Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter riding can be a good thing.

After today's ride I found a renewed sense of passion for my fitness routine. It seems like a shame to squander that season ending fitness throughout the winter months whilst watching endless TV, drinking beer and getting fat? Ideally a little break is fine but as soon as January 1 rolls around the thoughts quickly turn to spring and a new season of riding and racing. The spring training ensues with hours of mind-numbing spinning on the stationary trainer. UGH! Kill me now!
Over the years this has been the usual routine for me. I have fought it over and over and I have discovered that I would much rather endure the harshness of training in the great outdoors versus the prospect of the indoor training experience. As a result, I will be able to maintain my fitness, sanity and pleasant attitude. The key will be to avoid over-training so that I will not be burned out when spring arrives. Sure, I guess I could always embrace a new form of winter cross training such as Zumba, running or cross country skiing but I prefer to "enhance" my passion for cycling on a year round basis.
To make this possible it has taken several necessary additions to the cycling wardrobe. The advent of new insulating products has made a huge difference in cold weather comfort. I have poor circulation (old man alert) and my insulating emphasis is mainly on the hands and feet. I start off with a warm, dry pair of wool blend socks. Lately, I've been digging the DeFeet Woolie Boolie socks. In addition to the socks, a pair of thin sock liners next to the skin will trap warm air. It is important to have plenty of room in the gloves and shoes for warm air to trap between the layers and sweat to wick away from the skin. Tight shoes and gloves will only make you colder.

I finally decided to go with a winter cycling boot. It seems like there is this period of denial where most riders think they can get by without investing in a dedicated winter cycling boot. "Heck, my MTB shoes and neoprene booties got me this far." Eventually, most cold weather riders succumb to the idea of warmer feet and never look back at why the decision didn't happen sooner. There are many makes and models on the market today. I went with the Louis Garneau 0 Ergo Grip shoes and I have found them to be well made, functional and warm.

Louis Garneau 0 Ergo Grip Shoes:

Today's temperatures were exceptionally cold (single digits) so I topped off my winter boots with the Endura MT500 shoe cover. Yes, my feet looked gigantic with the multiple layers of insulation but they were toasty through two hours of winter riding. Success!

My hands are another extremity that require adequate insulation. If I can keep my extremities warm then my whole body will remain comfortable. For extremely cold days or anything under 20 degrees I tend to go with the handlebar gauntlets. Mine are a cheap knock-off designed for snowmobile and ATV use.

For the absolute best I would recommend the authentic Moose Mitts designed and manufactured right here in Michigan.

Next, I start out with a thin silk blend glove liner. I love the feel of the Thermasilk liner and the added layer of insulation is ideal. As a result, I can wear a less bulky glove with good results. The bonus with the glove liner is if you need to remove the outer glove to reach in a pocket or repair a flat the liner is perfect for preventing the hands from exposure to the cold air.

After freezing my digits off with inferior mid-weight gloves I have recently opted for the Louis Garneau ETS Ski Glove. LG has many varieties available for winter use and these are getting the job done. These gloves are less bulky and offer plenty of dexterity for shifting as well as being well made and durable. Sweet!

Louis Garneau Winter Gloves:

Simply stated, warm feet and hands can put the enjoyment back into winter riding where it belongs. Winter riding is hard enough as it is without the hassle of numb limbs. Suit up and get out! Good luck!