5 Ways To Stay Warm On Cold Rides

Here we go again…looks like the Polar Vortex decided to show up early this year. We don’t know about you, but we refuse to ride the trainer before Thanksgiving. So long as we don’t get one of our famous, downhome Carolina Ice Storms, we’ll keep riding outside.

Now, you wouldn’t think a bunch of Southerners would know much about riding in the cold, but most of us actually grew up riding, training and racing in places like Vermont, Chicago, Pennsylvania, and Portland (Oregon, not Maine– which is a whole other animal), so we’ve learned a few things over the years about riding in the wet, the cold, and the snow.

So here it is: 5 Ways To Stay Warm on Cold Rides.

1. Layer Up

Using layered cycling clothing can help you adjust your temperature to suit the ride and the conditions. You can pretty much layer every part of your clothing system as the conditions warrant, from your feet all the way to your head. Click here for our guide to layering.

PRO TIP #1: No matter how well you think you’ve layer up on top, always bring a wind jacket or vest with you in case conditions take a turn for the worse. #1B is to bring some knee warmers on super cold days– if your knees get cold you can put them on over (but preferably under) your tights for extra coverage.

PRO TIP #2: Spare arm warmers, spare gloves or liners, a spare hat, and base layer can pack up small in a plastic bag that fits easily into a jersey pocket. On long rides, it gives you the option of changing out sweaty, damp garments for warm, dry ones.

PRO TIP #3: Don’t use super thick cycling socks with your cycling shoes. Instead, layer your overshoes as needed, putting insulated ones closer to the foot, covered by wind/waterproof ones.

Layering up is a great way to make sure you can a stay warm, and adjust your core temperature as you go

Layering up is a great way to make sure you can a stay warm, and adjust your core temperature as you go

2. Hot Water Bottle

Using an insulated water bottle filled with some warm tea or Skratch Labs Apples and Cinnamon hydration mix (which is absolutely delicious, by the way) can take the edge off a very cold ride. This is a tip that the pro’s use during early season races like Milan-San Remo to stay warm (check out a video here)

Make like the pro's, and use some warm tea to hydrate on your winter rides

Make like the pro’s, and use some warm tea to hydrate on your winter rides (Orica-GreenEdge)

3. Eat Enough

In the winter, you burn more calories on the bike than during the summer. Not only are you using fuel to exercise, but also to stay warm. That means that during the winter you should fuel up with a healthy breakfast like oatmeal, and then bring plenty of bars, chews or gels to eat while riding. This will give you plenty of carbs to keep your body warm and prevent the dreaded bonk—which could mean serious trouble if you’re far from home on a cold winter’s day.

Eating a solid, healthy breakfast, and having plenty of food for the ride will help prevent you bonking

Eating a solid, healthy breakfast, and having plenty of food for the ride will help prevent you bonking

4. Mix In Intervals

If you’re really feeling the cold, trying mixing in some intervals to bring up your body temperature. You can either 1) pick a target a good distance away and ride as hard as you can until you reach it, or 2) go by time, and ride as hard as you can for about a minute. Just make sure you don’t go so hard that you start sweating a lot, which can just make the problem worse.

Riding a few hard intervals is a great way to get your body temperature back up

Riding a few hard intervals is a great way to get your body temperature back up

5. Take a Rest

We usually like to plan our long, meandering winter rides with a destination in mind—usually a restaurant or café with warm drinks and food. But it’s OK to take a break at any time if you’re feeling cold, chilled, or just tired. Stop at a gas station, coffee shop, café, whatever, warm up and take a breather.

Go in and get warm, grab some hot tea or coffee, and eat a cookie.

PRO TIP #1: If you’re feeling the chill from a damp clothing, you can use your rest stop to change into your spare base layer, spare gloves or liners, and hat. That way you can go back out into the cold feeling dry and warm.

PRO TIP #2: If your toes are feeling very cold on your ride, see if you can get some aluminum foil or a foil food wrapper, and wrap up your toes. It’s not the most comfortable thing, but it does provide some additional insulation.

PRO TIP #3: Ask if the coffee shop or restaurant can refill your water bottles with hot water.

