Cold Weather Biking Tips from The Tundra

by Up.Bike

We may not be experiencing a 'polar vortex' this year, and in our hometown of Traverse City, winter has actually been relatively mild. But that doesn't mean riding in twenty-five degree weather is pleasant, nor does it mean you're ready for when temperatures do take a nosedive. With highs in the low teens this weekend, we're offering up our three biggest tips for riding in freezing temps, with one bonus tip for racing. 

Whether it's on the road or on the trails, riding when it's below about twenty degrees isn't just when things get tricky, then can get dangerous. Exposed skin, your finger and toes, even your eyes can see the first signs of frost bike in just a few minutes thanks to that added degree of windchill you're putting yourself through. That can make what you wear massively important, especially if you're just trying to get in more miles. With temperatures looking to fall into the single digits this weekend, we called an emergency meeting of the minds to offer up our best tips on surviving cold temperatures. Note, these are geared a bit more toward fat biking, which is a huge deal here in northern Michigan. Still, we think they apply to all sorts of outdoor activity. 

1. Hydrate. It can be hard to stay properly fueled and hydrated in the winter, and we mean that literally. Leave a normal water bottle in your cage for ten to fifteen minutes when temperatures are below 20 degrees, and you'll have a slushie; much longer, and that bottle will be frozen solid. There are two steps to make sure you're hydrating during a ride, and the first one is to get started, fast. Odds are your bottle, or at least the nozzle, is almost certain to freeze if you don't have a way of keeping it warm. To that end, take lots of little sips early in the ride to keep it clear, drink as much as you can, and have plenty in you when the bottle does freeze. Second, try to keep the bottle warm by putting it in your jersey pocket (upside helps, but make sure it's closed all the way!), in a frame bag, or under your coat if you have time to stop. If you use a hydration pack, try running the hose down your jacket arm to your wrist; this will keep the water int eh line from freezing.

2. Layers. A wise old cyclist once told us that you should be cold for the first ten minutes of your ride; if you aren't warm after that, you need more clothes. If you're warm when you leave, you'll probably overheat. The key is to experiment with different materials and layers, always making sure you hands and feet get the most protection and relying on base layers and breathable materials on your core, where sweat can cause you to freeze late in the ride. Try to stick with soft outer layers that breath well, and toss a windbreaker vest that can be easily taken off or unzipped, too. 

3. Bring Extra. If you're going on a long ride or race, bring more. Toss another pair of gloves, an extra shell jacket, hat, even another base layer in your frame bag so you can take off things that get wet, heavy, and cold later in the ride. Even in fat bike races, we've seen riders swap out different gloves to make sure their cold, sweaty mitts don't cause issues for their hands and core temperature later in the race. And even if you don't need them, there's always a chance you'll find another rider in trouble that desperately needs a little trail side assistance. 

Racer Bonus. Warm up...inside. There's nothing worse than trying to 'warm-up' when it's cold. The process is miserable, and the worst part is, you'll often stand on the start line and freeze anyway. When possible warm up inside, whether it's on a trainer, running and jumping around, or not warming up at all! It's better to go in a little hot than shivering. We've got the advantage of having the #AdventureHub to toss a bike on the trainer and move inside and out of the wind. You want to hit the line hot, so leave lining up as late as you can without having to line up way at the back of the pack. 

Ready to put your cold weather skills into action? Join us at Fat Chance at Crystal Mountain this Sunday, January 20 for 90 and 45 minute, circuit-style fat bike racing at 10am! Don't worry, it's supposed to be a balmy 12 degrees!