When the cold weather comes upon us, we face a major adjustment period of additional layers and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. When the temperature drops below 30 degrees, my desire for outdoor riding plummets. I still commute to work or travel by bike. However, distance rides are dramatically decreased. These are some basic tips or suggestions to make whatever kind of riding you do on the cold months more comfortable for you and your recreational ride or commute.
1. Dress appropriately for the weather conditions you are facing.
If you are going for a recreational ride you will want to layer up smart. This means not being too warm nor cold; sweat will make you cold, and not enough layers will prove to be uncomfortable. Common items are a base layer, mid layer, and a windproof jacket. You do not need specific “bike gear” to accomplish successful layering for riding. For commuting, a winter coat that has a wind and waterproof shell has proven to be super effective in keeping me comfortable as I ride to work and back.
2. Do not forget extremities!
Find gloves that will keep you as warm as possible and consider bar mitts. Bar mitts are fantastic! They cover your entire grip area while allowing you to still brake and shift with ease. They provide additional protection by keeping the cold air/wind/wet elements off your hands. One should also consider footwear; there are covers to put over your shoes to help keep the chill at bay. They are especially helpful if you plan on riding for a long period of time out in the cold.
3. Your face and head are also very important to remember.
This is especially true when the temperatures are brutal. If you are not looking to invest in a winter helmet, make sure that you have some windproof head coverings you can use either under or over your helmet. I wear a windproof skull cap; to me it’s more comfortable than a headband. I wear it either alone or over my balaclava, and it all fits comfortably under my usual riding helmet. Balaclavas are fantastic for keeping most of your face covered from the cold and elements, plus you get the ninja look in addition!
4. Consider goggles.
You'll be grateful on the most bitter cold days or days, when there is snow and ice to worry about. I’m particularly susceptible due to my wearing of contact lenses. Nothing stops you faster than snow or ice in your eye. Not to mention when the cold air makes your eyes water like no tomorrow. You will look a bit alien, but not having to deal with tear-filled eyes or snow and ice make the accessory worth it.
5. Get your bike looked over!
Make sure everything is functional and working properly. Talk to your bike mechanic about what extra care you should give your bike in the winter months. What kind of chain lube should you use? Remember that you may have to lube your chain more often due to the salt, grit, and dirt when we have snowy streets. Talk about what kind of tires you should be using during the snowy winter months. Something with more tread will give you better grip in snowy roads, studded tires are handy for icy conditions. Don't forget about tire pressure, and make sure those brakes are working properly!
Some things I learned from last year: a wind and water proof coat is your best friend, bar mitts are very handy, and goggles are a life saver. Now get out there and enjoy the ride!