As fall fades into winter many people don’t mind giving up the outdoors for a gym or the trainer. I have come to realize, however, that I am not one of those people – I’m not that fond of the gym at the best of times.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll hop on the trainer if it’s -40°C outside, but I generally do my best to keep training outside regardless of what Mother Nature has in store for me. It’s always nice being outside, and part of me likes to think that it makes me a little more resilient to inclement weather come race day! 

Though currently there’s no significant accumulation of white stuff on the ground, the temperature is beginning it’s steady slide south of 0°C. With that said, it’s time to start thinking about changes in gear, riding technique, and general mindset.


Mindset

This is possibly the hardest part of winter riding. In the summer getting up early and jumping on the bike to head to work is something I genuinely look forward to – The sun is starting to come up, the birds are chirping, all that good stuff, but in the winter, you wake up all warm and cozy, it’s dark and cold outside and it’s a challenge just to get out of bed and out the door, let alone gear up and hop on the bike.

Getting motivated is something very personal for each person, but for me, I like to think of each commute as some kind of an adventure – the worse the weather, the more exciting the adventure will be. 

Probably the greatest motivator for me is the by-product of riding to work itself – once you start you’ll be amazed how much better you feel. There’s a little bit of an adjustment period, while you get used to exerting yourself before and after a long day at the office, but after the first week or so, you’ll start noticing a real difference in how you feel, and the winter is no different. Get on the bike, you won’t regret it… 5 minutes into the ride you’ll be smiling without a care in the world. (Though if you’re new to commuting, maybe start in the Spring ;-)


Technique/Bike Gear

The changes in technique are pretty minor, and for any experienced mountain biker it should come as second nature… As things get colder, and whiter, they get more slippery and less forgiving. Essentially I counter this by just slowing down a wee bit and trying to make my riding as fluid as possible. No sharp turns, no laying on the brakes, just nice buttery smoothness. The rubber on your tires is cold and hard as well, so you can’t trust your tires to hold the road as well in the winter. Ride smart.

Regarding the bike itself I really only make a two minor adjustments. The first thing I do is swap my summer slicks for carbide-studded knobbies and dump the air pressure a bit. The second is to clean and re-lube the chain with something a little bit more winter-friendly. That’s it, the bike is essentially ready to roll.


Personal Gear

When it comes to actually suiting up and getting outside I find I make a number of changes and then vary them depending on the temperature, wind, and duration of my ride. I’ve roughed out my list according to temperature as a rough guide – so if you’re planning on riding in a temperature that’s slightly outside your comfort range, definitely feel free to reference it. The general rule of thumb is:

  1. Layers. Nuff said.
  2. You want to be just a wee bit cool – Getting hot & sweaty is a recipe for disaster… Well, on the bike anyway…

Here’s how I suit up for varying temperatures:

13°  +

  • Regular socks
  • Light shorts
  • Jersey
  • Riding gloves

5°  –  13°

  • Regular socks
  • Tights
  • Light shorts
  • Jersey
  • Long sleeved shirt or arm-warmers
  • Riding gloves

-2°  –  5°

  • Regular socks
  • Tights
  • Light shorts
  • Jersey
  • Long sleeved shirt
  • Medium weight riding jacket
  • Riding gloves
  • Toque (mainly for wind/ear protection)

-12°  –  -2°

  • Heavy socks
  • Thick, or wind-resistant leggings
  • Light shorts
  • Jersey
  • Mid-weight thermal long sleeved shirt
  • Medium weight riding jacket (wind-resistant)
  • Winter riding gloves
  • Toque (mainly for wind/ear protection)
  • Scarf (balaclava-type thing)

-24° –   -12°

  • Heavy socks
  • Some sort of boot/or riding shoe cover
  • Thick, or wind-resistant leggings w/tights underneath
  • Light shorts
  • Jersey
  • Mid-weight thermal long sleeved shirt
  • Light fleece
  • Medium weight riding jacket (wind-resistant)
  • Paddling gloves w/wind resistant shell
  • Toque (mainly for wind/ear protection)
  • Scarf (balaclava-type thing)