A second trick is to use or carry chemical hand or toe heaters. These are small packs that generate heat once the package is exposed to air. For athletes that get cold toes, place the thin product in the bottom of your cycling shoe.
I carry a package of these instant heaters with me all winter. They are perfect to warm my hands after I've had to change a flat tire. I just put one small package between my liner and my outer glove. You can find chemical heaters at sporting goods stores or online.
To stay warm and dry, it helps to dress in layers. The first layer needs to be a moisture-wicking fabric to transport moisture away from your body. If it's cold enough, use a second layer to insulate and a final layer or top shell to keep the wet and wind away from your body. If you get too hot, you can always take clothes off when you make a stop.
There is a wide variety of cold weather cycling clothes available. For your head, there are thin caps to wear under your helmet. Balaclavas and ear warmers become mandatory as temperatures drop.
For your torso there is everything from cool weather vests and arm warmers to wind proof, breathable fabrics designed for cold and wet conditions. Tights also come in a variety of fabrics. Be sure your tights have articulated knees and are designed not to put pressure on your knee cap as you cycle.
Toe covers and a range of full booties are available to cover your shoes. Some companies manufacture waterproof and breathable socks to use instead of booties.
Select an Appropriate Route and Ride With a Group
In cold weather conditions, select a route that has several opportunities to stop and warm up in food stores or gas stations if you get into trouble. If you are on a road bike, be sure the road is free of black ice and snow. If you ride a mountain bike on snow, ride with a relatively low tire pressure. If you are riding off-road, be sure to ride with a friend or two.
Riding with a group on or off-road is a good strategy for several reasons. On the road, as you rotate from the front position to a position at the rear of the peloton, you get a break from the wind. As you rotate leadership, members of the group can keep watch on each other for signs of cold stress. If someone gets a puncture or has other equipment trouble, other riders can lend a hand.
Don't Forget Your Cell Phone
Finally, when you head out into temperatures that are cold or may change from warm and sunny to cold, an important safety precaution is to carry a cell phone. If you get into trouble, you can always call to get a ride home.
In winter months stay warm, stay fit and be safe.
Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.