Surviving the Winter!
When I made the decision to ride this winter, I wasn’t wholly sure what I would be getting myself into. I like being outdoors, I actually ENJOY the cold. I never have much been in for Skiing, and Snowboarding requires quite a monetary and time investment when it comes to gear, traveling, etc. Snowshoeing was an option, but with my ankle being not 100% yet, I decided to veto that this year. Usually when the cold months come around, I would hide myself indoors and attempt to spend endless hours on my trainer, or rollers. With this recent lifestyle change, not riding through these chilly months would probably kill me in my training, and my commitment to better myself & the world around me. So how have I been doing it?
Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær.
There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.
Props to a Norwegian friend of mine who provided me with the fun-to-say rhyming dialect! I’ve repeated this phrase to myself quite a few times, and as I’ve now made it through two months of Winter with nary a cold or uncomfortable body part, I’ve decided that it’s entirely the gear that makes the ride possible this time of year.
It’s not a big secret, I own a ton of cycling clothing. Right now I’m set for any temperature between the frigid negatives, all the way to as hot as it can get in Wisconsin. (Triple digits actually, if you wanna believe it!) It’s about finding those right combinations for the temperatures that you’ll be riding in to stay comfortable.
I’m nowhere near an expert, but in these last two months I’ve been able to gather some knowledge from my own experience and the experiences of others who also deem themselves “Winter Warriors.”
A proper baselayer cannot be overstressed. I have 3 different kinds that I use, depending on what I plan on laying on the outside. I can use a heavier baselayer with a lighter jersey or jacket, light baselayer with a heavier jacket. I enjoy the windproof baselayer with wool jersey combo when it’s around 30º or so. On the bottom I wear winter-specific tights that have wind-proofing on the front of the legs, and when it drops below 25 or so I wear baselayer tights under them. I have yet to be cold on any ride so far this year when it comes to my core or legs.
A beanie with a cycling helmet has served me well most of winter, now I’ve added a balaclava, snowboard helmet and winter goggles to my arsenal for those super cold / messy days. Fogging up my cycling glasses is a pain. Only thing that I miss when wearing the balaclava? Why, the ice-beard, of course. 🙂
I wear Craft Siberian gloves for temperatures above 25º. Anything lower, I wear THINNER gloves. The secret here? Pogies! Really, I’ve been riding in temperatures at 0ºF, and my hands have been beyond warm. Fantastic!
The feet are always an issue for most people it seems – myself included. Frostbite a couple years ago has left my toes suspect to the cold, so taking care of my feet during my rides this winter has been a major priority for me. Performance orientated socks are a must – wool, high-tec fabrics, they save your feet. I alternate between these and am always experimenting it seems. Shoes + booties can only take you so far, especially if you are suspect to the cold. I have a set of cycling specific winter boots that do a fantastic job at being completely waterproof, warm, and comfortable. Two others I know use these particular shoes, and it’s allowing them to ride through the cold as well. Sure, some days the circulation just isn’t there and the toes are going to get cold. When faced with the alternative of spinning away in a warm house, but going nowhere, I’ll take cold toes any day.
Having the right gear definitely helps you brave the elements. I’ll admit, I might be going a little overboard with this, but when have I ever done anything just a little? I used to be a Boy Scout after all, the words “Be Prepared.” stuck with me quite well.
A few things to keep in mind:
1) LAYER LAYER LAYER. Layers are your friend, get too warm? Take one off. Too cold? Put one on. It’s the secret to my success, it’ll be yours too.
2) If you are warm when you start out, you WILL over-heat and be rather uncomfortable as you continue riding. The first half mile or so SHOULD suck and make you want to turn back. That’s part of the fun!
3) Speaking of fun – have it. You are out riding your bicycle, you should be smiling. Take solace knowing that when you are out there when it’s 15ºF, snowing with a negative wind-chill … everyone staring at you is just jealous. They wish they could be that hard-core.
Now that this is all said and done, perhaps I should’ve kept it all to myself. If too many people know just how comfortable, and how much fun I have biking in these conditions, I might just lose some of my street cred.
Get out and enjoy your ride. I’ll see you on the bike path!