When the weather turns foul and the conditions prove challenging, how do you get out? There’s a common misconception that athletes are immune to motivational hurdles like bad weather when, in fact, everyone at some point struggles with mustering the energy to get out for a spin on those especially frosty days. We posed this question—“How do you get out?”—and a few others to a handful of our athletes scattered across the country to find out how they approach winter riding. Read on for some tips and motivation to keep you riding through winter.
How Do You Feel About Winter Riding?
“I used to really hate it growing up in northern New Jersey. Road riding up there is like suicide, so when the trails were snowed over my only option really was the indoor trainer. Now that I’m down in Brevard, though, we rarely see snow and it doesn’t get brutally cold like up in the Northeast…. But braving the cold when everyone else is on the trainer makes me feel like superwoman!”—Nina Machnowski (Brevard, NC)
“I enjoy the calm in the winter, especially with the sun setting earlier. That being said, the unpredictable weather stresses me out. I like to have a plan for the week and it can be hard to know if I’ll be able to ride (outside) or be on the trainer.”—Hannah Shell (Boulder, CO)
“Pre-pandemic, I was a five day a week commuter with a 13-mile one way commute. Now that I can work from home most of the time, I am only doing that ride to the office 1-2 days a week. That said, during winter I still prefer to do my riding outside and still choose to ride to work when I have to go into the office. I did finally cave and purchase a smart trainer—but I try to avoid it as much as possible because I really get so much more from riding outside.” —Laura Schmidtt, (Portland, OR)
“I spend most of my free time skiing (in winter), but you can find me out on my fat bike occasionally. I don’t winter riding but I usually take this time off and let my stoke build for next season.”—Cooper Ott (Gunnison, CO)
“Some may not think of Arizona as having a true winter climate but the early mornings and late evenings can dip well below the 40s making hand-numbing warmups on rides a common occurrence. I love the drastic changes in temperature during the winter months, but if it weren’t for good breathable gear and proper layering it would be pretty difficult. I prefer to be on the cold side now that I’m pregnant and overheating can be a real problem so I’ll say that I love winter for riding.” —Nicole Caldwell (Tucson, AZ)
How Do You Get Out in the Winter—Any Advice on How to Motivate?
“Aside from temperature, I also look at the wind direction. I try to plan my routes so that I start heading into the wind so I’m rewarded with a tailwind during the second half. Of course, sometimes it feels like there is a swirling headwind in all directions. On those days, there’s a lot of negotiating going on between my ears to get myself to finish the ride, often involving promises of a long, hot epsom salt bath or a latte from my favorite coffee shop. Sometimes that coffee shop stop is the only thing that motivates me to keep going. Destination rides can be a wonderful carrot!” —Deanna McCurdy (Littleton, CO)
“Have a little flexibility in training can be good—you’re not going to do a quality interval workout riding through six inches of slush.”—Syd Schulz (Los Alamos, NM)
“I usually bring my pup which is a great incentive to get out the door. He LOVES fat biking SO much that it makes me love it too!”—Cooper Ott (Gunnison, CO)
I have forced myself to ride on bad days enough times to know that once I am outside on my bike, it only takes about 10 minutes to be warm. I almost never regret getting out on my bike because I always feel energized after I do.”—Laura Schmidtt (Portland, OR)
“A long cold ride is much better with company… it makes it feel like less of an insane life choice.”
—Hannah Shell (Boulder, CO)
“My current incentive is for the health of my baby girl! I am 30 weeks pregnant and can still ride a bike. Getting out the door and pedaling is helping me and the baby stay healthy.”—Nicole Caldwell (Tucson, AZ)
Do You Have Any Technical Tips on Riding in Winter—Changes to Your Bike Set-up, Gear Tips, etc.?
