By Jeffrey Stern
Rain, snow, sleet, hail, sub-zero temperatures…who could ever find the motivation to train in such conditions? It’s not only difficult but downright impossible to stay motivated when the winter months roll around and stick around, and the weather is, quite plainly, garbage for cycling outdoors. With the majority of states across the country in the heart of winter, planning and executing workouts or even just getting out of your pajamas and out the door is like getting an angry cat into the veterinarian’s office. Good luck with that.
We do have a little bit of luck to throw on your side in the form of the three best winter motivation tips you can find on the interwebs. Ok, maybe there are other ones, but these have been tested and are tried and true to turn even the slightest inclination of motivation into a full-blooming winter, training rose. As February drags on, keep these in mind and keep on going, because spring is just around the corner!
1. Make a training schedule and stick to it.
Treat it like having a doctor or dentist appointment that you know you can’t miss or else your body, and therefore health, will fail you. Create whatever form of calendar works best for you; a flip one, the summer inspiring monthly pictorial kind, an old-fashioned handwritten kind on graph paper, on your phone, computer, a scratch piece of paper…you get the picture. Just make one! And make it at least a week in advance. If you have it written down somewhere, you’re much more likely to follow through despite the harsh conditions outside.
2. Keep it short and sweet.
Daylight is of the essence during winter, so don’t try to slog through hours of training in the dark and cold. Your body and mind will hate you for that. Instead, opt for quick, more intense workouts that get your heart rate up in a short amount of time and then get you back inside. Make sure to warm-up before going all out, but try to keep it simple and not overly complicated. Our brains tend to have trouble thinking clearly when the mercury drops, so 60-90 minutes is plenty of time to get a solid workout in even when you can’t feel your fingers and toes.
3. Dress properly.
Even if you’re only going out for a short amount of time, you want to be as comfortable as possible. Don’t skimp on the clothing just because you’re not going to be outside for hours on end. You’re likely to start a little chilly, but if outfitted in the right kind of gear for your current weather conditions, your body will start to produce heat rapidly and your clothing will keep you insulated from the cold. This will lead to a enjoyable hour or so spent working out; you won’t go home in a frozen frustrated state, but happy you got the job done and excited for whatever you have lined up for the rest of the day.
And most importantly, believe in yourself. Winter is a challenging time for all cyclists, no matter your skill level or goals for the upcoming spring and summer seasons. Take the chance to embrace the challenge and fear of working out when it’s cold outside. Fear is oftentimes life’s biggest opponent; overcome your fear to get solid workouts in during the winter and once the snow thaws and the temperatures start to rise, you’ll be primed to take advantage of all that hard earned fitness you achieved when most people were too intimidated to even get a foot out the door.
Like a lot of people, my fingers are one the first things that succumb to the ravages of cold weather biking. The combination of cold air rushing over the glove surface and sweat trapped inside can sometimes cut my frosty rides a bit short. And that’s a shame, because some of the most beautiful rides happen on those cold, bitter days when the streets and trails are devoid of people who are instead hiding inside, warming themselves on their couches and watching reruns.
To combat this problem, I’m always searching for gloves that offer warmth and breathability. Thankfully, there are quite a few good options on the market. One such option is the Windstopper glove from Gore Bike Wear. I have been using a pair of their Element Urban Print version for a few months and am quite happy with them.
Besides having a layer of water resistant, windproof, moisture wicking Windstopper material, the Element Windstopper glove has a plethora of neat features that make for a glove that performs well in daily use.
First up, the inside of the glove is a comfortable, soft fleece material that draws moisture off the skin to evaporate through the Windstopper material and keep your skin dry. This process worked well in most instances. Only occasionally did I find that the glove couldn’t keep up with the amount of sweat being produced by my hands. Generally this was when I was working hard in temperatures above freezing.
There are a few things worth noting on the exterior of the glove, starting with the always-important snot/sweat wipe on the thumb. The absorbent patch is soft and big enough to deal with any moisture problem you have going on with your face.
Next up is the palm. It’s almost completely covered with silicone dots that do a great job of providing grip. The dots are interrupted only by a gel pad on the outside edge of the palm, reinforced material between the thumb and index finger, and touchscreen friendly material on the tip of the thumb and index finger. While not the easiest thing to do, I was able to use my iPhone without removing my gloves.
The back of the glove has some features designed for your ride into work, or pedaling to the trailhead. Besides the nice bright material on the edges of the fingers, there are three reflective pieces of fabric, and one reflective logo on each glove that do a decent job of catching the eyes of the drivers around you. Perfect for signalling a turn or alerting oncoming traffic to your approach.
Finally, there is the overall fit and design of the glove. Of course the camo is cool, but the fit is just as important. The glove goes a bit past the wrist to provide good coverage under or over a jacket, and features an easy to use Velcro strap in addition to an elastic wrist cuff to keep the cold and wet where it belongs—on the outside.
Gloves are not the most exciting things in the world, but Gore Bike Wear did a great job of designing a pair that kept me dry and warm in temperatures ranging from low single digits to 45 degrees. They have also held up very well to my repeated urban and singletrack excursions. If the camo isn’t your cup of tea, Gore makes several different Windstopper models.
More info: goreapparel.com
Cycling-specific, cold-weather boots have long seemed like a luxury item to me. That changed when I decided to get a fat bike for riding on snowy trails and decided to suck it up and pedal around my Colorado hometown all through winter. Suddenly, no overshoe was warm enough and no casual snow boot stiff or snug enough. After spending a few weeks with Bontrager’s brand-new and rather svelte-looking Old Man Winter (OMW) boots, I am completely sold on the idea.
