Winter Riding

At this time of the year, it’s tempting to store your bike in the garage until spring. I know it is challenging to ride when it is cold and windy, but stop to think about the consequences that may result from a long layoff from riding. Many of us are familiar with the weight gain and loss of conditioning that can occur when we don’t exercise during the winter. To help keep you in the swing of things, the Wheelmen ride team has a full schedule of rides every weekend during the winter. With proper preparation, you can take advantage of these winter rides to stay in shape for the nicer weather in the spring.

The first challenge is to make sure you dress for the occasion. The secret to riding in cold weather is to layer clothing based on the outside temperature. With layers, you can remove items if you start to get too warm from exertion or the weather gets warmer during the ride. Start with a long-sleeve, wicking, base layer to cover your torso. Add a long-sleeve jersey, and if it is very cold and/or windy (especially a cold north wind) add a vest or wind jacket (never use a cotton sweat shirt in cold weather as it will absorb sweat and lose any insulating properties). For your legs, you may be able to get by with shorts and leg warmers, but long riding pants will feel much better on a really cold and windy day. If the temperature is around 50 degrees and the wind is not strong, you might get by with a short-sleeve base layer, a regular jersey plus arm warmers. While long pants will probably still be comfortable, you can wear shorts and leg warmers. Full-finger gloves or regular gloves with liners will help keep your fingers warm. Wear wool socks and toe warmers to keep your feet toasty. Also, don’t forget to cover your ears on cold days. One other consideration is not to overdress. If you are warm and comfortable when the ride starts you are probably going to get hot and uncomfortable during the ride. However; if you remembered to dress in layers, you can remove a layer to get back to a comfortable state.

Winter riding still requires some of the other things you do in warm weather riding. For example, while you may not feel as thirsty as on a warm day, you still need to hydrate. Be sure to drink frequently, as you will still sweat (and lose liquids) as you warm up. Use sunscreen even if the day is cloudy. Cooler temps and the lack of a bright sun may lull you into believing you are ok, but the threat of skin damage is still there.

Cold weather riding only takes a couple of miles to get warmed up and you will have a great feeling of accomplishment when the ride is over. Think of winter rides as creating the opportunity to eat dessert without feeling guilty! So, dig out the long pants and shirts, find your full-finger gloves, and join the hearty souls who ride all winter.

--Cliff Hickel