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If you’re part of the population that lives somewhere seasonal, you know the changes that come with cold weather. It’s a time to stock up on rock salt, perhaps buy a snow blower, and get your car’s tires changed. And while winter’s beauty can bring us outside, its harshness forces most of us in.

For outdoor athletes, it’s a slow time; football players move to the weight room and cyclists break out the stationary. Yet with the proper precautions, you can enjoy cycling year round almost anywhere. Here are the keys:

NUTRITION

Completing the same work, your body expends more energy in the cold. This is because in addition to your physical exertion, you are also trying to stay warm. Wearing additional heavier clothing and shoes also expend effort by increasing both your caloric and oxygen needs. In fact, adding just 3.5-7 ounces to each cycling shoe causes a 1% increase in oxygen consumption.

Keep in mind that in hotter weather you are losing the majority of your fluids through perspiration, while in colder conditions you lose almost all that water through your breath. Be careful too of the warning signs of hypothermia. One symptom is cold dieresis, where urine production increases.

You can lessen your chances of either of these happening by:

Drinking warm fluids. While this won’t necessarily add heat to your system it won’t rob you of additional energy. If your water bottles lose heat from your departure, try sticking them inside your jacket.
Continue to use carbohydrate and vitamin enhanced sport drinks. Drink 8-12 ounces before riding and 4-8 ounces every 15-20 minutes once on the bike.

CLOTHING

The main rules to follow when dressing for cold weather are wick, trap, hold and block. When getting dressed for the cold, layer yourself as so:

1. Wear a lightweight, wicking fabric next to the skin.
2. Polyester-like fabric with thermal capabilities in-between.
3. Outer garment should hold warmth while keeping cold air and wind out. Nylon is a good material.

After you’ve covered the main areas it’s time for the head, hands, and feet. For your head, try a winter cycling cap that has a bill and ear flaps that are held down by your helmet straps. If that’s not enough, wear a balaclava (ski mask) or a combination of items that cover your face and neck. HINT: The balaclava is nice because your warm breath up creeps up through the opening warming your eyes.

**If you place it too close and the outside temperature is near freezing, moisture from your exhalations will form in front of your mouth and freeze.**

Use full fingered cycling or winter gloves for extreme conditions. Thermal socks made from synthetics are a good base for your feet while shoe covers will prevent wind and rain from creeping in. Lastly, don’t forget cycling glasses. It may be necessary to get a pair that covers more of the side of your face so no cold air can get into your eyes.

SAFETY

While you now may be nice and toasty on the inside, don’t forget your riding in a dangerous environment. If you have snow on the ground for at least a few months, there is likely to be snow mounds on the side of the roads. If your roads have become thinner from snow pile up, consider keeping your workout inside. If you plan on riding in snowy conditions I suggest purchasing both a front and rear light system that has a flashing option. You may look like an idiot but it might save your life if visibility suddenly drops. And as always wear a helmet, bright colors; using either a helmet or handlebar mounted mirror.

Follow these tips and you’ll be able to ride your bike outside all year long.

Kyle Beck
passionispain.com
 
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