Here we go again…looks like the Polar Vortex has descended upon us once again. We don’t know about you, but so long as we don’t get one of our famous, downhome Carolina Ice Storms, we’ll keep riding outside as much as we can.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.