Cycling in cold weather requires some different planning. You’ll face plenty of challenges, like an increased need to urinate and freezing water bottles. Oh, and don’t forget the struggle of eating food with gloves on. Speaking of snacks, what will you eat out there? It’s important to note your fueling game should change in the cold, too.
Pre-Ride Fueling1 of 7
Photo/Richard Masoner, Flickr
Fueling up with soup is a good plan before heading out the door. Not only will this warm your core, but the sodium intake will help you retain fluids and keep you hydrated. You'll also want to top off your carbohydrate stores. Try adding some crackers to your soup. Burning carbs while riding results in thermogenesis—the creation of heat as a byproduct of digestion. Eat up to stay fueled and to stoke your inner furnace.
Plan for Unplanned Cycling Breaks2 of 7
Though we never plan for a flat tire, it happens. Having a snack to keep digestion going while managing the repair will keep you warm. Bring extra nutrition on cold weather rides. You don't want to be stuck cooling off while fixing your issue and run out of nutrition for the rest of the journey.
Eat This, Not That3 of 7
Eating in the cold can be a challenge if you are trying to juggle gloves and food wrappers. Simplify this task by opening your energy bar wrappers ahead of time so you can leave your gloves on while you fuel up. We also recommend leaving the gummies and chews at home during the winter; they are difficult to consume when cold. Another trick is to keep cycling nutrition in a jersey pocket that is close to your body so your nutrition stays warm. Just make sure you can still easily reach that pocket with your gloves on.
You'll Want to Eat More4 of 7
If you feel hungrier out there, it's because your appetite is heightened while cycling in the cold. If you've ever completed a swim session and were absolutely famished afterwards, you've experienced a similar phenomenon. However, while you may need to eat more during your ride, this doesn't necessarily apply to your post-ride refueling; replenish your food stores as you normally would.
Hydrate Despite the Need to Pee5 of 7
You're not imagining things if you think you have to pee more on cold weather rides, compared to riding in hot weather. Cold diuresis—vasoconstriction resulting slightly elevated blood pressure—may cause the kidneys to push more waste via urine. Add to the fact that you're not losing as much fluid via perspiration compared with riding in warmer temperatures and the urge to stop for a bit of relief is increased when the mercury drops.
Pro Tip: Remember when cycling in the cold, the amount of fluid lost through perspiration will be less noticeable under your layers of cold weather cycling gear, so drink as you would normally when cycling in the cold.
How to Prevent Bottles From Freezing6 of 7
On rides lasting longer than an hour, you should consume more than a single bottle of carbohydrate-based hydration. But extended ride times also mean a greater possibility of hydration freezing before consumption. You can slow your liquid fuel from solidifying by using insulated bottles, and if you start with warm liquid in your second bottle, it should be at a palatable temperature by the time you have finished the first bottle. Another solution to slow freezing is to use an effervescent hydration option, such as Gu Hydration Drink Tabs or Nuun.
Pro Tip: Some cyclists still use an old-school method to keep their bottles from freezing on long rides. Put 3/4 of an ounce of alcohol like rum, gin or vodka in a 20-24oz (insulated) bottle. This is enough "antifreeze" to slow the hardening process but not enough to make you feel tipsy or throw off your game.