When you start feeling cold or chilled, go ahead and head indoors to warm up

When you start feeling cold or chilled, go ahead and head indoors to warm up

Real Advice: Setting Up Your Trainer Room

trainer-image

1. Pick the Room

Even trainers that claim to be “ultra-quiet” are still going to generate enough noise to annoy someone in an adjacent room. Pick a room that’s separated from others in the house, such as a basement, garage, or spare bedroom. Make sure you have room to set up the trainer and angle it toward your entertainment of choice. And remember folks—make sure that floor is level-ish. An uneven floor can make the trainer rock, putting a ton of stress on your hips (no good) and the bike frame (really no good).

 

2. Sweat Catching

Since you’re not going to be riding anywhere, there will be no air moving on you. That means you’re going to sweat more. To avoid ruining the carpet or hardwood, set up a trainer mat or towel underneath your bike. To avoid ruining your bike (specifically the headset and BB bearings), use a sweat catcher or hang a towel over your bike.

Using a sweat net or towel can help preserve the life of your compoents

Using a sweat net or towel can help preserve the life of your compoents

3. Cooling

Since riding the trainer gets super-hot, it’s a good idea to set up a fan to keep from overheating. Even a cheap mini tabletop fan can make a world of difference. Using a fan doesn’t preclude following Step 2—you’re still going to sweat like a demon.

 

Not sure what kind of trainer to get? Check out our guide.

 

4. Entertainment

Riding the trainer with nothing to do can get really, really boring really, really fast. Make sure you have a TV, tablet, or computer to watch a movie or do a structured work out.

PRO TIP: Since there trainer is loud and you’ll have a fan running, if you’re in a domestic living situation or have housemates, it is generally considered polite to invest a couple of bucks in a headphone extension cord or some wireless headphones so you’re not tempted to crank the TV volume.

Using headphones can help maintain domestic harmony

Using headphones can help maintain domestic harmony

5. At Hand

Set up a stool or some medium height shelves next to your bike. It should be at about a height where you can reach it comfortable while seated in the saddle. This will ensure that your remotes, computer mouse, gels, spare water bottle, spare towel, etc… are all easily at hand.

 

6. Be Prepared

The trainer is usually more demanding than an outdoor workout. Not only do you have the increased resistance of the unit itself, but heat buildup and a tough structured workout can really take it out of you. For an hour long trainer session, you should have 3 water bottles (2 of them filled a hydration drink) and some gels to keep your energy levels up and avoid dehydration.

 

Build A Home Gym On A Budget

Here’s a fun fact: you can build a pretty comprehensive home gym for under $250. As the days get shorter, darker, and colder a lot of workouts that used to be done outside have to get moved inside. We’re pretty hardy winter warriors, but there’s weather even we won’t go out into.

So when one of those famous Carolina ice storms descends upon Chapel Hill, we break out the following equipment to get in a full, comprehensive workout to stay in shape, stay limber, and cross train through the winter months.

 

CARDIO

Indoor Cycling Trainer (~$149.99-$1,899)

The indoor trainer is an amazing piece of equipment. Even a budget-priced model can deliver a hard, lung busting workout. Simply clamp your road or mountain bike into it, get on, and start pedaling. Sure, it can be fairly monotonous, but a quick Youtube search for ‘cycling trainer workout’  can yield plenty of tough, structured workouts to help you get the most out of your time.

Check out our guide to cycling trainers here.

 

At only $149.99, the Travel Trac Comp trainer is a great value on an excellent workout

At only $149.99, the Travel Trac Comp trainer is a great value on an excellent workout

STRENGTH/FLEXIBILITY

Trainer Mat ($49.99)

This is one of the most versatile fitness items we’ve ever owned. It’s designed to go under your bike while in the trainer to help dampen noise and catch dripping sweat. But we also use it for yoga, core workouts, pushups/sit ups, and more.

The trainer mat is a versatile piece of equipment, ideal for using with the trainer, for yoga, or strength training

The trainer mat is a versatile piece of equipment, ideal for using with the trainer, for yoga, or strength training

 Resistance Bands, Kettle Bells, or Fit Balls (~$29.99-$79.99 for a set)

We used to have a pretty comprehensive set of free weights (in fact, they might still be in the basement somewhere), but these days we mostly just use a resistance bands and kettle bells for our workouts. Resistance bands can be used to build strength, enhance flexibility, and improve your overall fitness, while kettle bells are excellent for strengthening muscles we don’t use much during cycling.

