Cool weather riding tips
Sweating it out in the summer may be your thing, but that doesn’t mean you should stop when it gets cold. Winter can be an excellent season for cycling, as long as you take the right precautions. Here are some tips to keep you riding through the cool months.
Cycling in the summer may be fun, but it’s certainly not the only way to ride. In fact, cool weather riding offers some unique benefits of its own, from more pleasant winds to excellent views and scenery. There are also fewer bugs, no sunburns, and lower risk of overheating. Indeed, if you’re just getting into cycling, the cool seasons are the best time to start.
Of course, there are a few adjustments to make when riding in cool weather. Here are some ways to make cool weather riding a great experience for you.
Wear layers. The purpose of layering is not to keep cold out, but to keep warmth in. This means investing in several pieces of light clothing, instead of a few heavy layers. Light clothing can be put on and removed with ease, whereas that thick jacket can be a hassle to just carry around. Be sure to have the following layers:
Wicking layer: Wear a moisture-wicking fabric next to your skin. This will absorb your sweat and prevent that wet, clammy feel you get when sweat gets trapped over your skin. Polyester-based fabrics usually work best; avoid nylon and pure-cotton materials.
Warming layer: Follow up with a warming layer to keep you warm while letting air circulate over your skin. Breathable fabrics are essential; polyester and neoprene (a special insulating cloth) make excellent warming layers.
Thermal barrier: Your outermost garment should do two things: keep your body heat from escaping, and keep the cold from getting in. it should also have wind-blocking properties, as wind chill is a common problem in cold weather riding. Nylon works well for this purpose because it stays dry; avoid cotton as it can get wet and heavy.
Cover your head. Much of your body heat escapes through the head, so a good hat is essential to staying warm. The kind of head gear you need depends on exactly how cold it is—the colder the weather, the more protection you need. Your helmet may already have insulated padding, but this is usually insufficient as the winds get colder. Wear a thin cover under your helmet to keep heat from escaping. In very cold weather, you may need a pair of earmuffs as well.
Don’t oversweat. Sweating is good (and perfectly natural) in the summer, since your body is letting off heat. In the colder months, you’re supposed to do the opposite, so sweating shouldn’t be as heavy. Besides, it can get really chilly as the sweat cools and turns into cold vapor over your skin. Don’t overdress—stick to the basic layers mentioned above, adding one thin layer at a time as the need arises. Bring a small towel to wipe off sweat, and try slowing down or taking a breather when you start to sweat too much.
Moisturize. Cold winds can dry up your skin pretty fast. While it certainly won’t affect your speed or performance, it can get really uncomfortable especially when your lips start to chap. If you have dry skin to start with, bring a light, sweat-proof moisturizer, or at least some lip balm. Don’t forget to stay hydrated; always bring a bottle of water to refresh yourself on the road.
Wear removable covers. As your body warms up, you’ll need fewer layers of clothing along the way. That’s why removable clothes are essential. Arm and leg warmers are great can be put on and removed anytime, so you can easily adapt to your temperature changes. Most people start out fully covered, then remove their arm and leg warmers as they get more used to the cold.