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Frigid winter cycling survival guide

Riding in temperatures below -10 C can be fun if it's done right

Riding in the cold can be more fun than it sounds if you are well prepared. Otherwise, it can become miserable extremely quickly. Here are six tips to help you ride when it’s hovering around -10 C or below.

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1. Dress properly

Biker crossing a small river in winter time.Cloudy winter day. Film look image.

Riding in the extreme cold can be a challenge, there is no doubt about that, but the first step to making it possible is dressing properly. Checking the weather and being prepared is key. Make sure to cover your face up with a mask or balaclava and wear a pair of ski goggles to protect your eyes. Leave no part of your body forgotten. Perhaps most suspectable to the cold are your hands and feet. Consider outfitting your bike with bar mitts and if you plan to be out for more than an hour consider hand and feet warmers.

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2. Stay sheltered from the wind

Even if the roads are clear, unless you are looking for a real challenge don’t pull out your road bike. Windchill is a killer when the temperature is below -10 C and any extended period riding at speed will leave you chilled to the bones. Instead find sheltered trails through a park or a loop on some slower roads. It’s also a great time to try fat biking where the speeds are lower and you tend to ride more technical and sheltered routes. If you commute stick to more sheltered side streets and away from the wide roads that can become wind tunnels.

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3. Don’t stop unless it’s somewhere warm

Photo: Actif Epica
Photo: Actif Epica

A key to staying warm is to continue pedalling even if you feel you need a break. The moment you stop you will be suspectable to catching a chill and any sweat build up that cools of could suddenly leave you freezing. The exception would be if you are carrying a warm drink, need to take a quick bite or are ducking inside to thaw out which if your getting cold should be a priority instead of toughing it out. Remember to unzip your layers if you do go inside to allow your underlayers to dry out a bit.

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4. Keep your eyes up

When it’s cold out and you begin to suffer, many cyclists line of vision falls to just ahead of their front wheel. To stay alert and safe when riding when it’s cold resist the urge and keep your eyes up even if the snow is blowing in your face. This is especially important if you are riding on the road because being aware of the conditions ahead and the cars around you is essential to staying safe.

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5. Ride with a high cadence

Group of bikers on the road. Cloudy winter day. Film look image.

Keeping the legs moving fast has two benefits. It’ll keep the blood flowing so your legs will be warmer and it’ll reduce friction between your rear wheel and the slippery surface you are riding over. If you tend to grind the gears, winter is a great time to get out of the habit because keeping the cadence up will help you stay warm. Keeping traction on slippery and uneven surfaces is also easier if you are in an easier gear.

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6. Don’t jump into a hot shower first thing when you get in

Steaming cup of coffee

You may be in a rush to warm up when you get back in after a really cold ride but give your body some time to begin to warm up before taking that hot shower you’ve been dreaming about. Your cold skin could be extremely sensitive and the best way to warm up is gradually. Wrap yourself in some blankets and drink a warm beverage before showering.

Feel you are prepared to ride outside this winter? Here are some tips to make sure your bike is up for the challenge.