*We recommend speaking with a personal trainer or coach before beginning any weight or resistance training to ensure proper exercise form and avoid injury

 

RECOVERY

Foam Roller ($17.99-$39.99)

The foam roller has become an essential tool for us. Using the foam roller can help loosen up tight muscles and adhesions, keeping you loose and flexible which makes you more resistant to injury.

The foam roller is one of the best recovery tools available to any athlete

The foam roller is one of the best recovery tools available to any athlete

 

TOTAL FOR A WHOLE GYM: $249.96

So lets hear it, did we miss anything? What’s your favorite piece of home workout equipment? Tell us in the comments section.

6 Ways To Stay Warm on Cold Rides

Well, it’s happening again. We’re getting all hunkered down for Winter Storm Pax or whatever they’re calling it. Like the rest of our area of the country, we’ve gotten hit with the Storm of the Century, although we’re pretty sure we just had another Storm of the Century like two weeks ago or something. At this point, we’ve spent more days on the trainer than we care to admit. As much as we love the focused and intense workouts that you get on a trainer, sometimes it’s just good to get outside. Which we did, and we felt all kinds of tough too. It’s not often you get to ride in the snow in North Carolina.

Here we are, on the run from the Toughness Police

Here we are, on the run from the Toughness Police

But if you’re like us, you’re probably about ready to get outside too. Well, don’t let the weather keep you in, because with the right clothes and some smarts, you can get out and enjoy some outdoor riding in any temperatures. For more ideas on how to prep your bike for the weather, check out this article we did a while back.

1. Layer Up:

Dressing in layers can help you effectively control your body temperature, manage moisture buildup, and stay warmer. Up top, start with a base layer, then a jersey, then a jacket. For colder weather, you can try adding a second baselayer. On the legs, try using tights that don’t have a chamois, so you can wear them over your favorite shorts for an extra insulating layer. You can also wear knee warmers under tights on extra cold days.

What we wear (30-20 degrees): Sleeveless baselayer, heavy-weight long sleeve base layer, soft shell jacket, bib shorts, Windstopper bib tights, wool socks, shoes, overshoes, neck gator, winter hat, heavy insulated gloves, thin liner gloves

With the right clothing, riding in snowy, cold weather can be more fun than it looks

With the right clothing, riding in snowy, cold weather can be more fun than you think

2. Mind the Fingers and Toes:

Nothing ruins a long ride quicker than cold fingers and toes, or worse, sodden layers. Try wearing thin liner gloves inside your insulated gloves, and wearing thinner socks with overshoes. Liner gloves will provide an extra insulating layer and help absorb sweat. Thinner socks will help keep the blood circulating to your toes in cold weather, while the overshoes provide the main insulating layer. If it’s really cold, as one of our readers suggested, try wearing toe covers underneath your overshoes, or layering your overshoes for more warmth. If you’re out on the road though and find your feet are getting too cold, try stopping at the next gas station or fast food place you pass and ask if they have any tinfoil. In a pinch you can use it wrap your toes for some extra warmth.

Yes, the foil wrap looks a little goofy. But you'll have the last laugh when you can still feel your toes.

Yes, the foil wrap looks a little goofy. But you’ll have the last laugh when you can still feel your toes.

3. Keep Dry:

No matter how cold it is outside, you’re going to sweat when you ride. Try carrying a spare baselayer, gloves (or glove liners), and hat in your pocket. You can change them when you stop to use the bathroom or top up your bottles, so you’ll be able to get back on the bike feeling warm and dry. And always, always, ALWAYS carry a packable wind/rain jacket. If the weather takes a turn for the worse, it can save you a lot of misery.

Even a lightweight jacket like the Louis Garneau Super Lite jacket can offer crucial protection if the day gets colder than you planned. Plus, it packs up tiny enough to easily fit in a pocket

4. Hot Bidon:

If you’ve got some insulated water bottles, try filling them with a warm drink, like herbal tea or Skratch Labs Hot Apple and Cinnamon mix. Sometimes a warm drink is just what the doctor ordered.

