Road riding in the winter comes with extra challenges, especially with colder weather and shorter days. But if you can find the motivation to get outside, and can figure out how to stay warm, it can be incredibly rewarding. Check out these tips to make your next winter ride better.
Choosing the right clothing to wear for the conditions makes the difference between a fun winter ride and a miserable one. Check the forecast for where you will be riding. What temperatures are expected throughout your ride? Will it be dry or will it be wet due to rain or snow? Will it be calm or windy?
Then dress in layers for those conditions. First, don a highly breathable synthetic or wool base layer. Then add one or more layers for insulation. Finally, top it off with a wind and/or waterproof jacket. Note that most waterproof jackets aren’t very breathable, despite any marketing to the contrary, so go with just a wind-blocking layer if conditions will be dry.
If you expect to ride frequently in cold weather, it’s worth investing in proper winter riding clothing and accessories.
When riding in extreme cold, always bring a spare layer or two. If something happens – like a mechanical or crash – you may have to stop riding for a period of time during which your core temperature will drop quickly due to the lack of movement. If there is a threat of precipitation, make sure you have a spare waterproof layer like a rain jacket.
Take the time to stop and adjust which layers you’re wearing as needed. Remove layers on climbs to keep from overheating and add layers ahead of descents to stay warm. When you wear too many layers, your sweat will quickly drench your clothes, which puts you at risk for feeling much colder the rest of the ride.
Get extra motivation by making riding dates with friends.
Keep your extremities warm
When your hands, feet and head stay warm, you will feel warmer overall. Buy yourself some truly effective gloves and winter cycling shoes. If you notice your hands and feet getting tingly and going numb during rides, your gloves and shoes are not warm enough. Avoid getting frostbite so you don’t permanently damage the circulation in your extremities.
You lose a lot of heat through your head so simply putting on ear covers, a hat or a balaclava can help you keep more heat to yourself.
Be seen and be safe
Winter means shorter days and lower levels of light. That means drivers are less likely to see you. Wear brightly colored and reflective outer layers for better visibility and consider adding a flashing rear blinking light and/or a headlight to your bike.
If it’s darker out, ride with glasses that have lenses that are lightly tinted or clear. You’ll be able to see better.
If you ride where it’s cold and wet enough for ice and snow, always be on the lookout, especially around blind corners or in the shade where ice may take more time to melt even as ambient temperatures rise above freezing.
Be flexible with your riding plans
Give your body extra time to warm up before pedalling hard on winter rides. If it’s very cold, consider doing a shorter ride or riding at a higher intensity so you produce more heat to keep yourself warm.
Adjust your route to pick roads with less wind exposure or stay at lower elevations. Or time your ride so you’re out at the warmest part of the day.
Bring a friend
Sometimes the hardest part of winter riding is finding the motivation to get out the door. Get extra motivation by making riding dates with friends. Knowing you have to meet your riding buddy at a certain location and time will make you less likely to bail. And you can even reward yourselves for getting out there together by stopping for a cup of warm coffee or tea at the end of your ride.