Preparing for winter: how to love riding in the cold

Riding in winter just makes everything a little bit harder.  It’s colder, darker and just generally miserable, so here’s our top tips for avoiding the winter blues.

1) Get yourself some winter kit

Nobody will be impressed by your ability ride through the depths of winter in your summer jersey and bib shorts, so don’t risk frost bite – get yourself some proper winter clothing.

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  • Base Layer – Arguably the most important piece of winter clothing, as it’s placed directly over your core.  If you only get one quality piece of winter kit, make sure it’s a base layer.
  • Limb Warmers – Elbow or arm, knee or leg warmers, limb warmers can really make your ride much more enjoyable.
  • Winter Jacket – It’s always smart to carry a  winter jacket on your ride.  If you get a mechanical and have to stand by the side of the road for any extended period of time, you’re not going to have much fun.  Look for a tightly fitted, waterproof winter jacket that folds up into your jersey pocket so you can always carry it with you.
  • Gloves – Have you noticed that it always seems to be your hands that get cold first in lower temps?  This happens for two reasons: firstly, your hands are highly vascularised, and, secondly, the blood vessels sit closer to your skin than in your arms or your core.  This makes them more susceptible to external temperature changes, so wrap ’em up good and proper.  A decent pair of winter gloves is not a purchase you’ll regret.

2) Change up your route 

If your local riding group has been doing the same ride for the past couple of months, or you’ve been commuting to work on the same route for as long as you can remember, use winter as an opportunity to shake things up.  Swap to a more scenic route to give you that extra motivation to get out of bed.

3) Ride harder 

The easiest, cheapest and fastest way to warm up is to overexert yourself, so push yourself to the limit in a shorter time.  Your body will respond well to the change in training style, much like high intensity interval training, and you’ll be sweating before you know it!

4) Ride on the flats

Riding up hills may seem like a good way to get your body warmed up quickly, but descending is not as helpful.  Ripping down a descent on a cold winter morning is going to negate any temperature gains you made pushing up the hill, so ride on flat terrain, and see point 3.

5) Pack extra food

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You can never have too much fuel for a cold ride.

You don’t actually burn significantly more calories in the cold, but getting fatigued in cold weather can be dangerous and bad for your health, so don’t risk it – throw in that extra gel.

6) Take the coffee stop with you 

The best way to fight off a decreasing core temperature is to drink warm fluids, so grab yourself an insulated bottle and fill it with your favorite hot drink.  Popular choices include lemon tea, coffee, and electrolyte fluid made with hot water.

7) Lights

Cold winter nights.

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If you don’t have the luxury of awarding yourself an extra half hour of sleep in during the darker months, you’re going to need a decent set of lights.  Check out our handy guide to help choose the right bike lights.

8) Wrap up your toes 

If you find that your toes tend to suffer in through winter, there are a couple of things you can do.  Firstly, you can grab yourself a set of neoprene shoe covers, which insulate your toes from the cruel elements, or you can try the old cyclists’ trick of wrapping your toes in aluminum foil.  Whilst the jury is still out on just how effective this is, it’s probably better than nothing (though probably much less comfortable).

9) Toughen up 

Winter riding is hard; it requires a little more volition than a Sunday afternoon spin on a warm summer’s day, so by all means, do what you can to make it easier on yourself, but ultimately it’s only you that will actually make yourself get out of bed when it’s cold and dark outside, so toughen up and saddle up.

About Tim_Davis@Pushys

I'm a Science Graduate and Medical student at the University of Queensland, specialising in anatomy and physiology. More importantly, I'm all for any type of riding; road, mountain, dirt jumping, I love it all! Let me know if there is anything you want to know about nutrition and health, and I'll do my best to help you out!

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