Now that we’re firmly held in winter’s icy grip, many people will feel the urge to put their bikes in storage for a few weeks. Resist this urge! Winter riding can be invigorating fun, and on top of that, it will help you to better appreciate the nice riding weather we have for most of the year. I know it’s tough to get on a bike when the temperature is in the mid-20’s, so here are some tips for keeping warm that may help get you on the road:
- Layer Up – Don’t wear a parka and ski pants. Wear multiple, lightweight layers. Start with a base layer of thermal undies and work your way up to a jacket. You’ll be warmer and more comfortable on your bike.
- Wick Away – Wear fabrics that hold in your body’s heat, while allowing your sweat to escape. If you’re not a fan of synthetics, tight knit wool works great. Avoid fabrics that hold water, such as cotton.
- Resist the Wind – A windproof shell will keep icy winds from wearing you down.
- Mind Your Dangly Parts – Extremities are the first casualties in the battle to stay warm. Warm gloves and socks are a must, and on really cold days can be layered. Mittens are the warmest option, but may hinder dexterity. Lobster mittens provide the best of both worlds. Headbands and helmet flaps are great for your ears, and both easily fit under your helmet, unlike a hat. Your nose is tougher to keep warm, but on the really cold days, a full facemask is the way to go.
- Stay Hydrated – A properly hydrated circulatory system is far more capable of maintaining core and extremity temperature than a dehydrated one. As a doctor friend of mine put it, “[Proper hydration] increases blood volume, and helps the circulation in your dangly parts!”
- Keep Moving, but Don’t Overexert – Moving your body will burn calories, releasing energy, and creating heat. Yay, heat! Overexerting your body will create a whole lot of sweat, which will then be cooled by the cold temperature around you, making you colder faster. Boo, cold! If overexertion is inevitable, make sure to only wear clothes that wick away moisture so you don’t freeze yourself in your own sweat.
- Avoid Prolonged Exposure/Take a Break – If your feet are numb and your nose is turning a dull shade of gray, get inside for a little while and warm up. You are only human; a fragile human that will only be allowed small victories while never truly conquering nature.
- Protect Your Skin – Moisturize and protect (SPF) your exposed skin. A wind burned face, cracked hands, and chapped lips are a real turn-off. Also, they’re irritatingly painful.
- Avoid Alcohol before Riding – Alcohol is a vasodilator. As blood vessels expand, they lose heat more quickly. Booze doesn’t keep you warm, it just tricks you into thinking that you’re warm. Also, booze dehydrates you (see #5).
- Learn the Wim Hof Method – He climbed Mt. Everest in running shorts. If you can learn how to do that, ignore 1-9.
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