Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fall riding tips

A rather unfortunate fact of living and racing in New England is that our most important months as far as training is concerned, Nov.-Feb., are also our coldest and most dangerous to the unprepared cyclist. Riding inside is one way to avoid the chill of the fast approaching New England winter, but not going anywhere gets boring very quickly and there is no true substitute for miles on the road. In the intrest of keeping as many Jumbos out biking on the roads for as long as possible that I've brought together a couple of fall/winter riding guides for your enjoyment below.

Note, wind chill factor is exponentially more important when the initial air temp is lower so in the coming weeks and months look for the "feels like" or wind chill temps, and base clothing decisions from that value.

55+F, no special considerations required unless it's dumping rain outside, but otherwise not really in the span of this post

45-55F, call me soft but I like to have knee warmers on once the mercury drops below 50F, Also helpful are some light gloves and a scull cap. Long sleeve jerseys or short sleeves with armwarmers are important starting around 50F. Socks that are slightly warmer than your summer weight cycling socks are plenty warm for most rides in this zone (smartwool midweight cycling socks are perfect in my opinion)

40-45F Knee warmers, or if you get cold very easily leg warmers, should be worn on these rides. Hats, full finger gloves, and shoe covers are all good accessories, or in leu of shoe covers you can get the more economical over socks. (avoid toe caps as they are not very effective and couldn't be less pro) Long sleeve jerseys and a light base layer or a regular jersey and a light coat should keep you warm in these temps.

30s This is going to feel pretty cold, so layer accordingly. Legwarmers, full finger gloves, shoe covers, a hat/balaclava, are all pretty straight forward, the problem usually comes down to your core. Your base layer should ideally be wool or some high tech synthetic, wool trumps because of termal regulation and its effectiveness at getting sweat away from your body, but synthetics do the same things just a little more slowly (wool moves moisture away from your body while it is a vapor while synthetics can only transfer liquids). The second layer is a great place for a long sleeve jersey, warm, synthetic, and comfortable. The third layer, as needed, should be a jacket, and windproof is a great quality in a cold weather jacket since even 5-10 mph winds have a much greater effect on feels like temp down in the 30s and below.

20s and below, time to head inside for most of us. To comfortably ride in sub 30F temps all of the above for 30s riding is needed, with some augmentation. Namely, very warm legwarmers, shorts and or bib tights that will keep warm the parts of you your legwarmers/jacket wont. A high quality base and mid layer that are going to keep you warm.

A word on snow, forget your romantic notions of snow, this stuff sucks to bike in. Skiing yes, biking no. The day of/after a snow storm are great for going to the gym and lifting, and not for being "epic". (acceptable exceptions are of course racing and inspiring a generation of American cyclists, see below)

(photo from pezcyclingnews.com)

If you care to spend the money you can certainly ride in very cold conditions without too much discomfort, but at a certain point it becomes cheeper and safer to buy rollers or a trainer, or cheapest yet use the schools equipment and ride inside.

looking for a more organized source for cool weather riding tips? try cyclingtips
prefer charts?

from cyclocosm.com a great cycling blog created and run by a Dartmouth/ ECCC alum

Finally, the Thor Hushovd Index of hardness
HI1: Only the Spanish are in legwarmers
HI2: Italians are starting to look a bit chilly
HI3: French riders start to wrap up
HI4: The Belgians and Germans start to feel the cold
HI5: Even the Danes and Norwegians are starting to suffer a bit
HI6: Thor Hushovd puts on a light jacket.

I rarely go beyond JF3/HI3 but if nothing else this winter

keep riding

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