If, like me, you have Raynaud’s syndrome (the cold-weather narrowing of the blood vessels in your extremities) keeping your fingers and toes warm sometimes seems impossible. The OMW helps allay that with a fleece-lined, removable inner bootie packed with 200 grams of 3M Thinsulate insulation. The stretchy outer boot is made of waterproof, breathable OutDry material and features sealed zippers. The inner bootie has a drawstring-type closure. Paired with two outer Velcro straps, the boots allow for a very snug fit and offer plenty of adjustment.
My only minor complaints are that it can be difficult to zip the ankle gaiter over the plastic pull tab on the laces and, if you don’t manage to raise the zipper completely to the top of the ankle, the pedaling motion will push it down.
The liner is removable. I think the shoe would be much too roomy and not as comfortable to ride without, but I’m glad I can wash it. A rough material on the heel works as advertised to prevent the liner from slipping around inside the boot. The sole of the liner is not protected with any kind of grippy material, i.e. it’s not made to be removed and worn around your house as a slipper (which I would totally do).
Because of my Raynaud’s, I have been wearing these boots in temperatures as warm as 40 degrees, which is honestly much too hot unless you’re casually cruising short distances. Down to 30 degrees, my feet stayed plenty warm on a difficult fat bike ride through deep snow with only a thin pair of Bontrager’s Profila Merino wool socks. That particular ride involved a lot of grumbling and tramping around in ankle-deep snow without a hint of cold in my toes. The elastic pull tabs that tighten each boot’s ankle did their job, keeping snow out as I pushed a 40-pound bike up steep, un-groomed trails.
These boots really shine in temperatures down into the teens and twenties with a thick wool sock, particularly if you’re exerting yourself. I can’t comment on their sub-zero performance as Colorado is experiencing a fairly warm start to winter.
Sole stiffness is a 6 on Bontrager’s scale (the highest stiffness on any shoe the company offers is a 14). Walking around and driving are comfortable for short distances. I didn’t feel any bending nor did I feel the cleats poking through when mashing the pedals on steep, challenging trail climbs. While they might not be rigid enough for skinny-tire go-fast types, I am plenty happy with them on cold, wet road rides and they offer enough flex for all-day adventures that might involve espresso stops or setting up a campsite. Traction is good on dry land but, as to be expected, the lugs will get snow-packed if you’re trudging around in powder.
The boots come with substantial cleat covers for the flat-pedal community. If you plan to see more serious snow or ice action, the sole allows for two toe spikes (not included) and each boot has a gaiter hook just below the toe-box strap. Another nice touch are Velcro tabs on the rear ankles of the shoes that are designed as a place to put small red lights.
I had to order a full size larger than expected in order to accommodate anything other than a liner sock and to get the zipper to close around my ankle when wearing tights, but I’m grateful to have room in the nice, wide toe box for super-thick ski socks.
Actual weight is 1,205 grams (pair, size 43). If you don’t think in grams, just know that they surprised me with their lightness when I pulled them out of the box. They don’t feel clunky on my feet and almost look like regular shoes if you’re cruising around town and pull your pant legs over the ankles.
If you’re planning to spend several months riding in sub-freezing temperatures—whether you’re commuting or mountain biking—consider these boots. I have enjoyed their warmth, comfort and adjustability, and no longer see a well-made shoe like this as just a luxury.
Even with all the modern materials found in clothing, Merino wool has rightfully retained a place in the hearts of the outdoor enthusiast. Café du Cycliste’s Celeste cardigan sticks with that tradition, blends in some polyester, and adds a super soft fleece lining to make things that all that much better. Café du Cycliste is marketing this cardigan to the urban cyclist who finds the need for a bit of insulation during the brisk autumn months.
As a mid-weight top, the Celeste is great option on chilly outings but won’t keep you from shivering when the real cold blows in. On those days you’ll have to add some sort of wind resistant outer layer to bolster up your defenses.
The Celeste features a sturdy metal zipper, a two button neck flap, and a single rear pocket. That zippered vertical rear pocket contains a reflective flap that strangely can only be seen when the pocket is unzipped. The flap is sewn on to the inside of the pocket and secured by a single button on the outside of the cardigan. I don’t know if I’d trust it to transport anything of importance as I can easily pull a set of keys out of the pocket when it’s only secured with the flap. Obviously when it’s zipped, you’re fine…but you lose the reflectivity.
The Celeste is extremely comfortable, but it would be even better if the neck was also fleece lined instead of just wool. I think overall this is a good looking cardigan that lacks a few features I look for when shopping for cycling clothing.
$186 – cafeducycliste.com
Loulou Neck Warmer
We here at Bicycle Times love our buffs. You can even find one in our online store. A buff is the single most used piece of gear in my cold weather arsenal.
Café du Cycliste’s Loulou is definitely a step up from our offering. It is made of a Merino/Poly blend and can be worn around the neck, pulled up to cover the lower face, or even over your head to keep the heat from escaping through your helmet.
Besides being made from a nice soft wool blend, what makes the Loulou stand out is the additional material below the neck line. Extending to above my sternum it kept my neck warm, even when wind snuck past my jersey’s collar and through its zipper. It’s lightweight and easy to stash in your pocket if the day warms and you don’t need the additional coverage anymore.
The Loulou is stylish, inexpensive and extremely functional. Great product.
Made in Italy. Gray or blue. $39 – cafeducycliste.com
Want to see more? Check out Café du Cycliste’s autumn/winter product launch video below.