Cold Weather Cycling Tips

By Coach Lindsay Zemba Leigh

As spring approaches and daylight increases, many of us will be getting outside more often for rides (yay!) but that doesn’t mean the temperatures will always be mild, especially in the early mornings. Do not be afraid of cold weather cycling – it can be quite enjoyable with the right gear. 

#1 Safety First

First, if it snowed or rained recently and the temps dipped below freezing overnight or the day before, be cautious of the potential for ice on the roads. This can be a little more dangerous than running since you’re traveling at faster speeds and may not see it until you’re almost on top of it. 

If you tend to ride and run on the same roads, you’ll learn which roads tend to hold water and freeze and spots that typically have ice spots (I know them by heart on my run routes). But it’s good to approach turns and descents a little more cautiously than you do in the summer months knowing they could have ice or just more gravel than normal. 

#2 Dress in layers. 

This is especially important if the temps will change during your ride. For instance, when you start a ride at 7am, it may be in the mid 30’s but by the time you’re finishing up at 10am, it may be close to 60 degrees, risking overheating in the clothing you started. 

If you start your ride feeling warm, you’ll likely be overheated quickly since your body will produce heat with the movement. Start with a base layer, like Under Armour cold gear. Then add your jersey or cycling jacket, cycling tights or cycling shorts with leg warmers. 

If you’re new to cold weather cycling, some gear I recommend as essential includes: 

  • toe covers, 
  • cycling gloves that have good grip, 
  • a thermal headband to cover the ears or a balaclava when it’s colder to protect your face, 
  • cycling tights, 
  • knee warmers 
  • arm warmers. 
  • A cycling jacket is nice to have since it has big jersey pockets, but any shell will work to protect you from the wind and you can wear a jersey underneath your jacket for the pockets if you need them. 

#3 Bring food that won’t freeze and don’t forget to hydrate! 

Our bodies burn slightly more calories in the cold, so your energy demands are higher. To keep up with this demand, be sure to pack softer foods not prone to freezing. It can be tempting not to drink much on cold weather rides but you are still sweating, and still need hydration to keep up with your fluid demands. So, know your hydration needs and be sure to maintain fluid intake. 

#4 Be Visible

Lastly, wear bright neon colors and/or use a blinking light so you’re well visible to motorists. Motorists aren’t as used to cyclists in the winter, and it’s generally darker out, even mid-day sometimes. Be sure you’re well seen and ride safely. 

Below are some examples of different clothing choices I’ve used for different temperatures. 

60 degrees: 

Typically I’d recommend cycling shorts, short sleeved jersey, arm warmers, and light gloves, but if it’s cloudy and/or windy, you may also consider knee warmers. 

50 degrees: 

Cycling tights, thermal layer (like Under Armour cold gear) with short sleeved jersey on top, light cycling gloves, toe covers, thermal ear cover. 

40 degrees: 

Warm cycling tights, thermal layer (like Under Armour cold gear) with either a thermal cycling jacket or short sleeved jersey and a windbreaker jacket on top, warm cycling gloves, toe covers or full shoe covers, thermal ear cover or balaclava. 

30 Degrees: 

Heavy weight cycling tights, thermal layer (like Underarmour cold gear) with either a heavy thermal cycling jacket or short sleeved jersey and a warm jacket on top, heavy weight cycling gloves or lobster claw mittens, wool socks, toe covers or full shoe covers, balaclava. 

Don’t let weather stop you from enjoying the great outdoors! Get off the trainer and get outside this late winter and spring! Dress appropriately, be flexible with when and where you ride, and be sure to fuel and hydrate!

Cold Weather Cycling Tips
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