Cycling - Knowledge

Cycling Basics: How to Prepare for Biking in Cold Weather

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Who does not like riding through the mist as the foggy droplets drench the eyelids? Or cycling through the snow as they splash all around? The gush of cold wind may seem to rejuvenate you as you cycle in the drizzles, but things are far from being romantic as you are on a long course of cycling. The words Winter-cycling or Cold-Weather Riding – The thrilling they sound, the more difficult they are in reality. But does that stop you from pedaling? No. After all, there is no such thing as a bad weather. And if you are an adrenaline junkie, nothing can stop you from zooming through the track. Be it snow, slush, rain or mud -you can overcome every possible hindrance. Although in various occasions you may feel troubled while biking in cold weather, you might think you can adjust your way through. But that does not stop the problems; rather those overcome your passion.

Now you must be wondering how to stay warm while biking or how to stop the obstacles in your riding. Well, we are here to help you in selecting the perfect gear and show you a few simple steps for a happy ride in a chilly weather.

How to Defend Against Weather conditions

Winter cycing
How to Cycle in Winter Condition

First, you have to realize how much temperature is “cold” for you. While some hardcore cyclists consider below 32-degree F as real cold, there are some who find any temperature under 50-degree freezing. So choose your accessories according to what your body says.

If you are going outdoor cycling in cold weather for the first time, it is advised not to go for a high mileage as your body is not acclimatized with the weather. All you need is to learn the layering up the process, determine the cold weather cycling gear and stay warm in cold weather.

Determine Safety

Riding in winter in sub-zero temperature is not so dangerous when you follow the basic rules of safety.

  • While traversing through a snow covered path, always choose a road with low traffic. Avoid the road that has minimal visibility. Be cautious while crossing car-tracks.  
  • Don’t be rash while cycling, as the roads are slippery in winter and there is high chance you might skid. Keep your body centered to maintain balance.
  • Try to opt for a mountain bike or a bike with wide tires for stability and run on lower tires pressure.
  • Carry disposable warmer lotions to avoid freezing, and cell phone in case you are in trouble and need help.

Winter days are fairy darker, hence you would also need good bike lights for maximum visibility and safety.

Choose the Layers in Right Fabric

Safety guidelines for cyclists
Check all the Essentials Before Cycling into the Winter Winds

The most important thing in cycling during winter is to stay warm. It’s challenging and confusing for you to choose from many options, so let us help you in selecting the suitable clothing.

While you are cycling in the dry winter season, you should begin with a softshell made of polyester that is windproof, waterproof and can remain warm in below 40-degree. As for rainy conditions, you need to put a hard shell on top of a softshell to create a barrier. The hardshell should be rainproof and breathable.  In case the weather gets windy, layer your body with wind-stopping clothes.

A new trendsetter is Merino Wool that absorbs sweat and still remains less smelly than the polyester. These last long and don’t need to be washed regularly.

Avoid cotton clothing as these can get smelly with the sweat. Also, the cotton remains wet after soaking the sweat and hence you will end up catching a cold or feeling colder while winter riding.

Dress Up According To The Temperature

A good combination of winter cycling clothing will ensure that you stay toasty for hours. The choice of gears varies according to the temperature. Lets us take a quick look of the clothing before you start biking in cold weather.

  • 65°–50°- socks, a short-sleeved jersey, short finger gloves, full finger gloves, arm-warmers, Knickers.
  • 50°–40°- legwarmers, vest, long sleeved jersey, toe-covers, ear-muffs, sock layer, tights, a thin hat/balaclava, shoe covers.
    Wear the leg-warmers with your shorts. Do not indulge yourself in lightweight thermal fabrics such as your yoga leggings.
  • 40° and below, up to 25° - Heavy tights, Lobster Gloves, Mittens, Two long-sleeved jerseys, mid-layer sock.
    Frozen hands and feet will ruin your fun. So give more attention on warm woolen gloves. Also, keep a substitute hat.
  • Below 25° - If all the above options still cannot make you warm then try some new technique for your cycle gear. Such as applying petroleum jelly on hands and feet, hand warmer into gloves, or wrap your feet with plastic before wearing shoes.