“[For Seattle] I have a full rain set-up—fenders with mud guards, rain gear, bar end mitts and shoe covers. I lower my PSI a bit on rainy days and take extra care to wipe down my bike after rides.” —Marley Blonsky (Seattle, WA)
“I have a gravel bike with two sets of wheels: road wheels/tires for Summer and Fall and wider setup with more traction for Winter and Spring. When I am missing my mountain bike, I love to take it for a spin through my neighborhood on snow-covered streets. A little bit of snow and ice keeps me on my toes and reminds me of summer rides on sandy or slick singletrack!”—Deanna McCurdy (Littleton, CO)
“Run lower PSI. Use an insulated bottle to prevent your water from freezing. Wear a balaclava to pull over your mouth and nose to keep your face warm and prevent damage to your throat from breathing in cold air. Try not to sweat; it will only make you colder if you slow down or start descending. Put on a thicker moisturizer with some SPF before heading out so your skin doesn’t crack in the cold and wind.”—Nina Machnowski (Brevard, NC)
“Be bold, start cold! I hate getting all dressed up and out the door only to have to stop minutes later to adjust layering. It’s better to start a little chilly and pack an extra layer than to sweat out your baselayers right away. I always pack a puffy coat and a warmer pair of gloves in my frame bag.” —Cooper Ott (Gunnison, CO)
“For commuters who live in a rainy area: invest in a boot/glove dryer! I have one at home and in my office. There is nothing worse than getting soaked on the way to work and then having to put wet gloves or shoes back on for the ride home. Also the PI dry gear is almost always 100 percent dry when I am ready to gear up and head back home after a rainy commute.”—Laura Schmidtt (Portland, OR)
“The hand warmers that heat when you shake them are worth every penny for longer cold rides. Vaseline is good around the nose to prevent chapped skin.”—Hannah Shell (Boulder, CO)
“If I am going to go on a cold bike ride the next day, I will get all my clothes together for the ride the night before. This helps with motivation to go ride because the hardest part is actually just getting motivated to get ready—there’s so much clothing and gear! I usually wear a thermal top, thermal pants, wool socks, thick winter gloves, and a neck gaiter.”—Lia Westermann (Salt Lake City, UT)
“Merino baselayers are magic. Waterproof pants. Winter shoes. I ride my road bike much more in the winter because the trails are snowy or muddy, but if the roads are really icy I’ll either ride indoors or ride my MTB on the road. Or say screw it and go skiing!”—Syd Schulz (Los Alamos, NM)
“Get the right gear! I have a note in my phone for different temperature ranges because I have the tendency to overdress. For instance MTB in 35-45 deg says “thick socks, knee pads, bibs + jersey or baselayer shirt + jersey, lightweight shell jacket, normal gloves (or thicker if closer to 35), another pair of thicker gloves for descent, lightweight balaclava.” Start the ride before any weather hits. Always easier to get caught out in snow than it is to set out in snow.”—Britt Greer (Golden, CO
“Most people don’t feel the need for drinking when it’s so cold but it’s just as important as ever to have proper hydration and fueling. It will keep the shivering down if you’re well nourished and hydrated.”—Nicole Caldwell (Tucson, AZ)
“If you’re riding somewhere you’ll need to look presentable, bring an extra change of clothes. Newspaper in your shoes works incredibly well to soak up moisture after a soppy ride.” —Marley Blonsky (Seattle, WA)
“Find winter gloves that don’t make you feel sketchy on the bike, especially for MTB. I love the AmFib light gloves because they feel just like normal gloves in terms of braking control and knowing where my hands are! And they are warm!”—Syd Schulz (Los Alamos, NM)
“I used to really struggle when the colder months started to roll around—it really took a toll on my mental health. However, when I moved to Brevard, got all the proper gear, and started learning new strategies for those colder days, I gained a new appreciation for Winter! There are actually so many things that make Winter riding special, like icicles hanging off the sides of rocks and frozen trickles of water that I wouldn’t see if I stayed inside on the trainer.”—Nina Machnowski (Brevard, NC)
“Winter riding for me is just a little bonus. Time to spend with my pup or pulling my daughter in the chariot. I am a skier at heart and that is always what I will choose (first) in the winter, however, it is nice to switch it up and get out on the fat bike every now and then.” Cooper Ott (Gunnison CO)
“Find trails where conditions aren’t as variable. If you live in the Front Range, Three Sisters is pretty great year round.”—Britt Greer (Golden, CO)
“Repeating the mantra ‘winter miles equals summer smiles’ on especially challenging cold weather days. I keep a journal of thoughts about my workouts and [come summer] look back at what I wrote before a race. Reading through entries about battling the cold wind, dreary gray days, or overcoming epically adverse conditions always puts a smile on my face and gives me a little extra bit of confidence on race day.” —Deanna McCurdy (Littleton, CO)