10 Survival Tips On Winter Cycling
For those of you who know me you are aware that I absolutely LOVE winter cycling because I have been known to cycle in 26 degree weather for 52 miles or more and bring others along for the fun and excitement! Because of this I feel moved to share the safest way to enjoy this adventure while keeping it fun and full of adventure.
Winter is here and many places in the Northern hemisphere are already feeling the chill of what many are saying will be a record setting cold winter.
It may seem like the perfect time to curl up next to the fire place and sip coco, while actually this is the ideal time to get out on your bike and go for a ride. So how do winter cycliist handle the cold when riding? Being prepared can be the best way to enjoy the winter weather when biking and stave off potential injuries or illness. So, when preparing for your next ride carefully consider what you’re wearing before you step outside.
A little discussed fact about aerobic exercise is that the body only uses about 20 – 30% of its total energy output for mechanical work, with the remaining energy expenditure being liberated as heat.
In most cases, performance, when cyciling in the cold, can be maintained without effect, down to -22 F or -30 C, by regulating temperature with apparel.
When setting out for a ride, you are using four separate methods of heat transfer, or cooling, to regulate your body temperature;
Conduction or the transfer of heat from surface to surface by contact. For example Muscle to skin, skin to air contact.
Convection, which is the cooling of the body by the movement of air over the skin.
Radiation, the transmission of heat from one body to another with out contact. (Think how the sun can heat your skin)
Evaporation or the vaporizing of moisture through the skin or breathing.
To best regulate your temperature and keep you performance from being compromisedwhen cycling in winter conditions, follow these easy steps:
Start with layers: Layer your clothing so that you can adjust accordingly to the level of exertion and cold that you are feeling. The goal should always be to keep the core of your body warm and dry (from your chin to your crotch.) by layering your clothing you allow yourself to add, remove or vent layers as your exertion or the temperature change.
Avoid cotton fabrics: While cotton may feel good when it’s dry, it also naturally absorbs moisture and prevent air circulation.
Use Polyester, Polypropylene, Silk or Wool for base layers. These natural and man made fabrics wick moisture, allow air circulation and dry quickly.
Remember these important life-saving steps of dressing in Layers
Layers provide options when cycling in the cold if the weather warms up or if you are overdressed. A base layer that wicks sweat and keeps moisture away from the skin and an outer layer protecting from wind and precipitation are necessities. In between, wear fleece or other fabric that retains heat. Boot covers that are waterproof keep out snow and slush and keep feet protected. Hats and helmet covers prevent loss of heat through the head. Gloves designed for winter biking keep fingers and hands warm and able to control and brake. Goggles and a face mask shield from wind damage and skin chapping. No visible skin is a good rule to follow. Winter winds and weather chaps exposed skin.
Don’t forget to cover your hands, feet, head and neck. These are major areas of heat loss. Your head alone can account for 30-40% of your bodies total heat loss. And, while you may be thinking that it’s a good thing to let your head breath, your hair is a natural source for wicking moisture. While the heat builds up in your head and sweat is produced, your hair collects the moisture and cools without dry, therefore, encouraging the body to produce more heat, consuming more energy to regulate your temperature. In freezing temperatures and conditions with sub freezing wind chills, many riders have reported having their hair freeze. This condition can be extremely dangerous and robs the body of energy that could be used for muscle out. By regulating the heat expenditure here it will allow your body to more easily regulate your core.
Dress so you’re are a little cold before your work out: While layering your clothes you don’t want to over do it. Make sure before you start your ride that you are cool, but not cold. You definitely don’t want to be warm. Once your ride begins your body temperature will rise naturally making you more comfortable.
Dress in apparel that can be unzipped or easily removed. While many of us don’t like full zippered or bidirectional zippered jerseys and jackets, they do allow the greatest level of adjustment. Don’t be afraid to unzip different layers to different points to moderate air circulation and evaporation. A little air circulation can greatly help with the evaporative cooling effect.
