I was recently fortunate enough to travel with the boys from Avanti Racing Team over to Japan where they competed in both the Tour of Japan and the Tour of Kumano. During a successful block of racing, we managed to come away with a couple of stage wins and a win in the overall sprint classification – well done to Neil van der Ploeg! The trip was enjoyable for more reasons than this however. Whilst temperatures in Albury plummeted, we were treated to balmy weather conditions with the temperature typically ranging between 22-30 degrees. As you can imagine, it was quite a rude shock to arrive back in Melbourne at 6am on a dreary winter’s day to feel the chilling, icy air of a 1 degree morning!
Now I, like many cyclists, am generally not a fan of the cold outdoors. Having been designated the unfortunate nickname “margarine” over winter (because I am apparently even softer than butter), it would be fair to say that winter is a time I am much less regularly seen on the road. As such, I thought it was appropriate to compile a couple of tips the boys passed on to me for getting through winter without frostbite!
WINTER CYCLING SURVIVAL GUIDE
The first port of call in the battle against the cold Albury winter, is investing in some warm kit. Staple items include a fleecy overjacket, long knicks, an undershirt, and a rainproof jacket. For versatility, fleecy arm and leg warmers, and windproof vests provide you with the necessary warmth but also offer the option of being removed mid ride if you find yourself in the very unlikely situation of being too hot!
Since we lose a large percentage of our heat through feet, hands and head, it is also very important to keep peripheral areas warm. For this reason, a good quality set of gloves and shoe covers (booties) are a must. To keep your head warm, a cycling cap or bandana under your helmet are not only a bit of a cycling fashion statement, but also help prevent loss of heat through your head.
Unfortunately, the reality is, cycling kit is very expensive, so here are a couple of tips I’ve heard which won’t break the bank! To avoid having to fork out for a brand new set of fleecy knicks, purchase some warm outerwear to use over your standard knicks. Thermal compression stockings work well here (keep an eye out for the Aldi winter ski wear sale!) because they are warmer than standard compression stockings and they will not flap about in the breeze like your usual thermalwear – let’s face it, none of us want to catch as much wind as Tom “the flying gate” Barry seen below…
Tom’s fitters accept no responsibility for this unaerodynamic position – sometimes it’s a case of working with what you have…
The following are some of the more unusual tips I have heard – which I have personally tested and can verify! Avanti rider mark O’Brien suggests keeping your feet warm by wrapping some gladwrap or a sandwich bag over your socks to prevent wind chill. Similarly, a pair of disposable plastic medical gloves under your usual gloves for shorter rides (before hands start to get a little clammy) is a great way of protecting your hands from the wind, and insulating against the cold. This is rumoured to be a popular option amongst riders in the 5:30am Albury winter bunches!
As a waste saving technique, why not reuse footwrap to keep your meals fresh*? Yum!
(*Osteohealth in no way endorses unsanitary food practices. Reuse of footwrap is discouraged and any resultant illness from such application is the responsibility of the user alone.)
As days are getting shorter, a lot of cyclists find themselves forced to ride out into the cold outside daylight hours. Furthermore, we often experience dull days, fog or rainy conditions where visibility is poor on the roads. For these reasons, it is important to do everything you can to ensure that you are seen by motorists and other roads users. Bright front and rear bike lights are an absolute must in poor light conditions and an extra helmet light is also recommended, particularly if you will be riding at night. In addition to this, with grey weather conditions, bright high visibility cycling clothing also makes you more noticeable to traffic, and can be quite attractive at the same time…
While this outfit probably won’t be seen on the catwalks of Milan, it WILL be seen on the road!
Another important safety consideration during winter is maintaining your equipment. It is all too easy to finish your ride, wet and cold, dump your bike in the garage and forget about it. Think again! In wet conditions, tyres pick up lots of road grime, which can easily make its way into your running gear. Wet weather can also cause rust in your chain and other mechanical components. In addition to this, the rubber in tyres becomes softer when wet – so check your tread regularly and always carry your spare tube and pump.
For mechanical advice in a more lyrical form, or if you feel like a laugh click here to see Avanti Team Mechanic Sean Hurley’s clever poem about winter bike maintenance.
Safety never takes a holiday, especially not during winter!
The final point in this survival guide is managing to stay fit and injury free throughout the season. Unfortunately, research shows that cold decreases the extensibility of our muscles and other soft tissues, making them more susceptible to strains and sprains during the colder months. A regular stretching program to maintain flexible strong muscles is an imperative part of reducing your injury risk. If you do choose to brave the harsh outdoors, start your ride with a short period of high cadence pedalling, beginning with a lower intensity and slowly building to a moderate intensity over the first couple of kilometres. The rapid, repetitive contraction and relaxation of large muscle groups in the legs enhances blood flow to peripheral areas, and resultant increase heart rate boosts your cardiovascular system, and helps maintain core temperature as well. Bottom line here is, warm muscles are more extensible muscles, and more extensible muscles are less likely to become injured muscles!
Well there you have it – hopefully these tips can assist you in staying on your bike over winter, and maintaining some good form whilst the skies are grey. See you on the road!
(And by “see you” I mean see you through a window, as I sit on a comfy lounge by an open fire, drinking hot cocoa and laughing smugly at anyone silly enough to actually be outside in the Albury winter!)