Saturday, November 18, 2017

Winter Cycling?

"There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing." - Alfred Wainright, A Coast to Coast Walk
As I look out the window on this mid-November afternoon, I see rain changing to snow as the temperature drops from its early-morning high of 46°F. Winter seems to be settling in early. Not exactly pleasant weather for doing anything outside, let alone riding a bicycle. Or is it? There may be a few perfectly legitimate reasons for not riding, but cold and inclement weather should not deter you if you really want to get out on your bicycle. Here is a basic guide, distilled from multiple sources, for riding in not-so-perfect conditions
Probably the most important aspect of winter riding, or any outdoor activity, is clothing. You need to protect your body from the cold, but physical activity generates excess heat. You can better manage this heat by layering your clothing. It is easier to add or remove layers during a ride than to wear one heavy layer (and risk overheating) or wear too little (and risk freezing). Avoid cotton, especially right next to the skin, as it retains moisture and then ceases to insulate. Outer layer fabrics that are waterproof and breathable are ideal for winter activity.
Don’t forget your hands & feet
​Your body will protect your coreEven if you are keeping your core warm, you can take measures to ensure your feet and hands stay warm. For socks, absolutely choose wool over cotton. Add thin moisture-wicking sock liners if wool is too itchy (or choose merino wool, which is less itchy). Use multiple thin pairs of socks (if they don’t make your shoes fit too tight). The same strategies apply to your hands. Glove liners are ideal for adding extra insulation, as long as they don’t make the fit too tight. Again, avoid cotton! 
Borrow from other activities
A “snow sports” helmet makes a great cycling helmet when the temperature drops. Ski goggles keep your eyes warm and your vision clear. Insulated, waterproof hiking boots can make for a perfectly comfortable and safe ride. Use ski gloves, battery-powered hunting socks, hand-warmers- whatever works!
Maintain your bicycle
You don’t need a special bicycle for winter riding, but you must have a functioning one. Wet, slushy, and salty roads can wreak havoc on your drivetrain. If possible, wash or at least wipe down your bike after a sloppy ride. No outside water source? Use a bucket of soapy water and a sponge. A lubricated chain will also prolong the life of your drivetrain. Your LBS (Local Bike Shop) can advise you on the type of lubricant (wet or dry?) and how best to apply it. Most tires are fine and really are a personal preference, unless you expect to ride on actual ice. There are studded tires available for that.
The onset of colder weather should not mean the end of riding season. I can’t convince a generally cold-adverse person to start riding in the winter, but if you enjoy winter sports, why not include bicycling? Here are some of a myriad of good resources if you want more information (or encouragement):
From :
You will get cold. You will get frustrated. You might have close calls or even fall. Just know that all-weather cycling does get easier with experience. Let the freedom, convenience and other benefits of two-wheeled living motivate you to roll up the learning curve. And when all else fails to lift your spirits after a particularly bruising commute, boil up some tea or grab a flask, pound your chest (might help the feeling come back to your fingers) and take pride in your sense of adventure.

No comments:

Post a Comment