I’ve talked in the past about how to deal with cycling in the rain, which is something I ride in often in Penang. Now that I’m in the states for the next month, I need to brush up on my winter riding, too. Here are some of my tips for tackling the mostly cold and sometimes inclement weather.
What you should be doing both on and off the bike.
When it’s cold out, we often forget to drink, but it’s just as important as staying hydrated in the heat. One thing I do to help is use insulated bottles and bring along some hot-ish tea.
- Warm up
Help yourself enjoy the ride more by taking the first ten to fifteen minutes to ease into the ride and warm up properly. Sometimes I forget this and go too hard to start, which the legs can handle, sure, but the lungs can’t and I’ll be hacking out a lung for the rest of the day.
- Take it easy
The winter-time is the time to get in LSD rides, or long, slow distance rides. Base miles are the building blocks for the rest of the season, and what better way to get those in by riding from coffee shop to coffee shop. One of my favorite local routes is 50 miles and visits two of the best cafes around.
- Clean the bike
In the winter, things are gross. The snow is nice and pretty for about five minutes before it turns brown and slushy. Riding through all that doesn’t do your bike any favors, so clean it after every ride. While I usually wipe just the chain down in the summer after rainy rides (and re-lube as needed) the winter requires a more thorough cleaning. Anyone care to share tips for cleaning the bike indoors?
Self-explanatory. Put these on your body.
Anyone who hikes knows how important it is to wear layers when out in the cold. As @brananc says; “wicking first layer, warm middle layer, impermeable outer layer.” One thick layer won’t provide all of the necessities for riding in the cold and/or wet, and also doesn’t allow flexibility when you warm up and realize you really don’t need that extra layer.
- Winter shoes
I am so looking forward to using my winter shoes. My feet generally bother me the most in the cold and prevent me from riding more in winter. When my feet are happy, I can ride all day. You’ll want to get a pair of winter shoes a bit larger than normal to handle thicker socks, and I vote for SPD over road cleats.
Embro is not for the faint-hearted. A bit too much and you’ll be in tears. Couple of tips for embro: avoid areas with little muscle (ankles, behind the knees), put on chamois cream and shorts before embro-ing up, always wipe the legs down with soap and water before hopping in the shower.
- Toe warmers
As I said before, when my feet are warm and dry, I’m quite happy. The kind that sticks to your socks are my favorite, and I’m going out this week to buy a whole box to use while I’m home. I also bring some along on rides longer than three hours because they’ll wear off.
Equip your bike correctly for the season.
Everyone in the group ride will love you if you put fenders on the bike. They stop you from getting as soaked, keep the bike a bit cleaner and most importantly win you brownie points with your ride buddies.
Not sure if you’ve noticed, but it gets dark a lot earlier! The sun is also lower, and the scenery is generally drab and dull most of the time. Make yourself more visible and just leave the lights running.
- Treaded tires
I don’t have treaded tires on both of the bikes I’ll ride here in the winter, but I do have them on my old Raleigh. They shed water and snow and give you better traction, which is more important than being a speed-demon on 23s.
- Winter bike
If you can swing it, a winter bike is really the best option. You can leave the winter gear on all year and have a bike to ride in all sorts of weather, saving the nice bike to show off on the Saturday morning ego-rides. This normally would just be my CX bike, but since that’s on the other side of the world at the moment, it’s down to my Raleigh to serve the purpose. My “nice” bike here is my 11 year old Trek which I’ll be upgrading for race duty soon enough.
If you have any tips to share, please do! I’ll also love to see some winter-riding photos, and bonus points to fat bike riders, because those bikes are a whole lot of fun.