Warming Tips for Winter Riding

Hey folks here is the first installment of info on winter riding gear and riding in extreme cold.

People always ask me about what I wear when heading out on one of my winter bike adventures so I am going to pass along the info on things that work for me.  Of course everyone is uniquely different when it comes to body temperature.  On top of personal body temps there are many things that you can do that will help you head out into the cold weather already warm and things that you can do keep from freezing once you have been out for a few hours.

I have spent many winter seasons testing different clothing layers and winter camping gear so hopefully you can use some of my knowledge as a starting point for what to try for yourself.  I was that crazy guy that would check the weather forecast looking for those -30 and colder nights and get all my gear ready and lights on and head out for a few hour night ride after the kids headed off to bed.Sometimes riding till 2 or 3 in the morning.  I also like to head out in the backyard or local forest when there is a big snow storm or extreme cold to test out a new bivy sack or sleeping system.

First off I find that getting your internal body core firing at a hotter temp before heading out is more useful than standing in front of a heater or fireplace, standing around the heat feels nice and all but it only warms your skins surface.  I like to do a workout or at the very least some pull ups, burpies, push ups, skip rope or jumping jacks before I head outside.  Keeping in mind that you while you are trying to warm up the body you don’t want to head outside all sweaty because you will certainly become extremely cold very quickly.  You need to stay dry to be warm.  By doing this type of warm up I can head out into -25 temps for hours with only a wool tank top and light jacket on.

I also like to drink warm liquids and eat warming foods again this creates a little bundle of warmth right in the core of your body spreading the warming love out to the rest of your body.  Having a thermos of warm tea to drink mid ride is also a nice ritual I enjoy.

Keeping the blood moving is very important to prevent getting cold and eventually getting frostnip and then frostbite.  Sometimes this means getting off your bike and pushing the bike for a bit to get the feet warmed up.  When on the bike little tricks I found for keeping the hands and feet warm are constantly wiggling your toes and hyper flexing the foot back and forth.  Same thing for the hands the key is to keep the blood flowing.  I have found that while on the bike doing arm windmills and doing a pendulum type movement with one leg at a time has helped bring warm blood to my fingers and toes.

My body type is an extremely warm core year round(I normally ride in tank tops or no shirt all summer) and I have been called a polar bear on a number of occasions because I love swimming, and will go in really cold lake water and stay in for long periods of time.  However my hands and toes get cold very easily which may have been due to getting frostnip too many times before finding out some layering that really works for me.  Those extremities are definitely my weakness, but I have figured out some things that work for me to be able to ride comfortably at extremely bitter cold temperatures(-40 and below) for many hours.

Race Gear

This Photo is of my layers of clothes that I had set out in my hotel room the night before a race I completed in February 2015.  The race was called Actif Epica, which is a 130 km ultra marathon held in Winnipeg on the windy plains of Manitoba, temperatures for racing were -40 and with wind chill it hit close to -50C.  I was out racing my fat bike for almost 9 hrs. And my clothing choice was spot on.

I just got back from completing another winter Ultra called the Tuscobia 150, this race took me over 20 hrs to complete the 260 km race course.  Temperatures on the race day/night in Wisconsin ranged from -12C down to a bitter cold and windy-25C.
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Stay tuned for more details about layering for different parts of the body.

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