by Christine Schopen
Introduction by Elena
My first fitness love is cycling, and I got into it seriously—meaning long distances– about ten years ago. By “long distances” I mean anything beyond 20 miles. Before that, bicycling was a means of transportation, or something to tool around the neighborhood in. I should also add I have always been a fair weather rider, anything lower than 50 degrees involves serious arm twisting.
About 6 years ago I joined Leukemia and Lymphoma’s Team in Training to do a 100 mile distance around Lake Tahoe—the longest ride I ever did—a seemingly impossible distance. I had a clunky $600 hybrid bicycle while everyone I met up with were sporting expensive road bikes. Our first meet up was in February. It was about 20 degrees and it took a lot of inner pep talk (or insanity) to get my ass out of my warm car and take my bike out. It was there I met Christine, properly dressed for the cold and looking all professional in my eyes.
She impressed me then and throughout our training with her physical prowess as a strong rider and continues to do so. She currently is one of the ride leaders of the Westchester Cycle Club.
Here’s her winter bicycling advice:
By Christine Schopen
I never would’ve dreamed that, at 58 ½, I’d pile on tons of layers of clothing and jump on my bike in 22 degrees. I’ve been casually riding (only above 60 degrees) for 15 or so years. In 2004, I joined the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training and found myself riding in temps below freezing, and loving it!
When I lost my job a few years ago, I started riding a few days a week with the Westchester Cycle Club. Last year I rode over 5600 miles and so far this year I have 5100 miles. Everyone knows I have no real thermostat (like the winter cycling blogger). A friend of mine carries a backpack to carry discarded clothes. I call him my Sherpa.
The trick to winter cycling is dressing appropriately. For me, this took a lot of experimenting but here’s what I found: the most important thing is to keep your extremities warm.
1. On your lower body: below 40 degrees I wear lined tights (some come with chamois, others you need to wear cycling shorts under them). Above 40 degrees, I wear leg warmers with cycling shorts.
2. Keep your head covered (wool cap, balaclava, headband). When it is below 40 degrees, I wear a wool cap and/or a balaclava to keep my head warm. In 40 and above, I wear a windproof headband.
3. Make sure your feet are covered. Depending on the temperature, the options are booties or toe covers. Booties are great for riding when it’s below 40 degrees. Toe covers are windproof and work great above 40. I also wear wool socks and when it’s really cold, I throw in some chemical toe warmers. Some people opt for the more expensive winter cycling boots.
4. On my upper body, on a really cold day, I wear a tank top that wicks moisture away from my skin, a short-sleeve wind-proof base layer, and a long-sleeved wool turtleneck. Over that I wear a lined long-sleeved fitted cycling jacket. Above 40, I wear fewer base layers, arm warmers and a windproof vest.
5. For my hands, when it is below freezing, I wear lobster gloves, which have a thumb and are two-fingered for extra warmth. In temperatures over 40, I wear a thinner weight long-fingered glove with a liner.
Start your ride feeling a little bit cold because you will warm up quickly. It will take a few rides to figure out what works for you.
Other Important Info:
When taking a break, have a hot drink but don’t linger inside a heated café for too long. Keep the rides short. You will enjoy it more.
Stay hydrated! Cold dehydrates you too!
MOST IMPORTANT – WEAR SOMETHING VERY VISIBLE
Not everyone expects to see a cyclist on the road in the middle of the winter!