Brrrr…baby, it’s cold outside! At least, it can be. We certainly rang in the new year with some frosty, frigid temps, and day-to-day, you really never know, right? After all, it’s Colorado. We’re used to Mother Nature’s predictable unpredictability–it’s even part of the fun. But when it comes to cycling, cold weather can really put the brakes on momentum. That said, it doesn’t have to. Winter Biking can be wonderful! With Winter Bike to Work Day coming up February 9th, what better time to find out for yourself?
Of course, though days are getting longer again, it still gets dark and cold quickly. Roads may offer more than the usual hazards, depending on the weather and temps. And, bundling up can take some time and adjustment. Fortunately, with a little knowledge and preparation, winter biking can be awfully rewarding, and even rather comfortable. We’ve gathered a few tips for making the most of winter cycling.
Gear up. There are certain essentials you’ll need to brave the cold, whether or not the sun is shining. “Wind resistant cycling gloves are super important,” says BreakAway Cycle & Strength Studio Owner and Instructor Alison Zemanek. “It’s tough to hit the brakes when your fingers are frozen! Another key is shoe covers–those toes will get cold!” Zemanek further recommends investing in a winter cycling jersey and/or jacket and a face mask, adding, “Even though it’s winter, be sure to put sunscreen on that exposed face and lip balm to help protect your lips from the cold wind.” (See some of Zemanek’s personal pics for winter layers here.)
Dress in layers thoughtfully, being sure to keep your core warm. “While it’s important to dress warmly, it’s equally important not to overdress,” cautions Lauren Greenfield, Art in Public Places Administrator, Traffic Safety Coordinator and veteran cyclist who leads numerous bike groups in Longmont. “Overdressing will cause sweating, making your underlayer wet and could lead to hypothermia.” To help strike the just-right balance, Greenfield recommends wearing a moisture-wicking base layer.
Dress up your bike. You’re not the only one who may need some new outfitting in winter. Before venturing out, give your bike a good tuneup. Make sure your brakes are in good working order, and everything’s functioning as it should. Tires will provide more traction with a little less pressure than you’re used to for summer riding. If you’re anticipating slush or otherwise messy roads, mud guards are a good idea. Finally, lighting can make magic. Be sure to be prepared for darkness as needed with bright lights for front and back, and reflectors.
Safety first. “Be visible,” Greenfield advises. “Be prepared with bright lights and clothings, whether day, dusk or night. Always have a plan B in case weather moves in. Remember, we live in Colorado. Buses in Longmont are free, and they all have bicycle racks that are easy to use.”
Winter poses different hazards depending on conditions. Be vigilant for melted snow and icy patches. “If you encounter ice on a road or trail, keep pedaling,” Greenfield says. “It may sound counter-intuitive, but it could be the difference between staying upright or not.”. And watch out for those curbs–they are likely to be more dangerous with debris and ice. Drivers tend to give cyclists a wider berth with cluttered curb sides, but be sure to keep them in the know with proper hand signals.
Take your training indoors. When riding outdoors, consider taking fitness goals out of the equation so you can focus on safety and scenery. You can make up for any lost intensity indoors. “Winter training indoors is the ideal time to grow your aerobic base,” says Candice Schwartz, founder and coach with Paceline Elite Performance Gym. “We love training on a Wattbike indoors because it mimics real cycling feel and the amount of data feedback you receive is immense. Roughly speaking a 60-minute session on a Wattbike is equivalent to around 90 minutes outdoors. Train smart and with focus and you’ll arrive into spring in fine form.” (Read more of Schwartz’s insights on how to make the most of indoor training here.)
Know when to say when. “There are a lot of days in a Colorado winter that are outdoor riding safe, but there are also days when there’s very high wind, freezing rain, or snow,” Zemanek says. “On those days, the safest bet is to take your ride inside.” Lucky for us, centers like BreakAway, Paceline, our Longmont Recreation Center, Ed & Ruth Lehman YMCA, and others offer a range of indoor classes perfect to supplement outdoor training, keep fit, and have fun!
Enjoy! Winter riding is sure to offer a whole new perspective of the roads. Make the most of it. You can start by taking part in Winter Bike to Work Day! Click here for more info.
Ride on, everyone!
Photo credit: Jim Heuck