Winter is a beautiful time of year. As residents of the Northern hemisphere, there are many activities that can be enjoyed during the coldest months. While a bike ride may not be the first thing that comes to mind, more and more people are winterizing their steeds. With the rise of fat bikes, it’s even easier to get out in the snow. Don’t let the weather stop you from doing what you love. If you are afraid the cold will put a damper on your winter riding, get the right clothing. It’s out there. It’s definitely worth the investment if you are keen to get out in the winter.
Keep your hands and feet well protected
It will likely be your hands and feet that will suffer first when the mercury drops. When your body is working hard to keep your core warm, your extremities might start to get cold. To enjoy your rides to their fullest, make sure your extremities are well protected. Once cold, your hands and feet are hard to warm back up.
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The key to keeping the hands warm is well-insulated gloves, which maintain the mobility necessary to operate a bike. Lobster gloves offer the perfect solution with a split-finger design that allows for dexterity and warmth. If you like having even more freedom of movement in your hands, a well-padded pair of gloves should do the trick. Get a pair with plenty of insulation that is waterproof , wind-resistant and has materials that will allow for some breathability. If moisture is building up during hard efforts, your hands will be susceptible to getting cold even if you are wearing the heaviest-duty gloves you can find. If you have light glove inserts, these can be used effectively to better regulate your hand temperature and be added or removed during your ride.
For your feet, neoprene shoe covers are one option but cold air and moisture can still penetrate into your shoes because covers are not sealed fully. For more extreme winter conditions, the best solution is winter-specific cycling boots that offer a much more protective barrier between your feet and the elements than overshoes. Many winter cycling boots are waterproof and feature durable protection against the cold. Wearing a good pair of wool socks will also keep your toes nice and warm. The natural fabric will allow moisture to escape and retain some insulative properties, even when they’re a bit damp.
If all else fails, keep a pair of feet and hand warmers in your back pocket to be whipped out for when your extremities are suffering.
Master the layers
Using a system of layers while riding in the cold will allow you to regulate your temperature on the bike. Once you get moving, your body will likely begin to warm up. If you can remove an extra layer, it’s easier to fine-tune your body temperature. Start with a base layer to wick the moisture away from your body and provide insulation. Use a jersey or long-sleeve shirt on top of that before adding an outer layer.
Depending on the temperature and conditions, you can use a variety of jackets. Using an outer shell to block the wind and wet will keep the those elements out. You may look for something with more insulation if it’s really cold. If you are planning to ride hard and expect to work up a sweat, breathability should be a priority. If visibility is a concern, consider a yellow fluro outer layer and make sure the items you are wearing have reflective details to ensure you can be seen.
Remember, if you step out the door and you are already toasty warm, it probably means that once you start pedalling you will be looking for a layer to peel off.
Don’t lose heat via your head
You lose a lot of body heat from your head, so keeping it well protected will go a long way. Start with a fleece-lined hat with ear flaps under your helmet. Add a neck warmer that can be pulled up to protect your face.
If you are a skier, you’ve probably used a balaclava to protect yourself from the brisk cold on snow-covered slopes., A balaclava can also serve double duty for your really cold weather rides. If you cover your mouth, remember that condensation buildup will eventually freeze and may make your face colder later in your ride.
If you own an aero helmet or a helmet with a removable aero cover, such as the Lazer Z1 or the Bollé One Premium, it can keep the wind and snow off your head.
Ditch the sunglasses
A cold wind will make your eyes water. Most sunglasses will be covered in frozen condensation in an instant when it’s really cold out. The best option for sub-zero riding is ski goggles, which will protect your eyes from the glare off the snow and stop the cold wind from getting at your eyes.
Keep the engine room warm
Your legs are doing most of the work on the bike, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get cold. Thermal bib tights are a good start. In extreme cold, you might want to to wear long underwear underneath. You may want to try this arrangement out before going long because chaffing could be an issue for some. Otherwise, a pair of water- and wind-proof trousers can be used for extra warmth, especially if you are a commuter and need to keep your casual pants protected.