Ready to get back into cycling this spring? The sun may be warmer, the skies bluer and the days ever so slightly longer, however, that cold bite is still around so it pays to keep that in mind when you get back into your morning cycle or commute.
So how do we handle these conditions and get the most out of the cycling season?
First off, layers are important, especially if you are a little sensitive to the cold. Once you are out on the road and moving you will probably want the option to roll down your sleeves and strip off the outer jacket. When this happens it’s different for everyone, it’s just a mix of what the weather is doing, how much you are wearing and how quickly your circulation improves and your body heat is able to combat the chill.
Windy days and those rainy ones are going to keep you on your toes as well, so here is a breakdown of what you need to get back into the swing of things and roll right through that cooler period.
Warming up is important before any ride, although spring is the critical one as you may not be in peak condition if you have taken a break from cycling over Winter. Even if you swapped the road bike for the gym or bike trainer, your riding muscles won’t have been worked like you’re used to, so it will take some time to get them back to their full flexibility and strength.
As well as getting back into the saddle, the crisp morning and evenings air will make muscles slow to respond so warming up before you go hard will do wonders not just for your overall performance, but also by reducing injury and soreness. A great way to warm up is to slowly loop around your street block. I love doing this because you can swing past your letterbox or car and drop off any clothes you’ve already decided you don’t need.
Spring and autumn are the best time to lay into interval sprints. You’ll see more performance, feel like you are travelling faster and get better weight loss results when you sprint in the shoulder seasons. The cool weather keeps your core temperature stable so there is less work for your body to do, whereas in summer your body has to work hard to keep you cool. On top of being more comfortable, it’s also easier to push yourself in conditions where you are not likely to get heat stroke or become severely dehydrated. That makes it the perfect platform to build your body ready for a summer of cycling.
You are looking for lightweight and easy to shed layers in the cooler months. Some days you know you will need your winter kit, especially early on as the weather seems to regress for a week or two, after that, as we move towards summer you will reach for you summer shorts and bib more often, adding in those removable extras.
To begin your wardrobe you’ll need a base layer. A quality base layer creates a barrier between your body and the elements. This is good for your ride in two ways, first, it absorbs sweat from your body so you don’t get a chill when the wind hits your skin or your wet clothes, because the moister it removes goes straight to the top layer, well away from your skin. Secondly, a base layer provides a buffer against wind, even if it’s just the current of air you create while you’re moving. And it’s not just for cooler months either, you can get great benefits from a base layer all year round, especially for ladies who would prefer to unzip a summer jersey but don’t want to bare all on the road.
Arm warmers are perfectly paired with your summer kit as they can be stripped off during your ride and tucked into your back pocket and pulled out again if you hit a cold descent or some chilling cloud covers. You might like to have a few variations in your wardrobe, some arm warmers are designed to protect from wind, others from rain, and others still are made to keep you super toasty.
Gloves are important any time your ride to protect your hands if you fall. In the cooler months, your fingers will really feel the cold bite up front, and you need them warm and responsive for shifting and breaks so wrapping them up in gloves, even fingerless ones, is essential. One option is to wear a double layer, your normal cycling gloves with long fingered gloves over the top, this way you can shed the long fingers when the sun is out.
I’d have an extra pair on hand in your work drawer or back pocket if you commute just in case your gloves get excessively wet or sweaty, riding home with wet gloves in cold weather is miserable.
Knee warmers are a great idea if you find legwarmers too hot or difficult to change out of. Your knees, like your fingers, cut through the cold air so they take the brunt of the weather. A little protection goes a long way, especially if you are prone to knee soreness or arthritis in the cold.
Quality socks are a must here. It’s something I really recommend spending a little extra on because the fabric and cut will be what you are paying for and it makes all the difference. As with the gloves an extra pair in your work drawer or back pocket and make for a comfortable ride home if you get caught out in the wet.
Toe covers are a lot more versatile and user friendly than shoe covers. They won’t protect your whole shoe but your toes, pointing into the wind and rain, will get to stay snug and dry. The biggest bonus is that while they work really well, quality toe covers are hardly noticeable on your ride and won’t interfere with your comfort or performance.
Quality vests will be breathable so you won’t get hot and sweaty. In most cases you will need to start your ride with the vest fully zipped, then gradually work the zip down to let in the cold air as the temperature rises.
Even if it’s not raining I’d recommend a pocket rain jacket, tucked into one of your back pockets for those all too common spring showers.
If the light layers aren’t enough for you then you might want to look at head coverings. Your head and feet are really important for heat retention so if your toes are warm and dry and you are looking for something else for warmth a thin wool cap is perfect. Go for a fabric and weave that is both breathable and thin, so it fits under your helmet and won’t get steamy.
Wool neck tubes that you can pull over your chin and polar fleece headbands with small earflaps might also be helpful items if you are in especially bitter regions of Australia.
You might want to add some hot water to top up your bottle in the mornings so it’s not icy cold on your teeth. It’s certainly harder to drink water in cold weather if it makes you shudder. Drinking is still important even though you might not notice the loss of fluid. You will be sweating and processing toxins as you ride so keep those muscles and blood cells hydrated and make sure you drink at least one bidon per hour of riding.
Like always it’s important to eat a well-balanced range of fruits, vegetables, proteins and grains. You might be suffering from a little extra weight if you have been tucking into those warming winter comfort foods. Now is the perfect time to drop those habits and look for light and healthy snacks and meals to shape you for summer.
If you really want to look great on the road check out our custom kit that comes with matching wind vest, arm warmers, base layer, leg and knee warmers to compliment your stylish bib and jersey. Click here to get a quote today!
Avoiding the chill and staying warm for your whole ride? That’s freedom!
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