Cold Weather Riding

Getting ready to become a moving popsicle

It’s been awhile since I’ve actually ridden my bike outside and not on the trainer, with the combination of medical issues, snow storms, and the fact it is below freezing, have all kept me riding my bike inside. But, this morning I decided to go for a spin after numerous unsuccessful attempts yesterday where my rides were cut short due to chain issues. A friend was in Rhinebeck and stopped by to say hi, and it just so happens he’s a cyclist. After looking outside at the sun, I suggested we go for a ride (as it just so happens he had his riding attire in his car, too).

“Lets go for a ride.”

“It’s 7 degrees out…It feels like 4. Do you know the wind chill is with a temperature like that?” he said, handing me his iPhone as if I did not believe his forecast reading abilities.

“I have an extra pair of gloves you can borrow?”

“Sure, why not. It’s sunny.”

I have no idea how I have the ability to convince people to do things with me in literally freezing weather. I guess it is safe to say the majority of hardcore cyclists out there are just as crazy as I am.

Mentally preparing myself for the cold conditions we are about to face.

The ride itself was not too bad, and felt warmer than 7 degrees. Okay, that is a lie. The “feels like 4 degrees” on Jim’s iPhone must have been lying to us, too. I was frozen the whole ride. The water in my water bottle froze, and the water in the tube attached to my water bladder camel back was frozen, so I could not drink anything. For some odd reason, I did not plan on my water freezing, but that only makes sense, since water freezes at 32 degrees, and we were riding in single digit temperature.

So, what made this cold weather riding experience possible? 1) my insanity and 2) my brilliant winter riding attire.

Cold weather cycling is a lot like cold winter running which I wrote a whole post on, called, Running in the Cold and Snow,  so I will not be redundant about all the attire needed. But I wanted to talk about the type of attire that makes winter riding possible or bearable, atleast for me.

It’s vital if you decide to ride in the cold, you are properly dressed. Otherwise, the cold temperatures can do damage to the body. You could become hypothermic…Believe me, it’s just dangerous. My winter riding pants are amazing, and shield your legs from the wind when riding. They are Craft PCX Storm tights that I wear over cycling shorts. When my coach told me they were the best tights out there, she wasn’t lying. I even use them when its single digits out running because they are so warm, and they do not have build in chamois (hence why I needed to wear a pair of bike shorts underneath). On a separate note, Craft has some great winter sports attire too, if you are into cross country skiing, or outdoor running…It’s pricy, but worth it.

On the ride, my core was warm enough wearing an Under Armour long sleeved shirt below a Pearl Izumi’s pro series soft shell cycling jacket, which I cannot praise enough for it’s windstopping capabilities. With just those two top layers on, my upper body was warm.

My feet and hands were a different story. For the majority of the ride, my fingers were warm in the lobster gloves I wear (if you are not used to those types of gloves, handling gears can feel awkward at first, but then you get used to your fingers in the position they are). But towards the end, I started to lose feeling in the digits, which can be uncomfortable. My riding partner, who is an astounding athlete, has amazing circulation and never gets cold hands. I’m secretly jealous of him. Okay, I guess that secret is out now.

There are specialized winter riding shoes that you can get, which usually are gore-tex and have more windstopping abilities than normal cycling shoes. I simply wore two pairs of booties over my shoes, which was still not enough. My toes are still thawing as I write this. I’m pretty sure if you go to your local bike shop they can help you with if you really want to get some warm riding shoes. Shimano has some great winter riding shoes made specifically for winter riding, which one day I might invest in if it continues to be so cold….Ohh how i cannot wait until spring!

Since the face is the least protected part when riding, it’s super important to wear a hat, or ear muffs, or scarf to protect the head and neck (AND do not forget the helmet!!!!). I just wear a balaclava that covers my nose, because that part of my face tends to freeze first in cold weather. It’s less painful when you have a barrier between your mouth and the outside air when you are breathing (if you breath through your mouth that is). A balaclava keeps the majority of your face covered, too, which your frozen nose definitely thanks you for. Even still, I always seem to have tears streaming down my face from the wind.

Lastly, eye protection. With the already freezing temperature out, plus wind you are facing when riding (oh boy, are going down hills brutal), you need something to shield your eyes. And, if there is snow on the ground, like there is where I am now, you need to shield your eyes from the bright reflection of the snow–similar to why ski and snowboard goggles are tinted. The brightness of the reflection can cause damage to your eyes. Today, I just wore a pair of sun glasses. If there is no snow, you can get clear glasses which help protect your eyes from the wind. I used to have a pair until I stepped on them. Oops.

Post-ride, Jim to me: "You can take your stuff off, we're inside." My response: "I can't unhook the helmet, my fingers are too cold."

I must admit, other than the frozen extremities, the ride was nice. If you do go riding, be aware that the salt on the roads can be damaging to your bike, so once you are done with the ride, you want to make sure and wipe your bike down. And, you need to be cautious of areas where there is ice on the roads. Just like cars and moving people, bike tires slide on ice too. A lesson I learned today.

Happy winter riding!

When was the last crazy post written?

April 2023

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