Cold Weather & Training

So, I’m not opposed to riding in the cold. Some say that it’s a stupid thing to do; I say continue to do whatever you enjoy doing.

I’m in the “no ice, no problem” camp.

Staying warm is not impossible and, at times, being too warm can even be harmful in the cold.

That said, there is a major concern with exercising in the cold weather: exercising muscles that are not warm can cause them harm. Here’s a simplified explanation that was given to me—when you pedal you are contracting and releasing a group of muscles in a very coordinated rhythm. When it is cold outside the muscles contract and stay contacted a tad too long before they release thereby disrupting the rhythm. But the failure to release on time results in the muscles tearing. This damage is not the same tearing that makes you faster—it is just plain ole harmful.

This misfiring and additional damage will result in a power loss (speed at expected HR, or raw power numbers on a power tap) and will demand additional time to recover. So it is just like the old adage: one step forward (because you’re riding your bike); two steps backward (because your messing up your legs). A net loss.

So, stay inside, right?

No way. I hate the trainer and I don’t mind the cold. No ice; no problem.

Dress appropriate, especially your legs!

Toes, fingers head and face go without saying, right?

In the past I wouldn’t put on leg warmers until it got below 50*, but even the pros have warmers on in temps below ~60*. I always thought they were just sissies. And, as usual, I was wrong.

Here’s my new cold solution for the legs in temps around freezing and below: bibs with knee warmers and winter tights. In the past I’d only have the bibs and tights. The added layer around the thigh/knee is invaluable—remember it’s your quads, hamstrings and glutes that do a great deal of the pedaling work.

The rest is common sense: really good gloves, thick wool socks, booties, a good hat to trap heat but not one to make you sweat, winter base layer, jersey (longsleve) and vest or jacket.

Craft makes superb cold weather gear.

Happy cycling!


  1. i recommend smart wool for cold weather base layers, i picked one up a couple weeks ago and rode in temps around 38 and never felt cold, and unlike many of the wicking base layers the smart wool fibers dont get smelly so your teammates wont mind being around after the ride.
    i concur with mike that craft also make great cold weather products.

  2. Looks like the blog guy is slacking through the new year!!!!! Last post is growing cobwebs!

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