Some people have embraced winter riding as hard as they do summer riding. Those hearty soles know a trick or two about staying, warm, upright, and happy on those chilly spring rides that may have been better suited for a ski or indoor trainer session.
Major considerations need to given to the weather when looking to get out in temperatures in and around the zero Celsius mark. Looking at the outside temperature on your phone is only part of the calculations you need to be making for a well-calculated experience. When riding a road, cross, mountain, or fat bike, average speeds and terrain come into play for so many decisions you have to make.
As average speed raises, our creation of wind shear increases, and so does our need for warmer gear. Calorie consumption and hydration are also influenced by the difficulty of the terrain and duration of the ride.
A few pieces of gear I have found to be invaluable on these types of rides are bar-mitts, thermal winter riding boots, merino wool neck tube and beanie, bottle bots, embrocation, and disposable hand warmers.
Bar mitts are neoprene covers that keep the wind off your hands and they can be bought in road or mountain bike handle bar configurations. When they are not needed, simply roll them back on your bar for an easy storage solution.
Cycling foot ware is primarily designed for summer use, so investing in a good pair of winter riding boots is key. Using booties or shoe covers never addresses the true problem of warmth as heat escapes via the sole of the shoe through the metal cleat that attaches your foot to the pedal.
Covering the back of your neck and head can keep your core temperature nice and warm, so having a merino wool neck tube and beanie for your head can really help trap in the heat. Both can also be removed rather easily to let excess body heat out on the fly.
Bottle bots are a relatively new concept using a neoprene cover that encloses your entire water bottle and cage from the elements. This keeps your sports drink from freezing and can even be used to keep hot liquids nice and warm over a ride that lasts a few hours.
One item I never leave home without during this time of the year on my bike is a couple of disposable hand warmers. These little things are cheap and have an incredible number of uses. In extreme cold I’ll place one on the backside of my cell phone to keep the battery from freezing. Aside from the obvious heat source they can be for your hands and feet, these packs can be used inside bottle bots to keep liquids warm or placed in jersey pockets to keep your kidneys warm aiding in keeping core temperature up. Adding a pack to your chew or gel stash can also keep your calorie from freezing up and becoming useless blocks of sugar.
Taking extra gear can sometimes seem excessive, but now with an amazing line up of bike packing bags you can store all types of precautionary items on your bike without even knowing they are there.
So, if you’re heading into the shoulder season with longer rides in these temperatures on your agenda, take a few extra precautions like a spare base layer and second pair of gloves. Sometimes it’s the cold after you’re sweating that gets the best of you, like descending after a big climb or when you turn around only to discover you’re now facing a cold head wind. It’s always a better choice to be over prepared than hungry, cold, and dehydrated.