I woke up like normal this morning to a gaggle of hungry dogs and a bed that was much warmer than the weather outside. I really didn’t want to walk out the door and go ride, but I knew I needed to.
Getting ready to ride this time of year takes a little bit more effort than it does in the spring or summer. It’s not simply a matter of picking your favorite jersey and shorts and hopping on in the afternoon after work. First, we don’t have afternoons anymore. Second, you’re going to need a few more layers. Yea, it’s pretty mild in Savannah but anytime it’s below 70 degrees, you need something on your knees. If it’s in the 60s and I know it’s going to warm up throughout the ride, I’m happy to simply wear embrocation. We carry Morgan Blue warming oils here at the shop and we’ve always had success with those. When it gets cooler, and you need to wear something on your legs, you can layer the Morgan Blue under some warmers for extra comfort. Unlike some brands of embro, it won’t burn while still keeping you warm. More importantly, it won’t burn in the shower after your ride.
I also opt for embrocation when I race more often than not. I hate having warmers on my legs or knees when I’m racing, so pretty much anything down to 40 degrees, I’m bare legged. For training though, once it drops below 60, I’m probably heading for some warmers. I have a finite supply of embrocation and, unless my washer breaks, I can wear my warmers pretty much as many times as I want.
You’re also going to want to opt for numerous thin layers, rather than one or two heavy items. You’re not trying to look like Ralphie, but having a thin vest that fits in your jersey pocket is much nicer than melting for the last half hour of your ride and fighting the growing temptation to ditch your $200 top on the side of the road. David’s mantra before our shop ride is always “dress for the ride, not for the weather”. Take a look at the expected temperature for the time you think you’ll complete your ride, not the temperature when you step outside. Also, aim to be a little bit chilly when you leave your house, knowing that you’ll naturally warm up as you start riding.
There’s some other safety considerations that need to be made for winter riding. Daylight is getting more scarce, which means you’ll need to accommodate in order to stay safe. If you’re opting to ride outside after dusk, you’ll need some lights and if you’re riding inside, you’ll need to put some padding on the coffee table in expectation of riding off the side of the rollers.
Lights for training in the dark are a bit different than the lights you use for kicking around downtown with your friends. You’ll need something to help you see the potholes, sand and other road bike booby traps. If you’re riding the circle of shame out at Georgia Tech, you’ll have streetlights to help you see, so you should be safe/comfortable with something like the CatEye Volt 100. I rode it without a headlight once, and it was only kind of terrifying, so something in the 100 lumen range will be enough to fill in the shadows. For riding solo, I’d recommend something bigger like the Serfas USL-305. Adding some additional reflective materials to your bike, or wearing some reflective clothes are a great supplement to your existing rear blinky lights, so you should probably put Specialized’s Deflect Reflect Hybrid jacket on your winter holiday wish list.
Once you’ve convinced yourself to get out and ride, instead of staying in and hibernating, what should you do? We’ll get into that next time. For now, enjoy your extra holiday calories and, most importantly, keep your legs spinning!