Keep this warm in an insulated bottle, and you'll be toasty and hydrated

Keep this warm in an insulated bottle, and you’ll be toasty and hydrated

5. Eat Up:

When you ride in cold weather, your body is not only burning calories through exercise, but also to keep warm. This means you’ll probably need to eat more than you normally would to keep up with demand. Make sure you bring plenty of energy dense food with you.

Energy dense foods, like Clif Bars, are essential when riding in cold weather.

6. Take Breaks:

Even the hardest of hard men need to get out of the cold sometimes (see Milan-San Remo 2013). It’s important to take regular pit stops to get out of the cold and warm up for a bit. You’d be surprised at the difference a cup of coffee and ten minutes in a gas station can make.

So how about it? What did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.

Survive The Polar Vortex(es): 6 Tips For Cyclists

Polar Vortex got you down? Trust us, we understand. Our North Carolina office has been known to get snow, ice and single digit temps that make riding hard. We can only imagine what it’s like further north. But who wants to wait until Spring to get back on 2 wheels? To keep from getting some serious cabin fever, we’ve had to get creative to keep on form and having fun, despite all the craziness outside.

Here are some of the tips we’ve come up with.

Snow biking puts a new spin on old trails, and is a great way to spice up your riding routine.

Snow biking puts a new spin on old trails, and is a great way to spice up your riding routine.

1. Snow Biking:

If you’ve got a mountain bike or a fat bike, consider hitting the trails for a little outside fun. We took one out for a spin on a snowy day and it was awesome, if a little cold (more on that later…). Just make sure to bundle up and keep warm. It’s cold out there.

wahoo_kickr

When the temps go south, trainer time tends to go up. Just make sure to structure your workouts to get the most out of your time.

2. The Trainer:

If you’re more of the roadie type, then throw that bike in the trainer and get spinning. Need some motivation? Consider listening to music or watching a movie to end the monotony (last night we watched Top Gun while riding the trainer and sprinted every time a plane took off—it was exhausting).

zach_workout

Cross training, such as weight lifting, running, or yoga is great way to improve your performance on the bike

3. Cross Training:

Go for a run, hit the weights, go cross-country skiing, try some yoga or just do some stretching. Remember that taking time off the bike can be as important as time spent on the bike. Taking a day or two to strengthen non-cycling muscles, work on flexibility, or core activation can have big rewards later in the year.

photo (5)

Knowing how to properly fuel your workouts is very important. This recovery meal provides a good mix of carbs, protein, simple sugars, and malted recovery beverages.

4. Make A Good Meal:

Or better yet, make yourself a meal plan. It’s easy to put on a few pounds over the winter, but making a meal plan and sticking with it is one of the easiest way to make sure you’re adequately fueling your rides without taking in too many calories. Plus, it’s a great way to score points with your significant other.

Cleaning your bike is a great way to prolong the life of components and ensure it's ready to ride next time

Cleaning your bike is a great way to prolong the life of components and ensure it’s ready to ride next time

5. Clean Your Bike

If you haven’t done this in a while, give your bike some serious TLC.

Taking two or three days off can actually make you faster by allowing your body time to recover

Taking two or three days off can actually make you faster by allowing your body time to recover

6. Take a Day Off:

There’s nothing wrong with taking the occasional day or two off. In fact studies show that if you’ve been riding hard, taking two or three days off will actually make you faster by allowing your body to recuperate. If it’s too cold or snowy where you live, don’t feel bad about putting in some serious couch time to watch a movie, read a book, catch up on Downton Abbey, or spend time with the fam.

Cycling Stories: Winter Riding

It’s no exaggeration to say that every fiber of my being rebelled at the idea of getting out of bed. It was cold in our barely-insulated farm house in rural North Carolina. Hoarfrost coated the window panes, and thin grey morning light dimly illuminated the bedroom. Under the down comforter it was snug and warm. But I know I should get up. As I shifted to slide out from the covers, my wife threw a warm arm over me and sleepily said “you don’t have to get up…just ten more minutes”. I was sorely tempted, and if you asked me why I would want to get out of a warm bed at 6.30 AM on a Saturday morning to go ride a bike outside, I couldn’t answer. I would have shrugged and said “I love the ride.”

