The weather has been so beautiful in New Mexico, but the cold has finally arrived. We have a bad relationship with winter, and its shorter, darker days. We dislike the cold outdoors. We greatly dislike feeling cold indoors. And mostly, we dislike riding our bikes in the cold! Some readers may be accustomed to riding in sub-30 degree weather, but for the sun babies (cold wimps) in the southwest, our blood runs thin! I am the biggest baby in the cold and if I don't warm up I whimper the entire ride! We have tried to find a few ways to keep warm on our long rides and stay healthy without spending a fortune on more cycling gear. For beginners learning to manage winter rides, here are a few thoughts when getting ready to head out for a cold ride.
Keep your head warm - Wear an under-helmet winter cap or simply a thin neck gator over your head. The neck gator works well because it can cover your ears as well. I wear a thin gator on my head under my helmet which covers my ears, and I also wear a thin neck gator around my neck to pull up over my nose and mouth when the wind is super cold. Not expensive and it works really well.
Keep your toes warm - Several options...purchase cycling thermal winter shoe covers, put Hothands Toe Warmers in your cycling shoes or try wrapping aluminum foil around the front half of your foot. Cold feet during a long winter ride is a miserable experience. Thermal cycling shoe covers are great, and probably worth the investment if you can fit them into your budget. But, the Hothands Toe Warmers work well also. I buy a box of toe warmers every winter and stick them right on top of my sock over my toes. You can also try wrapping the front half of your foot with aluminum foil which will keep the cold wind off. Aluminum foil and toe warmers might be excellent if its super cold, I may have to try that next time!
Keep your hands warm - Gloves, gloves and more gloves, but maybe some Bar Mitts. Bring multiple pairs of gloves with you. Start your ride with your heavier gloves. As your hands get sweaty, swap your gloves out for a dry pair. Once your hands get sweaty, they will get cold. I have Bar Mitts on my bike once the temperature gets below forty degrees. For me, Bar Mitts made winter riding so much better. Some days, I ride with no gloves and just my Bar Mitts because they work that well!
Don't overdress - Start your ride a little bit cold. Avoid being warm when you start. You may feel cold right at the beginning of your ride, but your body will warm up after you get started. If you are dressed too warmly, your clothes will get wet from sweat. Soon after, the wetness will cause you to become cold and you will have a difficult time staying warm throughout the rest of your ride.
Keep cold wind off your chest and torso - Wear a windproof vest and/or a base layer under your jersey. A base layer can be as simple as a snug fitting wool or polyester workout shirt. It doesn't have to be fancy or have a popular brand name, just no cotton! Cotton will soak up sweat like a washcloth and leave you very uncomfortable.
Legs and arms - There are lots of options here, and winter bibs can get pricey. We mostly use thermal arm warmers and leg warmers. They are less expensive than thermal bibs or tights, and easy to take off and shove in your pockets if it warms up.
Basically, if you keep your digits, toes, and head warm, throw on some arm warmers and leg warmers and a base layer, then you are probably all set to go!!
A few words about staying healthy and nutrition...
Bring a little bit more food for your ride. Your body works harder in the cold to keep you warm. More work requires more fuel. So go ahead and bring an extra bar or gel along and stay fueled.
It's cold and flu and COVID season. You need a strong immune system to fight off viruses. Do not skimp on your healthy carbohydrates such as, whole grains, fruits and veggies! Add a few extra healthy carbohydrates to your diet to keep your immune system strong. Healthy carbohydrates are your friend, not your enemy. Holiday functions will probably have someone present who has at least a cold. To our surprise, a family member had a bad cold at our holiday get-together. Why do people do that? Well, it just happens, so don't stress about it and eat some extra healthy carbs to stay healthy. Mostly, don't punish yourself for over indulgence of holiday treats and respond by withholding healthy carbs from your diet! The goal is to stay healthy.
Don't smash yourself. Working too hard on every ride will hinder your recovery and weaken your immune system. Keep your body and immune system strong by maintaining a good balance in your training. If you are tired, just take it easy and let your body recover.
I hope this has been helpful. This is pretty basic and this post could have gone on much longer, but if you have a specific question just send us an email or ask a question in the comment section. Stay warm, safe and healthy this winter season!