Don’t underestimate wind chill. While the ambient air temperature may tell you to dress one way, don’t forget that the air temperature will seem to decrease once you are moving. A good wind blocking exterior layer can greatly reduce this effect and keep you from having to dress too bulky. An inexpensive alternative that can give your more seasonal flexibility in your cycling closet can be a lightweight, packable shell or wind vest. These 4 to 6 ounce garments can make a substantial difference.
Be prepared to dress up or dress down. An easy way to adjust your temperature without having to carry bulky clothing is with alternate layers. If you start out cold with a Quick Wik skull cap and find that it’s not enough, stash a Super Roubaix or Wind Stopper Cap in your pocket. This simple change can decrease heat transmission by up to 40%. The same rules apply for your feet and hands. While you may want to start out without booties, toe warmers or full finger gloves, carrying these small items folded in a jersey pocket can make a big difference in your total body temperature.
Here are Some of our suggestions for how to dress when setting out for you next winter cycling adventure:
Cool: 64 to 54 degrees
Cold: 53 to 43 degrees
Freezing: 42 to 0 degrees
Apparel combinations to consider for your Fall and Winter riding
Cool: Wik Cap
Cold: Roubaix Cap or Wind Stopper Head and Ear Band
Freezing: Wind Stopper Cap
Cool: Riding shorts and leg or knee warmersor lightweight knickers
Cold: Super Roubaix Tights / Bib Tights or Bib Knickers
Freezing: Stopper Tights or Bib tights with a poly base layer or padded short.
Cool: CoolMax Socks or other Moisture wicking socks
Cold: Lycra Booties or Toe covers with wool or Polyester wicking socks
Freezing: Wind Stopper Booties, with wool socks
Cool: Fingerless gloves
Cold: Thin full finger gloves or fingerless gloves with a liners beneath
Freezing: Wind Stopper gloves
Cool: Sleeves base layer, short sleeve jersey and arm warmers
Cold: Full sleeve base layer and full sleeve jersey and a lightweight wind Jacketor wind Vest
Freezing: Full sleeve base layer, jersey and a Wind Stopper Jacket
7. Safety First Last And Always
This sentence is repetitive because it is most important, layers provide options when cycling in the cold if the weather warms up or if you are overdressed. A base layer that wicks sweat and keeps moisture away from the skin and an outer layer protecting from wind and precipitation are necessities. In between, wear fleece or other fabric that retains heat. Boot covers that are waterproof keep out snow and slush and keep feet protected. Hats and helmet covers prevent loss of heat through the head. Gloves designed for winter biking keep fingers and hands warm and able to control and brake. Goggles and a face mask shield from wind damage and skin chapping. No visible skin is a good rule to follow. Winter winds and weather chaps exposed skin.
8. Drink Up
Hydration is important even when it’s cold outside and you’re not as thirsty. Many times athletes forget to properly hydrate when exercising in cold temperatures. Your body requires just as much fluids as when it’s hot, but it’s not as obvious as in higher temperatures. Get a fluid system that resists freezing in low temperatures. Finding your water supply frozen stiff is a quick way to get dehydrated while winter biking.
9. Don’t Risk It
Never cycle when it’s icy or temperatures get severely cold. The same is true if a storm is near. It’s not worth it to get a ride in if it’s risking your life. Either hop on the trainer for a ride or find another indoor activity to get your heart rate up. Wrecking your bike on a patch of ice is a recipe for disaster, for both you and your bike.
10. Be Prepared
Always take a cell phone in case of emergency. Winter weather is unpredictable, so make sure someone always knows where you are and is available to come help if necessary. Leave a map of the route and the time of departure so that if you’re not back in a reasonable amount of time, someone can find you. Take an adequate supply of fluid and snacks, and all the normal repair gear you’d take, such as a spare tire, pump and tools.
Cold weather cycling is fun. It’s a great way to get out of the house and get your exercise at a time you normally wouldn’t want to be outside. As long as you take the proper precautions (and exercise indoors if cold weather is severe), there’s no need to worry.
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