Photo by James Kendi
Braving winter’s harsh weather on your bike can be very fulfilling...until you’re 20 miles from home with frozen fingers that can’t work your shifters and icy tears blurring your vision. Or worse, you’re so over dressed that you feel like you can’t put your arms down. Sticking to that training program or exploring winter mountain scenery isn’t necessarily about wearing more - it’s about dressing smart.
For the most experienced insight into winter weather preparation, we caught up with biking’s favorite female snow pros. Elle Anderson, Jen Hudak and Elizabeth “Bud” Reeder love winter, snow and the mountains. They won’t slow their pedal just because daylight savings time has darkened dreamy summer bike adventures. These previous ski racers and freestyle pros lend from their snowy background to offer up easy hacks that make winter biking more comfortable.
Team USA CX rider, Former Int'l Competitive Skier
Photo by Tom Prenen
Here are Elle’s tips on tackling winter training like a world champ:
- You know those disposable hand and toe warmers sold in every ski shop? For cycling temps below freezing, they are lifesavers. Tip: Put the toe warmers on top of your toes so they don’t interfere with your feeling on the pedals.
- Insulated water bottles are perfect for keeping tea or hot hydration mix warm-ish for at least part of your cold-weather ride.
- Invest in the proper clothing. Layering on double leg warmers, triple jerseys and quadruple socks might result in feeling like a living mummy. Greater comfort and warmth can be found in that one pair of thermal leggings and perfect soft-shell jacket.
- Using a warming cream or embrocation on your lower back and legs helps you feel warm even if you’re not.
- Warming up and cooling down on the stationary trainer is great for limiting cold weather exposure and keeping warm. Starting the ride with 15 minutes indoors raises body temperatures and keeps you warmer for longer when outside, and finishing the ride indoors is great for warming back up after your outdoor adventure.
Two-time World Champion in Halfpipe skiing, MTB Enthusiast, Public voice against sexism in the ski industry
Here are Jen’s tips on enjoying all-season mountain adventures:
- WEAR THIN SOCKS! This is the number one rookie move I see people make when playing in the snow. I’ve even had friends and family wear TWO pairs of socks! Here’s the thing, when it comes to keeping your feet warm, circulation is your best friend. Wearing thick socks or multiple pairs of socks, will make the circulation to your feet much worse and then there’s no heat from your feet to combat the freezing cold temps outside of your shoes! Wearing thin socks allows your blood flow to warm your feet and creates more room for air within the shoe which will help insulate from the cold exterior.
- If you’re an iPhone user like me, you probably know all too well the frustration of pulling out your phone to take a picture of the beautiful mountains you’re in, only to find that your battery is dead, even though it’s 9:30 am and it was fully charged when you left the house. iPhone batteries do terribly in the cold weather. So, if you have an internal chest pocket, keep your iPhone there.
- Dress in layers! Staying warm in the cold is a challenge, no doubt about it, but temperatures rise and fall throughout the day, so putting on your warmest jacket isn’t always the best option. I prefer to dress in layers, starting with a close to skin tank-top to ward off any kind of draft. I typically wear a long-sleeve baselayer over that, and either a fleece and a jacket, or just a jacket on top. This allows me to peel off layers, or add them on as needed. Being cold sucks, but getting sweaty and then getting cold, is even worse!
ELIZABETH BUD REEDER
Former Ski Racer, Current cyclist, competing in Cape Epic 2016
Here are tips that Bud carried over from skiing to winter riding (and still uses when she hits the slopes):
- Merino wool is your best friend! The fabric is soft, it’s breathable and super warm (even when you sweat in it).
- In the winter months cyclists can often discount the importance of wearing eyewear, as a ski racer you would never enter the start without goggles – so as a cyclist, why would you ride without eyewear? First, they block UV rays, second they make it so your eyeballs don’t feel like they are freezing and can act almost as a warming layer. Treat yourself to a clear or photochromic lens and you’ll be stoked.
- For your legs, spend the extra money on a pair of fleece lined tights! I am personally a fan of the tights that don’t have a chamois sewn-in so I can wear them a few days in a row, pair the tights with a normal bib short (of course, you want to change that per ride!). For my core, I like to wear a soft-shell jacket on top of my merino layers and then top my outfit off with a thin down-vest.
- Now, if you want to get into the really ski-racer nitty-gritty and you are looking at sub-zero riding temps, slather Vaseline all over your face for ultimate temperature protection!
MFF Ambassador, Former Competitive Snowboarder
Photo by Kevin Westenbarger
And for myself; I’m scared to say that I’ve been “snow sporting” for 33 years, chased a professional snowboard dream for more years than I should have, lived in Vermont, Mammoth Lakes and South Lake Tahoe, and have an unwavering love for snow and mountain excursions. Even though my once robust snowboard quiver is now replaced by a stable of bikes, I remember my top winter survival trick: avoid getting cold in the first place. Here are my hacks:
- Don’t over tighten: Just like Jen said, blood flow to your feet is key to warmth in your digits. When you tie or buckle your bike shoes, leave them feeling loose. Your feet expand as your ride. In the winter, allow for even more room. Room=blood flow. Layer fleece-lined booties over your shoes and you should be good to go!
- Always wear a neck gator: I never ever leave for a ride without a neck gator when the temps are below 60º. I have a variety of neck gators for various weather conditions: thin single poly layer for mild winter temps to thicker merino wool double layer very chilly days. I find ski and snowboard shops to have a better selection than bike shops. I keep the gator over my mouth as much as I can. Breathing my own warm vapors keeps my insides feeling warmer and my throat from getting a cold “draft.”
- Be easy on yourself: Even on the best powder or backcountry days, I’m not usually out in the elements for more than 4 hours. Our bodies use a lot of energy to keep warm. Don’t expect your winter rides to last as long as spring, summer and fall rides or you will find yourself bonking when you don’t expect it.
Written by: Brooke Summers
Special thanks to Elle, Jen, and Bud for sharing their secrets!