I frequently refer to 2015 as the “Year without a winter.” Throughout the beginning of the year, we were unseasonably warm and dry. Riding last year was a pleasure for a cyclist, even if the state paid for it with drought conditions all spring and summer long.
I can now see I got a bit spoiled in 2015. So far, 2016 has been MUCH different (meaning more normal) and I have had to relearn my winter riding…
Before each ride, I have a ritual. First I look outside to check the weather. If it looks like this, I go back to bed and hide under the pillow!
If it’s a at least a bit dryer, then it is clothing decision time!
Now let me reassure you here, my clothing decision has nothing to do with looking good for the other cyclists. There is a delicate balance of layers, waterproofness and gloves that has to be met to keep a ride from being miserable.
Editors Note: The number one best tip: The top layer must be a wind breaker of some type. It doesn’t need to be thick or warm, the underlying layers take care of warmth, it just needs the block the cold wind that will cut through you and chill you to the bone!
I have friends in Arizona and Florida who would probably need one of these to even consider riding in the cold
For me, though, the coldest rides will require this!
No skin exposed, insulated pants, and warmest gloves
I only go this far when I know I will see this on the ride.
On most days, this would be overkill though. It may not be intuitive to non riders, but in all honesty being too warm is worse than being chilled. If I bundled up like this all the time, I would be hot, sweaty and miserable 2 minutes into the ride. When I suit up for the ride, my goal is to be able to feel the cold through the layers, so the riding will warm me up.
This means before each ride I walk outside in short to get a ‘feel’ of the weather. Just how cold is it? Should I bring an extra lighter pair of gloves. Is it raining hard enough to need these
Or is it a light drizzle, and I can skip the rain pants? Surprisingly, sometimes even bike shorts are in order. If I am going on a longer ride, do I need to bring along the trunk bag so I can shuck or put on layers as needed. With my training rides, lasting 3 – 7 hours, the weather can change a lot during the ride!
This also poses a challenge for cycle commuting. The afternoon weather can be completely different from the morning, sometimes better, sometimes MUCH worse. Which means all this gear has to be accessible in the saddlebags. It also means I carry a lot of unnecessary weight some days (and I don’t mean my big belly), but it has saved my rear too many times NOT to carry it!
So why the post? I know a lot of people who only ride during NICE weather. If it is not warm, sunny and dry, they aint going. In essence, they cycle hibernate (cyclenate? Hibercycle?) for months on end. The downside to this is the legs are often times putty when the nice weather starts, and that limits how far they can ride.
Now me, on the other hand, I will already have a cold century ride or two under my belt by the time the weather warms, and I will be raring to go for whatever 2 wheeled adventure I find when the prime 65 degree weather hits!
And lest some of you think I am the only nut job out in the cold, let me introduce you to a very cute Canadian Chick Sandy who is seen here after her ride on Thanksgiving day when the mercury hovered around freezing!
Know this: it will take experimentation to get it right. There will be some days you will freeze your ass off for lack of layers, others you will feel like a puddle of sweat from too many. But when you dial it in, riding in winter can be every bit as fun as summer, and you will see things you just wouldn’t see in July
So, forget what the calendar says, break out the layers, and get out for a ride and blow the stink of you. You might just enjoy it!
Like the wind!