Also keep Rain gears (Raincoats, rain-caps, plastic boots etc) in case you experience drizzle or heavy rain.  

Cold Weather Cycling Gear For Different Body Parts

Winter cycling garments
Garments for Biking in cold Weather

Keeping all the obstacles in mind, you have to dress up accordingly. A slight gap in clothing in any part and you will never want to go out biking in cold weather. So let’s discuss the winter cycling clothing thoroughly. Hands and feet are more sensitive to feel cold due to the peripheral vasoconstriction. It is a physiological phenomenon in which the body narrows down the capillaries in hand and feet to protect the vital organs from the core by diverting blood from peripheries.

Heads

A helmet cover helps you from chill and moisture. It does not get wet or cold while it snows or rains. You can remove the helmet whenever you want to regulate body temperature. Aero-helmets with fewer vents are better than the common helmets used in riding. A thermal fleece headband is light in weight and you can wear it with a balaclava. You can easily keep it off when you want fresh air to inhale. A cycling cap or skull cap can also be worn under the helmet. You can flip the visor down to block the cold wind or dust.

Torso

 A comfortable innerwear that wicks sweat is important. Put on a long-sleeved base-layer on this. You should wear a long-sleeved thermal jersey over this.  Next, a wind-proof vest is needed. And finally, a lightweight zipped jacket to make it complete. The jacket should be waterproof but breathable. Opt for zipped jerseys so that you can remove one when you feel hot while winter riding.

Hands

A liner glove will help you regulate temperature. Above that, when the weather is colder, you should put on lobster gloves that are water and heatproof. Choose the gloves that help you in pushing brakes or shifting. Carry “emergency” gloves in case the other gloves get soiled of wet. The other glove can even help if the temperature drops.

Legs

Wear thermal tights with fleece layer. You might also look for shorts integrated into tights.

Feet

A double-layered lightweight sock is preferable. Toe covers will keep your toe warm. Apart from that shoe covers will keep your shoe free from snow, water or slush. The shoe should be comfortable with tight sole-grip.

Eyes

Dark sunglasses will keep your eyes from catching a cold. If you wear balaclava then it is better to go for a top-vented sunglass so that the view is not fogged up.

Biking in Cold Weather: How to Layer up the Body

winter cycling clothes
Wear At least Three Layers for Optimum Protection

While biking in cold weather, the number one rule is to layer your clothes rightly. This not only keeps you warm in cold weather but also lets you adjust your clothing according to the temperature rise and fall.

Upper Body Protection

A base layer to soak moisture, a mid layer to insulate heat and an outer layer to cover from wind and rain – and your layering is perfect. Carry a spare jacket or a vest in case your outer layer gets tampered. You never know when the weather can change, so it is better to be cautious.

Invest in a good base layer so that you don’t need to change your gears at regular intervals. Gears can be expensive, but be assured; they will help you in the most extreme conditions and serve you a really long time. Always check for the one that fits you well and soaks moisture well.

Shoes Are Important

Shoes are another most important cold weather gears. Invest in a comfortable and flexible shoe with a tight grip. Of course, you don’t want to slip or be in pain from the tight hard shoes. A waterproof, wind-stopper shoe is perfect to go out for winter cycling. Wear multiple layers of socks to give your shoe a nice fit.  And never forget to use shoe covers. Even if your shoe has been compromised, the shoe cover will help you from the mud, snow, and water.

Always carry extra pairs of leg warmers so that you can switch over between your warmers and tights.

How to Get Maximum Out of Cycling in Cold Weather

winter biking

Padding up well is vital when biking in cold weather. But there are also other ways to maintain body heat during winter cycling. Here are a few additional but important tips to keep yourself warm and lively when cycling in cold conditions. Take note!

Habituate to Intensity

It’s important to keep yourself habituated in cold weather. Engage yourself in Winter Workouts with regular intervals. So that you get enough intensity to keep your body temperature elevated. A good base layer, as discussed, will prevent you in sweating profusely.

Stop by a Café or a restaurant in the middle of cycling during winter. This will not only help you in regaining your composure but also will let you take a hot cup of coffee or quick meal. This will warm you up and give strength and enthusiasm to move forward. You can also fill up your bottles of water from the restaurants. In this context let us give you this small advice- do not carry cold or norm temperature water. Warm fluids will help you cope up with the cold weather.

