Baby It’s Cold Outside. Let’s Go For a Bike Ride!
By Dave Zornow on 1/09/20 updated 1/31/20
For most people who ride for recreation, bicycling is a three season sport. However, local road and mountain bike cyclists say winter can be a great time to get outdoors…if you have the proper gear, clothing, and positive attitude.
Why ride in the winter when there are warmer options like spin classes or stationary bikes you can ride at home? "There's an unmistakable feeling of riding on crunchy dirt," says mountain bike enthusiast Anthony DeVanzo, co-owner and chef at Nyack's Velo Restaurant and Wine Bar. "The landscape changes from the greenery of spring and summer to barren soil."
Yorktown's Laura Kelly says when the days get shorter it's just warmer in the woods. "The terrain is varied and the trees provide shelter from nasty winter winds. Dirt roads are also generally sheltered by trees so riding a gravel bike is also a great option in the winter."
Cold weather enthusiasts say your usual summer exercise will feel different when it's cold outside. "It's refreshing to breath in some cold dry air and get a bit of sunlight, even if it's dim and low on the horizon," says South Nyack's Robert Panzera, who will be leading a talk on Winter Cycling basics at the 9W Bike Shop on Jan 16. "Riding outside in the winter definitely helps me avoid the winter blues, especially when the sun rises at 7 and sets at 4:30."
"Some of my favorite cold-weather bike rides have been in the woods when it starts to snow – a truly magical experience," says Kelly. "Riding your mountain bike during a light snow in the woods makes you feel like a kid again!" adds DeVanzo.
Group Rides Are Better RidesRockland Bicycling Club members Cynthia Turner and Diane Harper are both new to winter rides. "I simply did not want to stop riding as the weather got colder," says Turner. "I wasn't planning on winter cycling because I'd never done it, nor did i know anyone who rode during the winter months," adds Harper. "I thought it would be too cold and windy to be any fun. Spoiler alert: I was completely wrong!" Harper credits YouTube videos, some friendly nudges from friends, and having people with whom to ride as factors in her new enthusiasm for riding in the cold. "I've been happily (and warmly) cycling throughout November and December, and even started 2020 with a 50 mile road ride on January 1st. Club riding with groups like the Rockland Bicycling Club really helps inspire me on a cold and grey winter day to get out and hit the road."
Then there are those who just prefer the cold. Anthony DeVanzo says winter riding avoids two annoyances he dislikes during warmer weather: gnats and mosquitoes. 9W Bike Shop owner Matt Poole says he was "born from ice" as a January birthday boy. "I've always found it easier to be comfortable while being active in winter than in warmer seasons. There is only so much you can take off in the warm weather, but so many options to layer up and remain comfortable in the cold. Even extreme cold. If you hate sweating while you're active, winter is the way to go."
What To WearAll season bicyclists like to say, there's no bad weather, just bad clothing choices.
Riding in cold weather may not be extreme behavior…but it will get you thinking about extremities. A cold day will feel a little bit colder for your toes, fingers and ears unless you are dressed properly.
"Staying active and dressing for the activity is the secret to being comfortable. Sweat is the enemy so no cotton. Wicking materials only. Most important, dress for what you will be doing after 60 minutes outside, not six." Poole says if you are not cold for the first ten minutes or so out the door, then you are over dressed. "Winter temps vary more than warm weather. Think about what the temperature will be in four hours, not just when you first step outside."
"Merino wool is not only soft on the skin but wicks moisture, and insulates, retaining heat even when wet, says Laura Kelly. "It dries relatively quickly, and is naturally odor-resistant so you can wear it a few times before laundering which makes it eco-friendly, too. Kelly says she's honed her winter attire over the years. "My go-to layering system is a wool base layer top, thermal jersey or wool sweater, and a weather-resistant shell paired with thermal bib shorts under thermal running tights, mid-weight wool socks over silk liner socks, and winter bike shoes or hiking boots. I have a thermal headband or cap under my helmet and either windproof or thermal gloves, depending on how low the temps are." Kelly says that outfit will let her bike comfortably in single digit temperatures.
Too Good For a Spin Class or Riding A Trainer?Spinning, joining Pelaton or Zwift is fine, but there's something you only get by going outside. "I ride in the winter to maintain some sanity and to ensure my fitness does not slip, causing me to start over in March when the weather warms up," says Panzera. "There are lots of indoor riding and training options these days–I use those too–but there is something about getting out in the fresh air, even if it's only for an hour or two, once a week, that makes the dark winter days seem brighter."
Rockland Bicycling Club member Dave Zornow is publisher of NyackNewsAndViews.com, where this article was originally published.