As the years roll on more athletes seem to be spending more of the season riding outside. While I often question why some cyclists are out during the coldest days of the year, I applaud their passion and spirit to ride.
Even as things “warm up” in the spring, there can be some cold rides in March and April. Before even thinking of heading out on the bike in near-freezing temperatures, make sure you have the right clothing to keep warm during your cold training sessions. The list of goodies that can keep you warm on the bike is endless, but here’s a basic list of the essentials:
- Balaclava or buff for the neck
- Thermal or windproof jacket
- Base layer (preferably warm)
- Substantial gloves you can bike in
- Cycling overshoes/booties
- Warm socks
If you are active outside all year, you might already have some use clothes you already have.
Once you have the appropriate outerwear, the next step on the checklist is the bike you will be riding. While you might be tempted to get your new racing machine out on the road to put it through its paces before the season, for the early-season rides it is probably best to leave any equipment you hope to use while in your tri suit at home. My “go to” for winter riding is a bike with the biggest tire clearance I can find. If I can’t find a gravel bike to ride, I ride my road bike on wider tires. This means I trade my 25 mm Continental race tires for a heavier, but more durable, 28 mm all-season tire. I will go to the grave believing bigger is better in the tire world – if your bike can handle wider tires, I promise you will enjoy the added control a larger tire offers. If you just own one bike, but are eager to explore more all-weather riding, look to add an economical all-year bike to your collection. At my apartment I have two types of bikes: the year-round rides that live on the patio and my beloved road bikes that don’t like the colder weather.
The last step to the equation when it comes to riding through the grit and sand that inevitably accumulates on the roads during early season rides is keeping your bike running. If you add some some snow or rain to that mix, you’ll want to get into some kind of post-ride cleaning routine. Spend a few extra minutes on general bike upkeep to ensure you maximize the lifespan of your components. A bucket of warm soapy water, rags, degreaser and some good chain lube can go a long way. It takes no more than 10 minutes to scrub down and hose off a drivetrain after a messy ride, and this ritual will certainly have your bike thanking you the next time you ride.
Sean Mackinnon is a regular contributor to Triathlon Magazine Canada. He is a former member of Canada’s national cycling team.