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Jan 24, 2014

Cycling Through the Seasons, Part 2

Winter cycling Lane

Welcome to the second part of our series on winter cycling!

Last week we covered the modifications and maintenance that can be done to prepare your bike for winter riding.

This week we will cover what you can do to prepare yourself for the ride!




Investing in appropriate winter weather attire is the best thing you can do to make your ride more enjoyable.  Overdressing or wearing too many layers can lead to overheating and perspiration which can in turn suck away the body heat that you had originally generated.  Many materials are now designed to be lightweight and wick moisture away from your skin while maintaining your body temperature.  Ideally you should wear three layers; a lightweight moisture wicking layer, a breathable insulating layer and a wind and water repellent “shell” layer.  Keep in mind that the top layer is likely to get dirty from the snow, slush and dirt it is exposed to.

Growing up we were told by parents and teachers we lost 80% of our body heat through our head; in more recent years it has been proven that this is not the case.  Realistically only about 10% of your overall body heat is lost from your head, this can be attributed to the fact that often times the rest of your body is covered in layers of clothing and your head is left to be protected by your hair alone.  Cycling forces you to lead with your head; you are looking up and in the direction of your destination.  Having an appropriate layer of heat protection under your helmet is vital to staying warm on your ride.

Tags: winter  cycling  clothing

The same goes for your hands!  Exposure to the wind and snow while you steer your bike will rapidly decrease their temperature.  Invest in a pair of well insulated mittens or gloves that still give you adequate grip on your handle bars.  If you plan to cycle more often than not Pogies are an excellent option; they cover your handle bars including the shifters and breaks while maintaining dexterity.  

Don’t let getting cold feet stop you from taking on winter cycling!  Ensuring you have dry footwear for your commute both ways can make a huge difference in the quality of your ride.  In most cases cold, wet shoes will take longer to dry than clothing.  If you have a shorter low intensity ride you can use a pair of winter or hiking boots, depending on their overall size your ability to ride should not be hindered.  To keep your toes dry invest in a pair of moisture wicking thermal socks and a pair of neoprene booties.  Constructed of water repellent material, they will fit over most footwear and will keep your feet warm and dry.  As a less expensive option you can wrap a plastic bag over your feet or shoe (great to keep in mind if the weather takes a turn for the worse mid-day!).

Finally, as you would if you were driving a vehicle, check the weather and road conditions before you head out.  It may only be -12°C, but it is important to remember to take in to account the natural wind chill and its amplification that comes from your riding speed.   Prepare yourself mentally and physically for the conditions before you hit the road; set a temperature limit for yourself and don’t ride if the weather surpasses it.