Archive | November, 2011

Winter Riding Position

16 Nov

I mentioned in the last post that I would elaborate a bit more on the importance of proper cycling specific winter clothing. I plan to do that in this entry as well as go into some thoughts about bike position and riding style in the winter months.

Don't be this guy

I love this movie (A Christmas Story) but don’t try to ride your bike looking like this.

Over the last few years it has become popular for riders of all levels to get a “bike fit”. I am big proponent of this and recommend it to anyone. But, bike fit is not static. It is a dynamic relationship between rider and bike that requires attention from time to time. The winter months are one of those times. As the weather gets colder, we start to see some positional issues related to environmental factors. As the temperature drops it may become necessary to modify bike fit to accommodate these factors.

The two factors we see that influence bike fit the most in winter are insufficient flexibility and equipment choices that hamper the rider’s ability to reach their normal warm weather setup.

During the winter most people are naturally riding less. The more you ride the more your body adapts to the position for riding. So conversely if you ride less you may loose some of this flexibility you gained during the summer months.

The cold weather itself is another factor. Cyclists often complain of “tight tendons” at the knee or Achilles. This is often attributed to the added exposure knees and ankles have due to the “windchill factor” of riding. While the sensation is the same the cause of the tightness is not in the tendons. Tendons are relatively static and respond to muscles. In colder conditions muscles loose a little of their pliability and involuntarily contract more than normal. Therefore, causing the tight sensation. This problem can also be exacerbated by dehydration. When it is cold out cyclists tend to not drink as much because of less perceived thirst or not noticeably sweating as much. Even though it may be cold our muscles still respond poorly to dehydration.

Not a good idea for cycling

The second factor that should be considered in the winter when bike fit is the issue is equipment choice. I mentioned in a previous post that you cant just break out your ski gloves and winter parka and go for a bike ride expecting to have a pleasant ride. Cycling puts the rider in a very specific position. This position means that clothing and accessories designed to work well for other endeavors normally fail to meet the needs of the winter cyclist. The cut of other outerwear leads to problems.

A guy in Ontario that seems to know what he is doing.

When the rider assumes a position on the bike standard outerwear pulls into abnormal positions because the cut and material is not designed to move in that way. The sleeves creep up on the arms allowing cold air to hit the wrist. The shoulders push up around head and neck impairing movement. Another annoying issue is that the tail of the jacket pulls up as the rider bends forward on the bike allowing cold air to hit the sensitive small of the back. Aside from these comfort issues there are the fit problems.

The extra material bunching up where it should not be and pulling on your body in unnatural ways makes reaching your normal position very hard. Even with proper cycling specific clothing the added layers can still impair your ability to ride comfortably in your usual position.

Typical changes the we make for winter accommodations include: …

We’ll save that one for next time.

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What to wear? What to wear?

8 Nov

Jared is always appropriately dressed.

The weather is changing and with it so are cyclists’ habits. Many hang up the bike and start working on their respective winter sports, others mount their bikes in stationary trainers and continue indoors watching I Love Lucy reruns or pretending they are racing in the big European races. Still others turn to cyclocross racing to satisfy their riding needs. (If you know me you will probably think I am about to go into a long rant about why you should own a cross bike -which you should- but that is not what this is about)

I have, over the last two years, found that with the proper preparation and equipment a rider can ride comfortably through the comparatively mild winters we have in Northwest Arkansas. I admit that it has taken me a long time to actually acquire and utilize all the needed clothing etc. that makes winter riding possible. I was stubborn and cheap about my winter choices and suffered because of it. The point of this is to help you avoid the pitfalls that made me so uncomfortable over the years.

I am not a huge fan of temperature guides. I find them to be very broad and leave out environmental factors that can seriously change the necessary clothing choices. However, Bicycling magazine recently ran a guide that I like. I have recreated this with some Highroller tweaks.

Above 70 Deg: A Jersey and Shorts should suffice fine. For light skinned riders (like myself) consider solar protection for arms and Jersey. Many clothing manufacturers are now adding these pieces to their line. They are a great way to protect from sun exposure with out heavy sunscreen which can interfere with sweat production. Also if you are lacking a full head of hair don’t forget something to keep your hear from getting sunburned through the vents on your helmet.

There are many options beside sunscreen to protect from the sun's rays

60 – 70 Deg: A base layer is the first addition to the kit when the temps start to drop. They are a valuable part of your outfit because it helps regulate your body’s core temperature. In the lower part of this temperature range (below 65) you will also need to have arm warmers and knee warmers ready as well as a pair of light full finger gloves. I also recommend a technical wool sock with a medium weight to keep the toes warm. An over sock or toe covers are not a bad idea either.

Baselayer tip: Buy the longsleeve version for winter use and cut down the sleeves for warmer weather

50 – 60 Deg: Leg warmers can replace the knee warmers. A vest is added to keep cold air away from the core while still venting excess heat. A slightly heavier weight glove can be nice for those with poor extremity circulation and a heavier shoe cove can be added to keep you toes warm.

Warmers can easily be removed and stowed if the conditions change during your ride

Most warmers are brushed on the inside to keep warmth near the skin.

Here is where it can get really tricky. The thing is we live in a climate that can vary quite a bit from morning to afternoon and from day to day. Your clothing choices from here on are going to depend as much on wind, cloud cover, and humidity as they do on the temperature

45 – 50 Deg: Consider adding a long sleeve base layer (one of my favorite pieces) and a windbreaker jacket that can be converted into a vest. A hat with ear protection is also nice at this temp range. A long sleeve Jersey is also a good idea for sunny days or days without much wind. Heavier socks in addition to the light shoe covers

Baselayers come in many styles. Your shop can help you choose the right one.

I love 2in1 pieces. It is a bit more $ but it makes total sense b/c it is both a jacket and a vest

40 – 45 Deg: Tights instead of leg warmers can be a nice thing. and booties (heavy shoe covers)

WInter tights come with extra insulation to keep you warmer than just leg warmers

30 – 40 Deg: Heavy winter gloves. Long sleeve Softshell Jersey /Jacket. A warmer hat with good ear protection. Warmer tights or bib tights. toasty toes shoe warmers or a winter specific shoe that allows for more sock layering.

From left to right Deflect glove, Radiator glove, Sub Zero glove

A set of winter shoes seems extreme, but it is one of the better purchases I have made

Below thirty: Question sanity then go with extra long sleeve jersey under Jacket. Add legwarmers under tights and consider using a hand warmer. Balaclava (covers full face except for eyes) It is essential to stay dry in this temperature range so be sure to bring along a rain jacket if you think there will be precipitation.

OK, so I realize that all this stuff seems like it is a lot of $. Why cant I just bundle up in the cotton layers I already have and don my ski jacket? There are plenty of reasons…. reasons I will elaborate on in our next post.

Thanks for reading,

Branton