The shock of the cold air hit me, I wrapped up in my robe and shuffled out to the dark kitchen. I put the kettle on to boil, ground some coffee for the French press and switched the space heater on. A few minutes later, I was sipping on a cup of coffee, eating some oatmeal, and thinking about the ride ahead. ‘Should I do the long route or the short route? Should I stop for lunch? Do I really feel up to climbing today?’

photo (3)

The weather app on my phone said it was 23 degree outside. I checked the other app, which promised 24 degrees. The high would be 37 with 10 mph winds. I finished my breakfast and began getting ready. I laid my clothing and equipment out. I took some things out, added other things in. Eventually I was satisfied. I would be gone for at least five hours, and needed to be ready.

Thick wool socks, bib shorts, sleeveless wool baselayer, long sleeve wool baselayer, WindStopper tights, softshell jacket, wool neck warmer, skull cap, merino wool glove liners, heavy insulated gloves, cycling shoes, and shoe covers.

Into my pockets I shoved my phone, some cash and cards, a few gel packets, a set of lights, a spare set of liner gloves, a spare skull cap, and spare sleeveless baselayer.

photo

Winter is the season for LSD (long steady distance) riding, and this ride wasn’t going to be an exception. I left the full carbon race bike on the rack and pulled down the rain bike, the one with the metal frame, nice relaxed geometry, compact crank, and alloy wheels. I filled up two bottles, put my Garmin in its mount and checked the saddlebag contents, ensuring I would have all the tools necessary.

The moment I stepped outside it hit me like a slap in the face. 23 seems like just a number, but this was a real, physical thing. Again, I felt half tempted to just forget it. To go back inside, remove all these layers and get back into bed like any sane, rational person. But I did’t. I would miss the ride. I headed onto the road, and instantly felt chilled. The muscles took forever to warm up. There was no hurry, no need to push it. All I have to do is pedal. I felt the deep peace I always feel on the road begin to wash over me, and I began to settle into the rhythm of the ride. As I crossed the bridge over the lake, my mind cleared of all the work worries I’d carried with me into the weekend, the worries about budgeting for the holidays. This was my time to sink into myself and let my mind quiet for a few hours, and the cold only intensified the feeling.

There is a certain beauty to riding in the winter. Anyone can get up and ride on a sunny 80 degree day, but it takes fortitude to get out and ride when you don’t want to. You will be cold, you will suffer like a dog, and you will at times question why you do this. But, like anything else, the joy is found in the small things. A warm coffee shop. The empty roads. A beautiful vista, a hot meal, the feeling of flying when you find a nice straight stretch of road behind you with the wind at your back all take on a new significance that will stay with you for the rest of the day. And believe me, home has never seemed so inviting as when you pull up in the fading, cold evening light to see the windows lit, throwing warm, welcoming streaks of light on the snow.

photo (1)

30 miles later, I hit one of my favorite stretches of road. I was riding into the headwind, and was working hard, every turn of the cranks feeling like an immense effort. But I didn’t care. I crested a hill, and it came into view. It’s an area where the usual dense pine forest opens up into empty farm country. At these higher elevations bits of snow still clung to the side of the road, and stuck to shadowy spots. The fields were barren and covered in frost. The roads were empty. In the distance across the fields smoke rose from the chimney of a farm house, ascending into a leaden sky. I could smell the faint scent of wood smoke on the air. Something about this sight makes my breath catch in my chest. At the bottom of the hill, I pulled over, and watched an unkindness of ravens peck with purpose at the fallow fields around the house, until for reasons unknown to me they rose and took to the air, indistinct black shapes wheeled higher and higher. I watched them until the cold became too much. These are moments you never have in a car. You might catch a glimpse, but you don’t experience it the same way, and much is lost.

photo (2)

At 45 miles, I passed through town, the half way mark. By then I was thoroughly damp and chilled, and I couldn’t wait to get to the coffee shop. Smells carry further on the cold, dry air, and the smell of roasted coffee beans was never so delicious. I leaned my bike against the window, noting the other bikes there. Two were familiar, one was not. I walked in, nodded hello to the other cyclists, asked them about their rides. I ordered a coffee and a cookie, and refilled my bottles. At my table, I piled up my helmet, gloves, and neck warmer, then headed to the bathroom, where I changed into my dry baselayer. Back at my table I hung my soaked liner gloves, baselayer and skullcap on the back of the chair to dry. My first sip of coffee was beyond delicious. The chocolaty smell, the deep rich taste, and the warmth suffusing through me. It was a small cup of heaven, and I prolonged it as long as I could. I sat back, took a bite of cookie, and relished in the feeling of being warm. Finally though, cookie and coffee done, it was time to go. I pulled on my spare cap and gloves, helmet and glasses, repacked my pockets, and headed back out into the cold.

