Full belly after Christmas? Pants a little too tight around the middle? Bike looking a little lonely in the basement as the winter days are short on light? Solution: winter rides at night! If you are like me and the mere notion of climbing on a trainer is a struggle, or the idea of sweating it out in a noisy spin class is anathema to you, then pack up, hit the trails after work, and get out for a night ride! With only a little preparation, and a few new toys from Santa (or cashing in the gift-cards for something more useful than more banana republic shirts..) you can have fun over winter, stay fit, and avoid the creep of those extra pounds.
Baselayer: Probably the most important clothing item for winter. Cotton is rotten, so go with other natural fibers, namely wool undies. Ibex sports bra (even for the lads if they want!), Io-Bio baselayer (amazingly silky soft, super thin fabric) or Smartwool base: you won’t smell like a sheep when you get sweaty, but will wick dry, and stay warm when wet. Plus, by some miracle, these essentials never get stinky (unlike sheep).
Booties: Windproof booties: the best investment you can make in winter. No question, as the man says: Just do it.
Winter cycling knickers: with wooly snowboard socks, or winter tights with shorts underneath: My preference is for the knickers-long socks combo, as the tights-shorts seem to get too hot. Unless it is below 15 degrees, or in sloppy slushy conditions, the capri length with in-built chamois works best for me.
Jacket: windproof but breathable fabric: Most Fall riding gear is fine, a wind-breaker on top will do the business, but a specialized jacket (matching the knickers!) will be the bomb! My 2 winter kits (very sleek and fab) came from Santa several years ago, and are holding up perfectly. These pieces are generally built to withstand much more rigorous conditions, so are structured well and survive the multiple mud, slush, snow and dunks, as well as multiple launderings.
Lights: Having been doing this mountain bike stuff from over a decade ago, I have run the full spectrum of lights, from heavy battery packs carries in a backpack or mounted onto the frame, to this years super light devices, which have revolutionized night-riding. Cygolite Expilion is the headlamp of choice, and the handlebar mounted lamp is a good companion. If you have only enough for one, get the headlamp. They are rechargeable, last 10 hours burn time on low power, and 4 on high power. And can even charge using a USB cord. Super bright LED’s, they are light light light! Even on the helmet, they are the first lights to NOT give me a pain in the neck, since they are barely noticeable once mounted.
Gloves: Double layers please: Louis Garneau are my new best friends. 20-45 degrees, they have a thin lining glove which has grippy dots for traction on their own, and the outer glove is windproof, padded on the backs of the fingers! Yaaay, how long did it take them to figure that one out? I resort to the old favourite LobsterMitts once it falls below 25, for the ultimate snug-in-bed feeling. There is still room in there for an emergency hand-warmer packet for us skinny chicks, or Raynauds victims!
Bike: Slime in the tyres: Stans liquid sealant will protect you against those pricker thorns, and minimize the flats. Citrus degreaser for the drivetrain, followed by Teflon-based dry-lube to the chain. Apply sparingly for friction free, goop free rides.
Fuel: Cold winter rides are great for knocking the extra pounds off, but because adverse temperatures demand an increase in metabolic rate for just poking around, you will be well served by bringing high quality real-rood items with you. Home made granola bars, Fig Newmans, Baby potatoes rolled in olive oil and salt, all my go-to nibbles. In a pinch, Hammer Gels will get you home, but aren’t as easy to handle and store in the winter (or as fun to munch on..)
The focus though, is to stay active, keep moving, don’t allow that hard earned base fitness slip away during the dark months. Grab a friend, set a date and hit the trails after work. You will be thrilled that you made the effort, and rewarded by the buzz, the silent night, the new skills and the deeper relationship with your steed!