4 Tips for 4 Season Riding

It’s here. The cold weather has done a fair job of staying away, but I’m afraid the real deal is here for a while. Let’s talk about a few tips to stay warm and comfortable – because NOT riding all winter is the biggest mistake you can make.

The Takeaway: Air space is Key!

Riders go mad layering up for cold weather (which in a sense is good) – but make 1 common goof: everything is tight. If every layer is tight – the cold will conduct through each layer, eventually leaving you chilled. You hear it every winter…“I’m wearing 3 pairs of socks and my feet are STILL freezing!” That is because you made a direct connection between the outside of your shoe and your feet with the layers all mashed together inside your shoes!

You need space. Think sleeping bag. A sleeping bag isn’t warm. If you put it outside on a 20 degree night, it will be 20 degrees inside. Climb inside, and your near 100 degrees of body heat gets trapped in the ‘loft’ of the bag (the airspace) and you get all cozy. That concept is what you want on the bike as well, although you don’t need quite as much ‘loft’ since you are doing work and generating some deal of additional heat.

Here are a few ideas to get your gears turning:

1. Wear 1 good quality pair of wool socks in your cycling shoes. Cut a hole in the bottom of another fluffy pair of wool hiking socks (for cleats) and put them OVER your shoes. Then your waterproof shoe covers. Now nothing is tight, and you have the air gap and protection from the elements you’re after. Hardcore? Buy a pair of boots or specialty shoes a size too big and go platforms all winter thru the worst weather.

2. Ditch the gloves. The digits are often the hardest thing to keep warm, and your hands are out front in the wind as well. As the temps plummet, consider bar mitts or “pogies” instead of gloves. They attach to your bike, block the cold wind and – you guessed it – make a zone of airspace for you to warm up without the need for endlessly bulky gloves that eventually leave your hands all sweaty and cold anyway.

3. Pay attention to the weather details. If you are looking at the temperature, gearing up, and heading out – look again. Pay attention to the other conditions. 38 degrees with sun and a mild 5mph breeze from the south feels altogether different than 38 degrees with clouds and a 18mph chilling northern wind off of the lake. As a beginner, consider taking notes on what works, what failed, and use it to prevent making the same mistake over and over.

4. Consider items from other sports! When it’s really cold – grab your ski/snowboard goggles! They are perfect to keep a clear, fog-free view of the route ahead. I’ve seen riders with battery operated, heated gloves and vests from snowmobile shops gloating about how warm their hands are. Who cares – as long as you are comfortable!

Hungry for more?

There are 2 great opportunities coming up to learn more about winter cycling! On Friday, December 8th you can join the Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op for their annual Cyclebration and Winter Expo. This includes a winter fashion show, and it’s a downright festive place to spend the evening. Then, on December 19th, come to the Bike Cleveland office for the final Bike Smarts class of the year. This month’s topic is Indoor Cycling Tips, so that will come in handy for when (hopefully if) the snow just piles up too deep to ride outside!

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