  • Top.  I tend to go with thin layers over a thick coat.  Thermal undershirt with a regular jersey and arm warmers is my usual go to.  I then add a thin rain jacket if it is in the 40s.  Thicker jacket if it is cooler.  If unusually windy, I wear a wind-breaking base layer as well.  I fully believe in keeping the core and legs warm to keep my hands and feet warm.
  • Hands.  Unlike my feet, my hands stay warm a lot and I even take my gloves off a lot in 40 degree temps.  But I do love my OR workman gloves for a good warm glove that has great feel.  Like my feet, I go with a bit looser glove to give room for a warm air pocket.
  • Head.  I used to use a old crappy helmet with less vents, but now I get to use a new aero helmet with less vents to keep the head a bit warmer.  I pair with a variety of thickness hats or beanies.  My favorite is a thin wool Smartwool beanie. Again, I’d rather pair two lighter beanies than throw on a thick stocking cap.

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