Cold Comfort: Braving The First Chilly Rides of Fall
Here in Michigan, cyclists are a bit more hearty than most. It takes a bit more than frost to keep us off the bike, but we’re also experienced enough to take a few cold-weather precautions to stay safe.
Cycling in the cold involves a bit of a learning curve. We all have our own needs when it comes to staying warm and safe on the road and trails, and that’s made even more difficult with the addition of rain, snow, or wind. There are certainly a few universal tips to stay safe while riding this time of year, and we’ve put some of the most important and most proven together as we hit the start of chilly autumn.
Layer Up. You can always unzip, stuff a jacket in a pocket, or roll down arm warmers. You can’t put on clothing you don’t have. Starting with a breathable base layer, add the right mix of light clothing that won’t hold in moisture. Always bring some kind of a waterproof shell, even if you don’t start with it on. You can nail your clothing, only to have a pop-up shower leave you soaked and frozen. When in doubt, wear it. The humble vest or gilet is a must-have this time of year!
Mind Your Fingers (and Toes). Your hands and feet are often the first to go cold. Find the right gloves or mittens to keep your hands warm, and don’t forget to move them. Even squeezing the handlebar on and off every few minutes can help improve blood flow. Feet can be a bit tougher, but luckily, they’re easier to layer up. From wool socks to shoe covers to thermal boots, with a little experimentation, you’ll find the right weight for the sort of conditions you ride in.
Start Hot. This one is huge. Ask any cyclist and the coldest part of the ride is the first ten minutes. That’s because it takes a while to build up your body heat. You can make those first miles more bearable by getting warm before you go. Do some push-ups, some jumping jacks, even some basic household chores in your riding gear to build up your body’s temperature. One of the best? Unloading the dishwasher. You move just enough to get warm, and you score some brownie points with your partner, which translates into more time to ride!
Plan Your Route. Cold weather raises the stakes for if and when things go wrong. For that reason, planning your route is a great way to know how long you’ll be out, what you’ll need with you, and to let your emergency evac know where to get you. If you’re planning for a longer ride of over three hours, remember to have short cuts available in case the weather turns. With many devices offering live tracking, this is the most important time of year to send out notifications so that friends and family can make sure your little blue dot keeps moving.
Dress For The Ride, And The Disaster. Riding in the cold can be uncomfortable. Standing around fixing a flat tire in the cold can be downright dangerous. Having that windproof shell in your back pocket for emergency repairs or stops is huge. Additionally, having chemical hand warmers in your flat kit for after you make your repairs can make getting started easier. If you do suffer a mechanical, get as far from the road as you can, but also make yourself visible. Remember, sometimes the only tool that can get you home is a cell phone, so make sure you’re fully charged before you bust out.
Riding in the cold comes with the territory around here, and we hope you’ll keep on pedaling safely all year round!