Thursday, December 15, 2011

Winter Cycling

by Michelle Caron
Algonquin College Library Technician Student
SIRC Intern

Peering outside in the morning darkness when it’s cold and windy outside is enough to discourage even the most determined cyclists.  However, making the appropriate adjustments for the climate in the winter months can make cycling in the winter months both positive and enjoyable.

Be Prepared:
Most people who ride in the winter get the question “how do you stay warm?” But the issue is not how to stay warm, it’s how do you regulate your temperature once the body starts working hard? 

The key to this challenge is layering:
  • The first layer should be snug to your body and made of a material that moves moisture away from you, synthetics or wool are your best options.
  • The second layer is an insulator and should be a little looser on your body to trap the air and keep you warm. 
  • The third layer is to protect you from the elements.  It should be a zip-up with wind-blocking and water resistant capabilities.  Be prepared to dress up or dress down.
  • The most important to consider are the hands, feet and head since these can get cold the quickest.  Some items to check out would be lycra booties, polyester socks, wind stopper gloves and wool hats with ear guards.
Wear bright clothing, winter consists of shorter daylight hours and flying snow can make it difficult for others on the road to spot you.  Attaching lights to your bike are a good idea and can keep you safer. Every year there are new items of cycling gear on the market and a consumer should have no problem finding what they need to get started.

Road chemicals, salt, and sand can all deteriorate your bike quickly.  If you take 10-15 minutes to wipe down and lubricate your bike after each ride it can prevent corrosion and save you some money on repairs in the future.  Equipping your bike with studded tires helps with traction and increases control. 

Since it is cold outside, riders tend to forget to stay hydrated.  The reality is that biking is an aerobic activity, and with the added layers can actually make you feel warmer.   If temperatures are really cold, you can keep your water bottle next to your body to prevent the water from freezing.

For more tips on winter cycling safety, comfort and maintenance visit SIRC.

References from the SIRC Collection: 
  1. "Beat The Big Freeze." Cycling Weekly (2010): 38-41.
  2. Bridge, M., and M. Febbraio. "Training In Extreme Conditions." In Jeukendrup, A.E. (ed.), High-performance cycling, Champaign, Ill., Human Kinetics, c2002, p.43-55. United States: 2002.
  3. Michael N. Sawka, et al. "Glycerol Hyperhydration: Physiological Responses During Cold-Air Exposure." Journal Of Applied Physiology 99.2 (2005): 515-521.
  4. "Pulling Out The Winter Gear As The Temperature Drops." Cycling Weekly (2009): 33.


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