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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Baby, It's Cold Outside..But Don't Let That Stop You

Ah yes, we are deep into fall, and winter is right around the corner. A good many people use falling temperatures to put up the bikes for the season, but that seems like a waste of good riding opportunities, especially for mountain biking. While winter wind may make road riding less than pleasant, the trees on the woods break up a lot of that wind. As you can see from the picture Biker Bill is having a splendid time on his late fall ride. See how he is gritting his teeth in pleasure? As long as the trails are not covered in ice, get out and ride! Here are some recommendations:

For the rider
  • Dress in layers - This is key to controlling your heat levels. Get too warm, pull off a layer. Too cold, put a layer back on. Also, make you bottom layer a shirt that pulls moisture away from the body. I used to think I was clever by wearing a thermal long john shirt for a ride until Biker Bill explained to me the concept of hypothermia, and how I could get it.
  • Keep thy head warm - It seems a lot of heat will escape through your head if you don't keep it covered. Go figure.
  • Also the hands and feet - While were on the subject, your extremities seem to be vulnerable to cold as well. Good socks are a must, and shoe covers or winter shoes are recommended by many. Also, good weather proof gloves increase the riding pleasure for me, because before my fingers go mercifully numb, there is a long period of excruciating pain that is preferable to avoid. Weather proof gloves help break the induced wind, keeping your hands, if not toasty, at least tolerable.
  • Start the ride a little chilly - This may be a personal thing with me, but I find that if I am comfortable temperature wise when I set out, I get too hot PDQ.
  • Bring a change of clothes to the ride - Nothing can suck the fun out of a ride faster than an hour and a half car ride in cold, wet biking gear (been there, done that). Bring a change for that comfortable commute.
For the bike

  • Use a dry graphite lube - When you hit the low 30's or 20's, some lubes can freeze up on you. Dry graphite seems to be the lube of choice for the winter.
  • Check tire pressure - When the bike moves from a 60 degree environment to a 40 degree environment, loss of tire pressure is likely. So don't forget your pump.
  • Clean the bike - After a cold,muddy ride, cleaning and drying the bike will prevent problems on your next ride. After all, you're going to clean up (I hope), so do the same for the bike. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, storing it in a dry and reasonably warm place does a lot in the way of prevention.
This are some of my tips for better winter riding. If you have some of your own (other than stay inside by the fire and ride your trainer), please comment so that we will all know them too.

1 comment:

dsangie said...

Nice write up. I'd also add, drink plenty of fluids. I find I need to force myself to drink in the cold. I take a few big gulps every 15 minutes or so.
Also if your cant warm up due to a sudden temp drop or you've simply underestimated the cold you can put a couple layers of newpaper or brown shopping bag under your shirt/jacket. It adds a little bit of loft to hold some heat and blocks a good bit of wind.

Oh yeah, I prefer winter clothes with lots of zippers, going up big hills I'll often unzip my jacket, sometimes pull the jacket off my shoulders, pull up the sleeves, slide my hat slight off my head etc to ensure I wont sweat too badly on the way up. I try and stay very slightly chilled on longer rides, if you get warm it wont be long until the sweat starts.