Seven expert tips for riding your bike in chilly, possibly snowy conditions
Technically it's still fall, and temperatures have already hit record winter-like lows around the country. When the big chill comes, you're bound to make some changes to your fitness routine. If you’re a cyclist, that probably means hitting spin class or a hopping on a stationary bike, rather than hitting the road or trails. While running in the cold is common (and beneficial—just check out these 5 Reasons Running in the Cold is Good for You), winter cycling seems to be less popular—chalk it up to the wind factor and possibly slick roads.
But with the right gear, attitude, and technique, you and your bike can handle more than you think, says Stephanie Jones, a Liv Cycling Athlete Ambassador who lives in Colorado and knows a thing or two about riding in tough weather. “You just have to change your mindset—you’re not going to go as fast, and you need to be flexible and willing to change up your plans,” says Jones. And getting out there has its perks: “Being outside is so much more invigorating with the change of scenery, wildlife and fresh air.” Plus, you’ll burn more calories when it's cold since your body uses more energy to maintain its normal temp. Oh, and you’ll feel like a rockstar, according to Jones. “I feel more like a badass getting outside when it's cold for a workout,” she says. Just follow her top seven tips for winter cycling.
If it’s just cold (even really, really cold!), it’s fine to get on your road bike. But if it’s actually icy, snowy, or slushy, you need tires with tread (which road bikes don’t have). This is when a cyclocross bike (a bike designed for road and trail) comes in handy. Or get on your mountain bike; the wide, treaded tires will provide more stability in slippery conditions. (Need a new ride? Consider these 5 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Bike.)
Experts are still on the fence as to whether a warm-up is technically necessary before a workout. But Jones says there’s not doubt over whether it’s important before a chilly ride! Hop on a stationary bike for five minutes or do some sun salutations to get your heart rate up and blood pumping.
Dropping your tire pressure before you head out is a quick and easy way to create more traction—key for riding on icy or snow-covered roads.
Don’t stray too far from home (consider doing a few loops rather than an out-and-back course) and avoid routes with lots of hills since climbing gets you sweaty—and then a downhill ride chills your body. Or hit the mountains: A more wooded area can help cut the wind.
When riding on or in snow, drop into an easier gear and increase your cadence (how fast you turn over the pedals) so you’re not fighting friction. You’ll glide across the white stuff more easily.
Drafting is a pro riding trick—teammates take turns blocking the wind for each other, which makes the drafter more efficient (not to mention more comfortable!). If you have a riding buddy, take turns drafting off of one another on super windy rides.
When it’s cold outside, you may not feel thirsty, but you need to sip just as much as you would on a warm day so you don’t end up bonking. Jones' trick: Put warm water in your bottle so it won’t freeze as quickly. She mixes hot water in a stainless steal bottle (like Klean Kanteen) along with Skratch labs Apples & Cinnamon hot exercise hydration mix.