While an indoor trainer can be useful for winter training, it isn’t what cycling is all about. To keep things enjoyable, you’ll still want to mix things up and head outdoors even when the temperatures take a nosedive.
Use these 10 tips to stay warm and make smart decisions when cycling on the road this winter:
1. Layer your clothing.
Rule number one for staying warm on the bike is to layer your core. Not only will it keep you warmer than opting for a single thick jacket, but it will also make adjusting to temperature changes easier. Layer your core by using:
· A base layer that wicks away moisture
· A mid layer with thermal properties to retain heat
· An outer layer with windstopper fabric to block cold air and wind
When it’s really cold (below 30 degrees) you may also want to consider layering with leg warmers over (or under) your winter tights and arm warmers under your jacket. Pack an extra pair of each (they’re compact and easy to carry) so you can switch out the pair you’re wearing mid-ride if they become damp.
2. Always bring a spare jacket.
While you may have layered perfectly for the current weather, you never know when things are going to take a turn for the worse. To be safe, always take an extra windbreaker or vest to add a layer if conditions get especially messy. It will also be useful during a surprise rain storm or on a descent that turns out to be a little colder than expected.
3. Invest in a good base layer.
The job of a good base layer is to keep you dry as you sweat. This is especially important during the winter, when moisture on the skin can make you cold quick. While cycling gear can be expensive, splurging on a good winter base layer that fits well, has a high collar, and features technology with moisture-wicking properties will keep you happy and warm on the coldest of days.
4. Use shoe covers.
Layering is generally a good idea—but on your feet, wearing multiple pairs of socks will give your shoes a tight fit. Instead, use a quality shoe cover that’s waterproof and uses windstopper fabric to keep cold air out. If it’s really cold, use two pairs.
5. Don’t forget your head.
Thirty percent of the body’s heat is lost through the head. And just like with the core, hands and feet, layering is a good idea. Here are a few tips:
· For the outer layer, use an aero helmet if you own one. Aero helmets usually have less vents, retain heat better than traditional helmets, and will keep you dry in the rain.
· If you don’t own an aero helmet, a helmet cover will work just as well.
· For a base layer, use a cycling cap for temperatures 45 degrees and up. In colder temperatures, use a skull cap specific to cycling that’s slim enough to fit under your helmet and covers the ears.
6. Keep the cold water at home.
Cold and even room temperature fluids aren’t a good idea when it’s really cold. Instead, stay warm by filling an insulated water bottle with warm tea—an early and late season trick commonly used by the pros (see this video around the 4:12 mark). Another option is the apples and cinnamon hydration mixture from Skratch Labs, which is really tasty warm.
7. Take a break mid-ride.
If you’re heading out for a ride of two to three hours or longer, plan to take a break mid-ride. A coffee shop or restaurant is an ideal place to warm up and take a break. You can also use this opportunity to change any damp clothing and get something warm to drink.
Tip: When you refill your bottles, ask the waitress or bartender for hot water. This will help you stay warm during the second half of your ride.
8. Shield your eyes.
Sunglasses aren’t only for bright, sunny days. In the winter, wind and rain can make it hard to see without eye protection. Most of the top sunglasses options for cycling (like this one) will also come with a clear lens you can switch to when the sun isn’t out.
It’s always important to eat before a ride, but it’s especially important during the winter. Not only will you need the fuel for exercise, but the food you eat will also go a long way toward keeping you warm in the coldest temperatures. Make sure to eat a hearty meal (such as oatmeal) before you ride, and carry additional food with you on the bike to stay topped off.
10. Up the intensity.
Mixing intervals into your winter workouts will serve two purposes: You’ll shorten the amount of time you need to spend outdoors, and the increase in intensity will keep your core temperature elevated. Keep in mind that hard efforts may cause you to sweat more, so wear a good base layer (see number 3) to keep from making the situation worse.