cycle performance: tip for comfortable bicycling in cold weather 

Winter is here and there is still plenty of riding to do, you just need to adjust your schedule and adjust your equipment, I have always heard that summer is fun but winter provides stories.  It seems the more we suffer the more we like to speak about the endeavours but as the old Chinese saying goes “Pain is inevitable, to suffer is an option”. So here are a few tips to reduce the amount of pain in conditions.

Many of these tips apply to riding in the Mountains: weather in the upper elevations can change though out the day as you ride, next time you ride in the Alps or Dolomite's do not get caught short.

The Body:

Being outside for any type of outdoor activity a good word to remember is the word C-O-L-D

  • C - Keep it clean
  • O - Avoid Overdressing
  • L – Wear Loose Layers
  • D – Keep Clothing Dry


  • Always dress in layers and remember many of the same techniques we use in dressing for ski and snowboarding work for bike riding.  Cotton is the worst choice, wool is better but the best is many of the special polypropylene and synthetic materials.A fleece or vest is a great way to keep the core warm.  Remember you should be a little cold when you start out so do not over dress and carry a couple of good extra layers for descents or later in the ride as you lose energy.
  • Your legs do not need layers but do not be foolish and wear only shorts.  When the temperature drops below the mid 60’s the cold with only cause damage to your knees and muscles.
  • For your feet be sure not to wear socks that are two thick.  A good technique to use two pairs of socks and shoe covers.  And for your hands bring two pair of gloves in case on pair gets wet or too sweaty.
  • Remember to maintain adequate hydration and nutrition.  Drink plenty of water throughout the day and after the ride.  The cold weather takes a lot of energy out of the body so even though you will want to shorten your route the energy your expend on a 2 hour ride will be similar to a 3 or 4 hour ride.

The Bike:

I like to switch to a mountain bike or cycle cross during the winter it better suits the type of riding I prefer.  Since the biggest factor to combat is the cold, and riding fast only makes it worst due to wind chill factor, so slowing down and changing terrian is helpful. 

  • Always check your bike before you ride being stuck out on the road waiting for a lift due to a simple mechanical can be a disaster.
  • Reduce the amount of air pressure in your tires 5-10 psi for better traction.
  • Carry two extra tubes.
  • Keep your chain well oiled, it keeps preventing gummed up or frozen links.
  • Put a fender on the back.  I like those small plastic ones you can attach to the seat post.  If it is wet the water splashing up on the back is not pleasant and a 1 hour on the bike.

The Ride:

  • Slow down and be careful of shaded corners.
  • Wear bright colours to help cars see you better.
  • Do not stop for long once stopped it is hard to get started again.
  • Shorten your route, ride more hills, off road and combine your ride with a run or walk.

There are several more things to consider and I am sure you can think of many on your own.  Keep training and riding the winter is not always time to head to the gym or pick up another sport.  Think of it as active recovery and it is a time to get a good base developed so that you are ready to tackle so classic routes next summer.

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