Happy New Year from all of us here at Jans! Hopefully, you’ve slept in and are rested up for a big year of pedaling in 2014. Bikes might be the last thing on your mind – it’s currently 34°F here in Park City, UT, pretty mild for this time of year, but far from ideal temperatures for cycling. However, if you’ve got the right winter biking gear, pedaling in these temps can be bearable and downright fun.
I know some cyclists who regularly log four hour rides on the trainer, but personally, pedaling in place in a cold basement and watching back-to-back episodes of ‘The Walking Dead’ is less appealing than green jello salad. I start checking the time compulsively after three minutes, and look over my shoulder every few seconds to check for zombies. I realize this could be due to my poor choice of TV show for trainer rides, but the experience isn’t good any which way you cut it. Hence, I’ve learned to adapt to our frigid winters and pedal outside in most conditions.
Be Smart About the Road Conditions
First of all, a disclaimer – if it’s snowing or raining outside, or the road conditions are sketchy, ride inside or go skiing. Or, sit on the couch. Your life isn’t worth risking for a couple hours of crank-turning. If the roads are clear, bundle up with these tips and head out.
Forget About Style and Stay Warm
Road cyclists are notorious for their rigid adherence to the roadie dress code – most of the self-imposed rules make sense, but many are also simply followed for fear of looking like a ‘Fred’ (amateur-ish rider). While your clean, matching team kit, tall socks, and perfectly positioned sunglasses are a great look for summer riding, toss those rules out for winter riding. It doesn’t matter what you look like on the bike; as long as you stay warm, you won’t care how goofy you look, trust me.
Wool is for Winter
I like to start with a good wool baselayer – one of my favorites is the Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Zip Top. Wool is the way to go in winter – it’s warmer, and keeps you toasty even after you’ve sweated your way up a climb.
A windproof jacket is a key part of your cold weather cycling ensemble. The Craft Performance Bike Stretch Jacket is a great option for winter cycling enthusiasts, and if it’s really cold out, layering another insulating piece underneath, such as the Marmot Variant Jacket, is a good idea.
Knee warmers might cut it for chilly fall rides, but for winter riding, go for full length tights. The Craft Performance Bike Storm Bib Long Tights keep your legs toasty from the ankles up, and are windproof in the front.
Bike Gloves and Booties
The trickiest part about cold weather biking is keeping your hands and feet warm. A good pair of shoe covers can make the difference between retaining sensation in your feet or painfully thawing your toes out after a ride. The Sugoi Resistor Booties are about as tough as they come – waterproof, wind-resistant and fleece-lined, these full-coverage, winter riding shoe covers should do the trick. Sugoi also makes top-notch gloves – the RSE Subzero Lobster Glove keeps your fingers toasty with its split-mitt style and windproof back.
Buffs are Key
Lastly, layer up with neck gaiters and balaclavas. I usually rock a Smartwool Balaclava under my helmet, and layer a Buff around my neck. If it’s super cold out, I forgo the bike helmet for a ski helmet – this is the ultimate ‘Fred’ look, but my Smith Vantage Helmet keeps my ears and head toastier.
Figuring out what works for you will take some trial and error – I made plenty of mistakes when I first started riding in the winter, and ended a few rides crawling fully clothed into a hot shower because I was too frozen to strip down. Hopefully, you avoid these miserable scenarios, and make wiser calls based on the weather.
Winter weather won’t allow you to ride outside everyday, but take advantage of those clear days with these cold weather biking tips. Happy riding in 2014!
Evelyn Dong, Content Writer