Winter Tips (beyond clothing)

A cyclist drinks from his waterbottle on a winter ride

Oh rear jersey pocket, how I thank thee…

So learning how to dress for the cold isn’t enough for ‘ya?

(You’re my kinda hard-core…)

I’m glad you found value in The Illustrated Turbo-hater’s Guide to Dressing for Winter.

To go that extra step, simply let the social web know that you’ve enjoyed StartConfident, and my top beyond-clothing tips will be unlocked for you. Thank you, again!

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Keep your bottle in your rear jersey pocket to keep it from freezing

If you’ve ever ridden over 45 minutes or so in sub-freezing temps, you’ve reached a gloved hand down for a sip of your favorite on-bike beverage only to be greeted with — nothing. The nozzle’s frozen over, and there’s slush forming in the bottle. Additionally, your bottle’s opening probably has a little extra salty tang to it. Mmmm. Thank you Dept. of Public Works! To avoid the slush, as well as a little extra oily sodium, slip your bottle into your rear jersey pocket. Your body heat will keep the liquid — liquid, and the bottle nipple should be far enough away from road spray to stay clean-ish.

Stay smooth. Avoid wild corrections.

Good bike handling is an asset no matter when you ride. But when it’s quite cold outside, you never know when you may encounter a patch of something frozen. This is compounded by the lack of light in the winter, and the way oncoming headlights can wreak havoc with your perception of the road. Hold a predictable line, sight as far down the road as you can, and if you do encounter a slippery patch, the trick to remember is — stay smooth, don’t lean, ride through it.

Gentle on the brakes.

This is associated with the former tip. At no other time of the year is a wheel lock-up more likely than winter. And it doesn’t take a ham-fist on the brake levers to do it if you’ve encountered an icy patch, a snowy patch, or just a small pile of roadside sand, salt, or cinder from road clearing efforts. Adopt a rear-weighted posture in the winter; stay back and weight that rear wheel. When braking in the winter — especially if there’s been precipitation, it’s smart to slightly favor the rear brake. If you do find yourself going down, try NOT to reach out with a hand. It’s better to curl in and take the impact on the arms and hips, distributing the hit over a broader portion of your body.

Slightly lower your saddle

In the summer, there’s narry a milimeter or so between your derriere and the saddle’s leather. But in the winter, you’ve got tights and warmers on. These are not only thicker, but they invariably will restrict your movement a bit. Lower your saddle a milimeter or three during these months of added clothing. Before you do so, make a small mark with a permanent marker, or make a very precise measurement of your saddle height and keep it somewhere safe. To aid in weight distribution as previously mentioned, consider sliding the saddle back just a tad. Again, make a mark to help you bring it back when the weather gets a little warmer.

Lights!

Headlights and tailights are required in more and more states these days. Check your local laws. And regardless of the law, you need to see and be seen. Motorists are more likely to NOT see you in the winter, as even very few commited cyclists are hardy enough to take to the streets in the cold. Invest in a well-built, bright set of lights, fore and aft. Additionally, insure that your outer shell has plenty of reflective strips. If not, wear a reflective vest. It won’t win you any fashion points, but it could well insure that you make it out for many, many more cold rides.

Prepare the night before. So much kit, so little daylight.

If you’re like me, you do your serious riding in the morning. If you’re a commuter, you probably already know this trick. With so much more to do to prepar for a ride in the winter, it just makes sense to get everything together before you hit the hay for the night. Lights charged or batteries fresh? All the kit chosen and laid out? When you’re groggy in the A.M. — or rushed for time — the last thing you want to do is be searching for your misplaced wool socks.

If precip falls in the middle of your winter ride…

Remember the horrible-but-funny tongue on the flagpole scene from the movie, “A Christmas Story?” That’s kinda the dynamic, or rather — the thermodynamic — at play when precip falls during a sub-freezing ride. Manhole covers, grates, and other surfaces are going to freeze first. Know your obstacles on your route, and be ready to avoid them should stuff start falling from the sky during your ride.

Tires

Being forced to stop for bike maintenance is a drag to say the least when it’s cold. When you’ve gotten all warmed up and moving, it can be great, but having to stop, fumbling with tools, and subsequently getting cold and stiff — just isn’t any fun. Avoid this — at least the tire puncture part — by insuring that you’re using tougher, all-season tires. If you’re using clinchers, consider using tire liners, like those from Mr. Tuffy. Yes, they add a few grams of weight. But I’ve been using them for years. And guess what? I haven’t had a puncture flat for years. No joke. They work. Additionally, take your tire pressure down about 5PSi or so. You can do this with confidence if you’re running liners, and your cold bod will appreciate the relative shock absorption.

Fenders

I have an old steel bike that I use for my long, steady distance winter training rides and for commuting. I have it fitted with fenders. My riding chums especially like them when on winter group rides, because I’m not spraying them with water, salt, and grime. Additionally, my rear end and lower back stay drier because nothing’s flying up there from my rear wheel. Fenders: they’re not just for Europe, anymore.

Food

When you’re exercising in the cold, your body is doing double-duty: helping you pedal, and helping you stay warm. That burns calories. If you’re a racer in training, you’ll want to be sure to have a high carb snack with a little extra protein for your destination. In fact, for my winter rides, I do have a small percentage of protein in my water bottle mix.

Clean drivetrain after every winter ride

You don’t want to get in the habit of riding your bike hard in the winter and putting it away wet. Winter roads will cause premature wear on any drivetrain. If possible, at least hose off your chain, derailleurs, cassette, and crank, bounce it a few times, and put it in it’s dry place after the ride. Ideally, you’re going to degrease, rinse, and relube. If you do degrease, be sure to rinse, or else the lube you apply will simply break down and sling itself all over your bike — and you — next time out.[/wpsharely]