We chatted with semi-professional sunrise chaser, Moose, recently to get the low down on how to ride through the winter. Some good tidbits came out that can keep you pedaling year-round.
What''s your best advice for riding year-round?
It may seem obvious on the surface, but just don''t stop riding.
What usually happens with riders, is at the first cold snap, they immediately take a few days off. Once they realize the warm weather isn''t going to return, they jump back on the bike and freeze. Then they take a few more weeks off until they are nearly going crazy. Back on the bike and they over dress, end up sweating up a storm and then freezing as they limp back home with their tail between their legs. They don''t take the time to properly adjust their kit.
The best way to keep riding and be comfortable is to look at every ride as an experiment in staying warm. At that first cold snap, put on the layers you think make sense and go for the ride. You may get hot, you may end up freezing. It doesn''t matter, just take note of how things went. Then go for another ride but adjust your layers to compensate for what went wrong and/or right on the last ride. As the winter progresses and temperatures drop, you will keep experimenting every day to figure out what works, what doesn''t and at what temperature. By the time Spring rolls around, you''ll be an expert and never be worried about the cold again, until next year.
Ok. You mentioned layers in there. Can you elaborate?
Sure thing. When the temps start to dip, it''s best to use different layers to create warmth and/or protect you from the elements.
There are three main layers, base, insulation and shell. Base layers are meant to pull moisture, also known as sweat, from your skin and pass it to the outer layers in an effort to keep you dry. Insulating layers are usually the next on top of your base. These are where you get your warmth from as they capture the heat that your body is naturally creating during your ride. And lastly, the shell or outer layer. These are typically designed to keep the elements from effecting your core. Think wind breaker or rain jacket.
Layers are considered the best way to dress when riding in the cold. Mostly because they give you the option of removing layers as you heat up and adding layers as the temperature sinks. The key is to know what layers work best for you, everyone is different, and learning the timing so you don''t overheat, end up soaking wet and then freeze.
That makes a lot of sense. What is your go to when it is say 30 degrees?
Let''s start with my "problem areas" also known as my hands and feet. The older I get the worse my circulation gets and my hands and feet tend to get very cold. At 30 degrees, I would have some pogies and an insulating glove for my hands. I purchased winter riding boots several years ago and while they don''t get used all that often during the year, they are my go-to for below freezing. I would also add in some thick wool socks.
My legs tend to stay pretty warm, but I would have my knees covered with knee warmers or a pair of thermal knickers. Up top, I like to use a synthetic, long sleeve base layer under a wool insulating layer. I would top all of this with a windbreaker that would most likely come off on the climbs and be added back on for the descents. This is pretty much my kit with varying thickness of insulation and swapping out for rainproof gear when appropriate.
Wool? That seems a bit archaic, why do you use it in multiple places?
Great question. I have found wool to be a miracle material. It insulates even when it is wet, but it also absorbs its weight in moisture. What this does is provide a type of self-regulating garment. As you warm up and start to sweat, the wool captures the moisture and starts to cool you back down as the wind pushes the moisture back in, but it''s still insulating. The other day, I tossed on my favorite wool sweater and headed out to find a sunrise. It was cold sub 30 degrees. I headed up Zen. As I warmed up, the wool absorbed the moisture and started to cool me back down. I continued on with the wool warming and cooling my body as needed. After rocking out a lap, I rolled back up to the truck. I was wet which is usually bad, but the wool was still keeping me warm. I ended the ride comfortable and did not change my layers once.
Alright, anything else to add?
I''d circleback to my first tip. Keep riding. The winters are awesome. Sunrises are awesome and the two are best shared together, you just have to put in the time to make sure you know what works best for you.