Winter is Coming

A guide to Winter Riding

Winter is Coming

In Game of Thrones, the phrase “Winter is Coming” was meant to instill fear. So too, many cyclists also fear the winter. As the temperatures drop, the bike gets hung on the wall, not toemerge until Spring Training. But, it does not have to be like that. You CAN ride in the Winter. You CAN have fun riding in the winter. Here is some advice.

WHY RIDE: Personally, I love the chill of cold temperature on my face and the battle against the elements. The look of others as you peddle by on a cold Winter day. I like the fact that the group rides are smaller and tend to be more cohesive. We are a club that often has great food along a ride. On a Winter ride, what can be better than chicken soup at Mill Basin, hot borscht at Glechick, or a steaming bowl of pozole at Tlaxcala.

The other benefit of Winter riding is that every mile you ride in the Winter – is a mile that you do not suffer in the Spring. When “cycling season” starts again, you are already ahead of the pack. You struggle much less on those early season hills.

BIKES – I admit that my road bike does not see much daylight during the Winter months. I take my hybrid. The wider tires seem to handle the cold conditions better. I have a trunk bag that serves to handle the extra clothing that I carry in the Winter months. And I always take lights along because night drops like a hammer.

Another thing about bikes in the Winter is that after the snows, the salt spreader trucks come by. Salt is not great for a bike's drive train. For that reason, I tend to clean and lube the chain with greater frequency. And when it comes to lube, chose a wet lube for the usual winter road conditions.

WHAT TO WEAR – Three words come to mind – layers, layers and layers. Forget about the bulky parka, it's really not going to keep your temperature regulated. During the colder days, I will wear a base layer above and below. This will be something like silk or a technical fiber. Over these layers I will have a heavy jersey, a polar fleece and a wind blocking jacket. I normally just wear good sweat pants, and if it's too cold, I'll add another layer of long johns.

For me the most importing things to worry about are your feet, hands and ears. I give up on clipping in and wear a pair of light weight socks, thermal socks and insulated hiking boots. I won't win any races, but my feet stay warm. Other people use booties over their cycling shoes. I have three different pairs of gloves – regular long finger gloves, mid weight gloves and winter cycling gloves. On the coldest days I'll add a liner layer under my heaviest gloves. Many cyclists swear by those packs of chemical hand warmers. For my ears, normally a hat with flaps works. Coldest days add a balaclava. For my neck, my favorite piece of winter gear is a neck gaiter. It's a real multi tasker.

GET A THERMOS - It's 23 degrees outside. You are all layered up. But the cold still seeps in. For these reasons I normally take a thermos along on Winter rides. A hot beverage warms your insides up. In my thermos I have a variety of beverages – hot coffee, hot apple cider, hot herbal tea. I normally do not add alcohol – but there are those occasions when I do. A word of advice – do not cheap out on a thermos.

WHEN NOT TO RIDE – Everyone has a different line that they draw. For some people it is 40 degrees. Others have a line a 30. For some it is the brisk wind. My rule is simple – as long as there is no snow or ice on the roads, and it seems safe, I will go. But that's me and you are you.

There are many joys of riding in the winter. Smaller groups with a feeling of strong camaraderie. Fighting the elements, and winning. Steaming hot soup during the lunch stop. I also love the looks of others when you say - “Yeah, I rode yesterday.” The bottom line is that the Winter rides are fun. I can mope around the house, or I can go for a ride and smile.

Before I close this article, I just want to give a shout out to the 5BBC Dean of Winter Riding – Ed DeFreitas. One of the reasons that I joined the 5BBC was my desire to ride in the Winter – when none of my friends would ride with me. Ed showed me the joys of riding in the winter season.

See you on the road

David MEL Meltzer

Day Rides Coordinator