Winter Riding

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Winter Riding

Post by RidePlanet on Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:05 am

I hate to say it, but we're into that season. The wind is picking up, the rain is coming down, and we're losing our light. As such it's time (past time really) to start making sure you're prepared for the excitement that is winter training in Vancouver. A lot of you have experience in this aspect, and you might not be too worried about the coming storm. You know what you're going to wear, and what to bring, and how to set up your bike. On the other hand a lot of you are new to this whole year round riding business, and might be a little apprehensive (even afraid) of all that cold water spraying up off the road. So, I'm gonna give you a few tips, some little tid-bits to get you more prepared.

First of all you have to get over an anxiety you might have associated with getting wet. It's going to happen, and you'll be all the better for having ridden through it. Fortunately getting wet doesn't have to equal getting cold.

And that brings me to my second point. Wear the right clothing. It is vital to be well layered with appropriate clothes. This means a base layer to wick away sweat (I personally just wear a jersey and several other layers unless I'm racing, but it's a good idea to have a bottom layer to keep you from freezing to death when the ride turns nice, but the wind is still sharp. Next layer should be a short, or long sleeve jersey. Not a think winter layer necessarily (though it is nice to have), but something that will keep you insulated, particularly when it is a rainy day, all your clothes are wet right through, this layer will keep that water warm, and consequently you will stay warm. Now, depending on the conditions of the day I will have one of two things. Either arm warmers or a jacket (thermal). If it's nice out, but chilly, I'll have the arm warmers to keep me warm (they are also nice because if it gets really warm out, you can strip them off and tuck them out of the way). If there is rain I wear a thermal race jersey. I wouldn't call it water proof, but it doesn't absorb water either. No matter what is MUST be wind proof. If you feel like it you can replace the windproof jacket with a thermal layer and a cycling rain cape, but I prefer the former.

There is a rule in cycling: If it's less than 15 degrees, cover your knees. Cold weather can damage your cartilage if you ride without your knees covered too much, and that sucks later in life. I even know a few people who will rock knee warmers in July before a race. I recommend having either a good pair of tights, or leg warmers. I have leg warmers, and knee warmers since I like to be able to ride in all conditions and sometimes being able to have that extra layer is nice. If you want you can also use embrocation. This is a gel that heats up with contact with your skin or something (I don't really know how it works, but it does). I'll wear it if I'm racing in wet weather since I don't feel like wearing knee warmers when I race, but it's also nice for cold wet rides (it does work best in the rain, hence the term Belgian Knee Warmer) underneath knee or leg warmers.

You will also find your head and ears are vulnerable in the winter. I have several toques of varying thickness for those extra cold days. They all slide nicely under my helmet and cover my ears. I also keep a earband on hand for days that don't quite call for full coverage. Gloves are also essentially. Several pairs are nice, all of varying thicknesses for different degrees of weather. It's also nice to be able to layer.

All components of clothing can be bought from most bike stores, but if you're looking to get good quality stuff for as little as possible stick to MEC. I've worked in a few shops, and their retail is less than our cost on some items. It's a problem for the shops, not for you. If you are willing to spend a little bit more for nicer, more comfortable and longer lasting stuff, go to a cycling shop and get something from a recognizable brand. Sugoi, Descente, Asos, Campagnolo, Nalini, Capo Forma, Santini and many more are all good brands. If you're not sure, feel free to bug me, but most shops in the city carry good quality stuff.

Clothing is the most important aspect, so pay attention to it.

Nutrition is important when riding, but doubly so in winter since your body, while it does produce lots of heat simply riding, burns more calories keeping you warm in winter. I typically say a clif bar per hour of riding, but this is personal preference. You really have to ride and learn when and what you need to eat in order to finish a ride feeling strong on the bike. Gatorade is nice, it's relatively easy to drink in colder weather and has lots of good electrolytes and sugar. I don't like gels, but if you do go ahead. Getting calories during a ride is really important. Also hydrate. Water is good. It saves lives. Drink water.

Like I mentioned earlier, we're losing light this time of year, and as a result you need to make sure you have one with you if there is a chance of getting stuck out after dark (if you leave after 3PM and plan on riding for an hour and a half, bring one, flat tyres, and mechanicals could see you outside well after dark). You don't need to much, more than anything it's for visibility for cars, if they don't see you there can be trouble. Those simple frog lights are great for just such emergencies. Have a red one for the rear on blink, and a white one on steady or blink at the front). If you plan on riding at dusk or later on a regular basis, invest in a lighting system for your bike. I have a simple 5 LED red blinker for the back and a headband light for the front (seeing where you're looking is nice). That sort of setup can be bought from MEC for less than $40.

While less of a consideration, I know from personal experience that tyres and can be the source of some misery (ask Barry about it, and then laugh at me). It's worth it to get some cheap wider tyres. Cheap because in the winter, tyres get destroyed. Wider because of the improved traction. I have winter specific tyres, which are really nice, but unfortunately are wearing out. YOU MUST have spare tubes with you and a means of inflating them. In wet weather it's easier for objects to find their way into your tyres and cause flats, and you have to be prepared to deal with it. It's also a good idea to check your tyre of cuts or embedded glass regularly. Preventing flats is far superior to fixing them.

You should also note that brake pads wear out faster in winter because there is more grit floating around thanks to the water. Be sure to check your pads to make sure their are still okay and replace them as soon as possible.

Last, but so far from least are fenders. I can not tell you how much is sucks riding behind someone for three hours in the pouring rain eating their spray. That means everything off the road in water (so it gets everywhere). This only happens in races when having fenders is frowned on, but I've seen people on the road without fenders and it is no fun. Not only does riding behind someone without a fender suck, so does riding without a fender. You get a nice long streak up your back, and typically you get wetter faster (ya, I told you to embrace it, but it still isn't as fun) so it's in your own best interest.. Get a set of fenders that covers from the brakes, to about the mid point of the wheel (most stop a little bit higher, but that's okay I have a solution), then get a bottle, cut it up a bit and bolt it onto the fender, creating a flexible extension that helps keep water from flying up in the face of people behind you. Here's a good example:



As you can see, it's a pretty simple concept. If you have trouble I can help you get it set up. Planet Bike makes some good fenders (available at MEC), so does Axiom (any Norco dealer will have them), and SKS makes an amazing set of fenders as well ($79.99 is the trade off), besides the race blades you should be able to get fenders for under $50. The elastic strap on kind are the best. From now on fenders are mandatory on rides if you want to ride in front of people. Otherwise you get stuck in the back sucking up everyone else's spray.

That just about does it. Since most of you probably just skipped to the last little bit I'm going to tell you to go and read the article now. Any questions or additions, fire them away!

RidePlanet

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