Winter Riding Tips from a Midwest Refugee

Fight the deep freeze.

Fight the deep freeze.

Hello there Seattle,

As you know, we survived a long cold snap not too long ago. I understand a lot of you passed those days riding with your friends in sunny virtual realms where there is always a tailwind. That's nice and all, but winter riding can be enjoyable. I swear it. Here's some tip for the next cold snap.

  1. Don't limit yourself to cycling clothes:
    Don't have super warm, bike gloves for the seven days you may need them every winter? Well bust out those ski gloves you have stashed in your drawer. Bring those. They are most definitely warmer than those cycling specific gloves you bought that were probably designed in California where it never goes below sixty.
    Same goes for other articles of outdoor clothing. During one ride it was a delightful 35 degrees when I slipped out the shop door to take a demo bike for short jaunt. I slipped my worn and dependable puffy vest from Patagucci over my long sleeve jersey. A warm core makes for happy phalanges. There were moments were I was ready to take my gloves off, and I have notoriously cold fingers.
  2. Packable Chemical Warm:
    On top of having cold hands I am also blessed with absolutely terrible circulation in my feet--exacerbated by a run in with frost bite; a story you've no doubt heard if you've been in the shop for more than ten minutes. I get around this, or at least try to alleviate the problem with those little chemical heat packets. I generally pull them from the package and put them between my booties and my shoes. You can drop them other places as well, like jersey pockets, or between your base layer and your jersey. I once watched a guy drop one down his bib shorts, but I wouldn't recommend that.  Carry extras for long rides.
  3. Just Go Straight to Skate:
    Full Disclosure: I failed to follow this rule a couple weeks ago and ended up on the ground, butter side down. The result was a bent derailleur hanger and a shoulder that just refuses to stop hurting. With that in mind, the best way to get through an icy flow is to just ride a straight line though the ice. Some times you have to do this through a turn, so make sure the other side of the street is clear before committing. Also DO NOT HIT YOUR BRAKES!!
  4. Use Some Sauce and Escape the Great Bottle Freeze:
    It might not feel this way, but you need to drink just as much water on your cold rides as you do on your mild days as well. You might not be losing water through sweat, but a fair amount slips from your body with every breath, that's why beards and balaclavas alike freeze after a few hours stuck to your face.
    Problem is, your water bottles also have a tendency to freeze--as water is prone to do--when the temps dip below zero Celsius. At the very least they can turn into the worst slushie you've ever had. Doesn't even matter if you put drink mix in your bottles.
    There is a liquid that doesn't freeze however: booze. All it takes is a shot of the good stuff to keep your bottles from freezing. Whiskey is where it's at, but Vodka does go well with the pineapple Scratch Labs.

So there you have it. Four tips to help you navigate the next cold snap. And remember, it only takes a shot of booze, don't over do it ;)