We have advised you to take spare clothes while biking in cold weather. In case you have been wondering how to change in the middle of your track, this is your solution. Restaurants and cafeterias have restrooms and while you enter for a hot cup of coffee or meal, you can change into fresh clothes.

Eat to Generate Energy

Getting warm does not come only from cold weather cycling gears. if you want to be warm from inside during winter cycling, you have to eat. As you know, food produces heat with metabolism. Your metabolism will help you in shielding against weather. Eat a healthy meal (cornflakes with hot milk, oats, cereal etc) before going out. Throughout the trip, you might not want to pedal with an empty stomach. Although Restaurants are options, however, they may be shut in extremely cold weather. So, it is better to carry hydration packs and dry foods.

Hydration for cyclists
Fill up Bottles with Warm Liquids

Don’t Bid Goodbye To Bidons

Cold weather urges you to urinate frequently. Urination means less water in your body. Hence we advise you to carry sufficient water while winter riding. As your kidneys will instruct you to remove water from your body, you have to ensure that you carried a bidon. Energy drinks, warm water are essential fluids to go on with. You can find various models of drinks with drinking tubes that are covered with neoprene. It is better to keep the fluid bottle under your jacket as it will provide warmth to your body and you can also sip from the bottle in regular intervals.   

Protect Your Airways

Biking in cold weather can come up with different nuances that would affect your health even after you have nicely layered up. Bronchospasm is a common complication you may encounter while cycling in the cold weather.  In this case, you may feel a constriction in your lungs and find it difficult to breathe.  Cold air makes the Bronchial muscle tighten up and as a result, the “tight” sensation is felt. The people prone to Asthma suffer badly. Inhalers can help you in dilating the air passage of your lungs; however, you should consult with your physician before using these.

cycling in winter conditons
In Absence of Proper Defence, You Might Freeze to Death!

Take Shelter, Don’t Shiver

Are all your layers and covers falling short in keeping you warm? Do you think you can pass through your course while you can’t stop shivering? Well, this is the time you should stop. No matter how much dedicated, determined or passionate you are about biking in cold weather, shivering will ultimately put a stop to your course.

When the cold weather is getting difficult for you and you just can’t stop shivering, you should stop by the road and try out your “emergency gears”. If there are none or are inadequate, then find a shelter (café, restaurant or literally any enclosed area). Some warm fluids will be better to keep you warm. You can also perform some easy warm-up exercises. Taking a break mid-ride is a good idea to resume your body  

Concentration, stability, and coordination are hampered if you are distracted by cold shiver. So act wisely to ensure both your safety and comfort.

Be Cautious While Using Embrocation

Embrocations or chemical warmers give out a sensation of heat with the contact of skin. This is a cold weather gear that should be applied with extra care. While putting them into boots or gloves, make sure they don’t get in contact with your face or nether regions. After using, immediately discard this to avoid any unfortunate incident.

Avoid Overdressing

With the cold weather cycling gears mentioned above, we have seen many cyclists, especially beginners tending to overdress. We have clearly indicated dresses that absorb sweat. But if you put on layers over layers, you will obviously sweat more than what you have imagined, covering only a little distance. So dress according to your body temperature and the weather. As the temperature rises, you should shed your outer layers so that the sweat that has generated underneath, can find a way to evaporate out. Neck, torso, chest, and abdomen – theses parts if rightly covered, can make you warm altogether. So avoid heavy clothing on the other parts. Getting off time by time and changing clothes is irritating and you will also catch a cold. So avoid overdressing while riding in cold weather.

Find out the best bike GPS for safe navigation.

Summing Up

winter cyclists
Winter Times are slightly Darker, Wear Neon Colours for Safety 

Your passion for cycling is stronger than the cold you feel. So while you go out for a chilly ride in cold, never underestimate the weather. Keep all the odds in account and make sure you are ready for any conditions. As we mentioned, perfect layering is important just as overdressing is not. You should keep essential items handy and then nothing can stop you from enjoying. If you have some more suggestions for winter cycling, we would love to hear. Share them in the comment box below.

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