If you a cyclist, do you get cycling withdrawal in the winter? I sure do, but I bet you’ve seen some people still riding their bike in winter. To start researching this topic, we asked Francine Haas, an athlete and cyclist, where to start – she suggested to start with proper apparel.
Most of us enjoy riding our bikes in the summer heat. Shorts, jersey, helmet and shoes and you’re out the door, ready to ride. Riding in cooler temps takes a little more preparation, but it can be easy if you keep a few things in mind.
To start, first check the weather and see what’s in store over the period you expect to ride. What’s the temperature, how much wind is there, is there any precipitation and are there any big changes expected?
Second, everyone is a little different in terms of how their bodies react to the cold, so there may be a little trial and error to figure out what’s right for you.
Third, how hard do you intend to ride? If you’re going to be working hard, you’ll want to dress a little lighter. If you’re going to be riding easy, then maybe it’s best to put on an extra layer. Resist the temptation to start your ride feeling warm. As soon as you start riding, you’re going to generate heat and if you overdress, you’ll soon begin to sweat and the added moisture may lead to a chill later in your ride. With these things in mind you can select the clothing to best suit your ride.
For me, a Lycra headband will be all I need from 50 to 30 degrees. The headband is nice in that it gives your forehead protection from any wind chill and it also covers your ears – inner and outer. A cold blowing wind can make your inner ears ache, so a little protection can go a long way to make you comfortable. If you’re lacking a full head of hair, wearing a skull cap or a light Lycra hat under your helmet may work better for you. Below 30 and with a bit of a wind chill I increase the coverage on my head. There’s nothing worse than starting your ride with a brain freeze – ouch! Build on your needs and upgrade as the temperature drops with the ultimate headgear being a balaclava.
I wouldn’t say I have the most sensitive hands, but if you’ve ever experienced a ride where you had inadequate coverage for your hands in the cold, you will do your best to never make the mistake again. Riding with frozen fingers is painful and it compromises your ability to control your bike. In mild temperatures, I typically wear a full-fingered glove of some sort. At 30 degrees, I get out a light version of a lobster glove and lower than 30, I have a heavier duty pair. Lobster gloves are great in that, like mittens, they keep your fingers close together for warmth. They also are designed to help you manipulate your gears and brakes. Be sure to purchase gloves or mittens made for riding because of they are designed with features specific to handling your bike such as grips in the palms and most have a soft section to deal with your runny nose!
Like your hands, your toes can get pretty cold and painful in the cold weather. Unlike your major muscle groups, your feet and hands do not generate heat, therefore they just catch the wind and cold Wool socks are a great addition to your cold weather cycling gear. Just be sure the added material does not make for a tight fit in your shoes. If your shoes are too tight, you are doomed and will most certainly have cold feet at some point during your ride. You can also insert chemical heat packs into your shoes, but again, if the heat packs make your shoes tight, the benefit will be lost. Outside of your shoes, there are many options to build on to keep the wind and cold away from your feet. There are sock-like shoe covers that work well in the 50-40 degree range. There are also neoprene toe covers that work well in the same temperature rage or can be used as a layer as the temperature drops. As the temperature drops, I generally resort to a neoprene bootie over the sock-like shoe cover. There are also winter cycling boots. They’re a bit more expensive and are really only useful in the cold, but from all the comments I hear, they are great. One final tip for keeping your feet warm in the cold weather is to apply anti-perspirant to your toes. This is more for the toe-sweaters. I’ve never tried it, but, again, those who have swear by it.
There are so many options when it comes to keeping your body warm in cooler temps. If the weather is in the 40’s and 50’s, a base layer, short sleeved jersey, arm warmers, knee warmers and a vest are usually perfect. If it heats up while you’re riding, you can easily stuff what you don’t need into your pockets. When the temperature drops to the 30-40 degrees range, a long sleeve base layer, long sleeve jersey, vest and leg warmers work well. Below 30, I break out a winter jacket and a pair of tights. There are varying levels of protection in clothing, from windstopper layers to neoprene type materials. Decide what will work best for you for your ride.
Cycling clothing can be expensive, so if you don’t have a budget to buy everything at once, think about what conditions you’ll be riding in most often or build layers into your wardrobe. Have fun and stay warm and dry!Francine Haas is an accomplished athlete in both triathlon and cycling disciplines. She began her cycling career in 1983 as a triathlete and turned her focus to cycling in 1999. She has earned numerous accolades, including state championships on the road, track and cyclo-cross. In 2002, Francine began a campaign to empower women in cycling by hosting clinics, group rides and promoting bike racing. Francine has encouraged many women to go far beyond their expectations.