Cycling when its Cold…

Cycling in the summer can be about casual riding, sprinting, spinning, touring  or what ever your chosen type of riding is. Cycling in the cold is very different. If you are a casual or recreational cyclist its about enjoying your sport all year round. If you are a serious cyclist, cold weather riding is about doing base miles to maintain your fitness for the in-season. In either case all types of cyclists want to ride year round to keep fit and enjoy the sport. Cold is also very relative to where you live. If you are from the Northern half of this continent then you probably think 60F is perfect bike riding weather so no need to discuss clothing options.

… and of course you don’t start to put on layers until the temperature reaches the freezing mark.

… but here in Florida we bundle up when the temperature plunges below 70F and when we get these Freakish cold snaps like we are having today (48F in Tampa) our clothing attire rivals that of an Arctic Expedition spending a year on a polar ice cap!

So, regardless of where your cold level starts, here are some tips to keep on enjoying cycling into the winter months.

  1. Dress in layers. Multiple layers will help trap heat to your body and help maintain a steady body core temperature. You’ll want a windproof outer layer, a warm fleece type middle layer to trap your body heat, and a wicking bottom layer. You want the bottom layer to be next to your skin so that it can pull your perspiration away from your body to keep you dry. Keeping the body dry will prevent you from getting a deep chill that you can’t shake. 
  2. Most helmets are made with vents to help keep your head cool. In the colder months, you may want to get a helmet cover to block these vents. Plus, you may want to get some sort of head covering to place between your head and the helmet. Something that will trap heat and wick moisture will be the most useful. 
  3. Gloves are a good idea. If your hands get cold you may not be able to control your bike properly. 3 finger mits might work the best. They have one finger for your thumb, one finger for your index and middle finger, and one finger for your ring and pinkie finger. This helps pool heat to multiple fingers but also gives you the dexterity to handle braking and shifting. 
  4. Protective glasses to keep wind and debris out of your eyes.
  5. Wear some type of leg covering to keep the wind off of your skin and trap heat to your body. Tights, leg warmers and knee warmers are all good types of leg coverings. 
  6. Light stretching before you ride will help begin to warm up your muscles. Then continue this warm up process on the bike. Don’t ride hard until those pedaling muscles are warm. A steady speed at a comfortable pace is a good way to warm up. When you feel yourself begin to perspire you are probably warmed up. Again, the winter months are more for maintaining fitness and doing base mileage as opposed to making speed gains. So, you may want to ride at a steady comfortable pace for most of the time when riding in the cold. 
  7. Once you’ve warmed up you’ll want to keep pace and only break when its completely necessary. Make these stops as short as possible. As soon as you stop you’ll begin losing the heat that you’ve built up at your core. If you stop long enough you’ll get a chill and it may be hard to shake. If you feel tired and need to rest its probably better to just use a slower pace but, keep moving. 

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2 Responses to Cycling when its Cold…

  1. Ross-Barry Finlayson says:

    If I can add to this. I also have a bigger than usual breakfast before leaving – muesli,banana,toast – as-well-as taking something extra along with me. Because your body is requiring twice the amount of energy, when cycling in the colder months, that supply needs to be replenished. I often take a flask of hot water with me and find a sheltered place, preferably in the sun,and warm up with a mug of soup or coffee.

  2. Florida Biking says:

    Great response Barry but my problem is I eat all the time even in the hottest of times because my metabolism is constantly burning up everything I put in. I’d have to carry so much extra food in the winter time and then probably couldn’t pull the trailer. …and that’s why I don’t ride when its cold…. LOL!

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