While it’s easy to dread the cold and snow of winter, embracing the year’s frosty season can make a huge difference. Most Canadians have learned to at least deal with it but the key is finding the small joys of the snowy season which luckily for you can be done on two wheels.
While winter biking may not lie at the top of your list of fun winter activities with skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding and ice skating to compete against, there are a number of strategies using the bike that can help you get the most out of the frigid snowy season.
Sure there are limitations to how much you can do outdoors as the days are short, there’s only so long you can stay warm while being outside unless you are a Sasquatch, and unusually icy or snowy conditions can adversely impact your plans.
So don’t get cabin fever, get outside and ride this winter. Here is how to win at winter on two wheels:
Dress for the weather
Staying warm is key to defeating winter. Layering and solid outerwear are essential to enjoying the season. Whether you are hopping on your bike for a training ride or to get to work, the cafe or the grocery store you’ll want to be able to make minor adjustments to your temperature so be prepared to unzip layers to regulate your body temperature.
RELATED: Frigid winter cycling survival guide
Keep your extremities toasty warm
There is nothing more miserable than having frozen hands and feet on a ride. To cut through the cold of winter you are going to neat the right sock and boot combination for your feet plus a warm pair of gloves combined with bar mitts when it’s really cold. You should also have a pair of thin gloves to swap in and out to regulate your hand temperature and if you are worried about still being cold use toe and hand warmers. It’ll be worth it.
Have the bike for the job
While you may be eager to ride over the winter, having the right bike will go a long way to making it enjoyable and possible. To ride on trails depending on the amount and density of the snow you can get away with using a cyclocross or mountain bike. If you are sticking to pavement you’ll want lots of clearance and fenders and if fresh powder is your cup of tea a fat bike may be necessary. Remember to leave time to clean your ride after each ride to make sure your components are wearing out.
Find a friend
While you probably tolerate riding solo on the nice days of summer, having a friend to go out with can be a huge mental advantage. It won’t only be nice to have someone to chat with to keep your mind off the cold but you’ll have someone to share the experience with.
Participate in a winter event
While winter isn’t usually associated with race season, there are likely some fat bike events near you to take part in. Check your local schedule, rent a bike if you don’t have one, and stoke your competitive flame with a mid-winter race or event. In Quebec, you can ride across Lac-Saint-Jean in the annual Traversée du Lac if you are up for a really adventurous ride.
Drink something warm
After or even mid-ride depending on your style, relax over a cup of hot cocoa or tea. A warm drink will help you warm up and relax post ride. It’s also motivation during the ride and is extremely rewarding after. If you want something more substantial to prepare some soup to warm up when you step in off the bike.
Ride whatever the forecast
During the winter, if you let the forecast deter your motivation, you may spend most of the winter curled in front of the TV with a blanket. Don’t let a cold spell or a dump of snow stop you from riding. These more challenging conditions can present some opportunities for the best rides.
Get your heart rate up
Putting in some efforts on your ride can help you structure your ride and stay warm. Tackle some familiar trails at full gas challenging your technical skills while getting those high-intensity efforts in that’ll give you a boost come spring.
Play in the snow
Riding outside in the winter should be an adventure. It’s not about dropping your mates on your favourite section of tarmac like you may be apt to do in the summer. Be loose and let yourself have fun. Giggling as you slip and slide through the snow is okay. If you bail, make sure you choose a soft landing and maybe a mid-ride snowball fight is in the cards. You’ll all have frozen eyelashes and beards, so make the rides as pleasant as possible and don’t take it too seriously. You’re doing it for fun after all.
Try cross training
While during the summer running would seem like heresy, mixing in some different type of exercise can be very beneficial during the winter. You’ll build aerobic fitness while using your body in a slightly different way. Remember to ease into running though. Other snow sports like cross-country skiing is excellent training while skating or just snowshoeing can all help keep you active in the outdoors. The last thing you want is to get cabin fever because you are indoors all winter.
Mix in some indoor training
RELATED: Zwift winter-training plan: Week 1
If gaining fitness is your goal, riding inside is probably the surest path to success. Use your pain cave strategically during the winter to do structure workouts. Riding on a virtual platform like Zwift can help you boost your training hours.