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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