As I remounted my bike, I wondered again why I do this. For a split second I contemplated making The Call.  The cold, the suffering in the wind, the long day spent away from home, is it worth it? It doesn’t matter, not really. I pedaled through the intersection and began the long climb out of town. Soon, I reached the place again where where all the worry disappeared and I found my rhythm again. I left the outskirts of town, and the wind gusted. My thoughts turned to warm soup, a cold beer, and the indescribable pleasure of my legs turning in circles. I pulled my neck warmer up to my nose and the brim of my cap down a little further.

I’m out here for the ride. It need only be as simple as that.

Sometimes it's looking forward to simple things that keep you motivated.

Sometimes it’s looking forward to simple things that keep you motivated.

Winter Training Tips: Using Music To Motivate

Listening to music on the trainer can help motivate you for a training session or a race.

Listening to music on the trainer can help motivate you for a training session or a race.

Have you ever gotten on the trainer, spun the pedals for about 3 seconds and then decided you just weren’t feeling it? You decide to slog it out, so you shift down to an easier gear and spin. After an eternity of riding in what surely must have been a multi-hour, 900-calorie crushing session you look down at your computer, to see that a paltry 6 minutes have passed. We’ve all been there.

There are many reasons this can happen. Sometimes, it might just be your body telling you you need a break. Winter is a good time to take a long rest, relax, and let the legs recover from a hard season. Other times, though, it might just be a lack of motivation.

The problem is that motivation can be very difficult to find from within. On those tough days, sometimes  motivation needs an external nudge to get going, and one of the best of these is music. In 2008, Sports Psychologist Costas Karageorghis found that by listening to music you can reduce your perceived exertion by up to 10% . Plus, we’ve all experienced that sensation when a good pump-up jam comes on. Suddenly we hear the song (we’re pretty partial to the Karate Kid theme…), you get a second wind, the legs seem strong, the form feels better. You just feel faster and stronger than before.

The secret though, is to find music that you enjoy, and that is tailored to your work out. Most indoor workouts should be roughly separated into three distinct phases: warm up, workout (base building, intervals, threshold, etc…), cool down. Building a playlist that helps you move through those phases with different types of music can help you pace yourself, and make the workout feel more natural. Plus, it’s fun.

To help get you motivated, here are a few employee trainer playlists to get you started (note, you must be signed into Spotify to listen to these playlists).

BrianIndie/Punk: Reformed skateboarder turned roadie.

  1. DIIV: Sometime
  2. Austra: Spellwork
  3. Naked Raygun: Soldier’s Requiem
  4. Black Flag: My War
  5. The Misfits: Skulls
  6.  Bad Brains: Sailin’ On
  7. Gorilla Biscuits: New Direction
  8. Bleached: Lookin’ For A Fight
  9. Minor Threat: Small Man, Big Mouth
  10. The Business: National Insurance Blacklist
  11. Beach House: The Hours
  12. Caveman: Old Friend
  13. Youth Lagoon: Posters

 

BobClassic rock: “If you ask me tomorrow it would probably completely different, but for today this is my riding list.”

  1. Band of Heathens: Jackson Station
  2. Janis Joplin: Piece of My Heart
  3. New Riders of the Purple Sage: Louisiana Lady
  4. Van Morrison: Jackie Wilson Said
  5. Shooter Jennings: 4th of July
  6. Led Zepplin: Hey Hey, What Can I Do
  7. Cheap Trick: Southern Girls
  8. Bruce Springsteen: Promised Land
  9. Phil Collins: Behind the Lines
  10. Procol Harem: A Whiter Shade of Pale
  11. Bright Eyes: Waste of Paint
  12. The Doors: LA Woman
  13. Allman Brothers Band: Soul Shine
  14. Paul McCartney: Instrumental (junk)

DevlinElectronic: One album, many rides

  1. Tycho: Dive (full album)
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