Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tricks of the trade: Cold Psychology

Above all else, the primary thing you need to ride in temperatures that you perceive as "cold" is a willingness to expand your horizons.

This is not to say that someone who hung their bike up in September should just go on a sub-zero all-day epic in the midst of January. It is to say that "acclimating" to the temperature is mostly in your head. Jill and Doug aren't any more resilient than any other human being. They've just got experience, and they know what works for them because they bothered to give it a try. If you are Jill or Doug and are reading this, I'm sorry I gave away your dirty little secret.

Through experience alone, you figure out what works for you in the cold, so it's best to start venturing out for short periods of time or in "somewhat" cold climates, then expand your horizons as the weather gets colder, or start going out longer to determine where your weaknesses are.

Weaknesses can be in clothing:

  • too hot
  • too cold
  • a drafty seam in your favorite winter jersey
Weaknesses can be mechanical:
  • Drivetrain lubrication may be either too thick or doesn't protect from salt
  • The ratchet in an old freehub might fail to grab in cold temps
  • Your light's batteries might not last as long in the cold
Weaknesses can be mental, too. Those usually fade pretty quickly once you find out that you won't, in fact, die.


Paul in Minneapolis said...

I tend to start off cold and after two or three miles I warm up. In very cold (<0) my toes start cooling after three miles unless I wiggle them a lot, also fingers cool off the quickest and wiggling from the start helps a bunch...

James Oiler said...

My best strategy for staying warm has been to stake out the office building lobbies that are open in the AM when I'm making my way. I dress lighter that most any winter cyclist I've ever seen (and I don't do all this sub zero stuff). I dead sprint between these office building lobbies that are spaced about 18 minutes apart on my commute. Is this a great plan? Maybe, maybe not.

Your commitment to the cycling is flat out inspiring. Thanks for sharing these experiences and your incites.

Doug said...

So right you are! The right clothing with lots of experience makes a huge difference. Plus, it helps to be out in it everyday and be acclimatized to the conditions. I haven't always ridden in below zero weather. I had to learn how to do it. Now I can be comfortable even in -15 or -20 degree weather.

Anonymous said...

The shorter days and nights make a difference, too. Its all about the weather and the season and everything. i think for me it took a while to not be sleepy all the time.

kG said...

This is why I always use that phrase "mind over mileage" -- it's so true. 80% of every winter challenge is mental. 10% is protection from the cold -- mental or not, frostbite is real if you aren't prepared. The other 10% is traction, which most of the time around here isn't an issue at all after the 1st snow event -- after that, the residual salt in the pores of the street surface are enough to keep things safe, and they usually treat on top of that. Also, just trusting your instincts - going with your gut. If something looks unsafe, re-route. Give yourself more time, relax and ride loose. Tense up, and your steering response suffers, and will result in a fall or something -- just enjoy, remind yourself to stay loose, and you can handle any surface condition. A good backup plan and a forgiving spouse or friend helps too, just in case.

Sairen said...

Okay, here's my biggest "wuss out excuse" ...perhaps someone can help me out with just the right way to get over myself.

I'm confident I can dress warmly enough for the ride. What I *don't* want to deal with are the three or four extra layers of clothes once I get to the office! ...carting a change of clothes (bulkier themselves than in the summer)...dealing with perhaps extra layers for the warmer ride home... How do you manage all that bulk - what a pain in the butt!

Please. Talk me out of this kind of attitude.

Noah said...

I just fold them up and put them under my desk.

If you're talking about the haul from wherever you change, to your desk? Well that's what I use my extra pannier for. I only really "need" one pannier most of the time. Those days where you need a lot more clothes in the morning than in the evening, the second pannier is great for toting the extra layers back home. It's also good for lugging your riding clothes to your desk. I have a photo somewhere in the more-than-1000-posts that shows all my riding clothes folded up and on my desk.

I also dry my moist clothes off a bit by putting them on top of my warm computer monitor. Maybe that's TMI for you.

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