How To Adjust Your Riding Routine For Cooler Weather

Use these training, gear, and nutrition tips to successfully navigate the colder season.


Molly Hurford |

Let’s be honest: Riding in winter is kind of a pain for cyclists. Weather is wonky in the Autumn, and one day might be shorts weather while the next, you’re digging out your leg warmers and wondering where you put your shoe covers. Even during the course of a ride, it can be tricky – 20 minutes in, you might be sweating up a storm because the sun came out! So how do you prepare? We’ve got you covered. Follow these training, gear, and nutrition tips to get through the shoulder seasons successfully.

Training

Cooler weather means your body needs a little more time to adjust to riding. To get your muscles ready, do a warm up loop near your home. If you’re the one making the route, loop by your house or car early in the ride so you can shed any layers that seemed like a good idea before you started pedalling. If not, gear up with easy-to-shed layers such as light jackets or vests, arm or knee warmers.

You might also enjoy feeling faster. During the summer months, the heat can sap strength and make intervals feel a lot harder because your body is under more load and struggling to cool itself. The brisk Autumn weather means that you will probably see improvements in your power and even a slightly lowered heart rate and perceived exertion. This is the perfect time to keep your base strong before the winter.

Using heating cream/gel to heat your legs? Make sure you wash them carefully with dish soap or a soap that can cut through oil, and use a separate washcloth for just your legs in order to avoid feeling the burn on other parts of your body.

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Gear

The key with transition-season gear is to add pieces that are lightweight and removable to your current summer kit instead of switching out your whole summer wardrobe for winter gear. Adding accessories like arm warmers, which you can easily peel off mid-ride and stash in a pocket, means that whether the day warms up or the clouds roll in, you’re prepared. Try these must-haves:

Arm Warmers

Adding arm warmers extends the life of short sleeve jerseys well into Autumn, saving you the cash it would cost to buy a new wardrobe of long sleeve jerseys. Gore Wear Windstopper Arm Warmers are the perfect combo of warm and windproof. When paired with a vest and a short sleeve jersey, they create an almost jacket-like effect. Or try Sportful No-Rain Arm Warmers which have a water-repellent finish for wet days.

SALOMON SENSE PRO GLOVE: R 499.00

Knee Covers

You probably don’t need full leg warmers until winter hits, but you do want to cover your knees, which can take the brunt of the wind while riding. “Your knees are the lifeblood of every ride, and if you don’t take care of them, you’ll be suffering,” says Brad Huff, pro cyclist for Rally Cycling. He wears knee or leg warmers as soon as temps drop below 15 degrees. A great option are the affordable Castelli Thermoflex Knee Warmers, which turn any pair of shorts into knickers and fit in a jersey pocket if temps rise.

Toe Covers

You might not need full shoe covers yet, but those breezy fall days can make your toes cold. Toe covers for your shoes like VeloToze keep the worst of the wind off of your toes without overcooking your feet. Unlike shoe covers, which have zippers that can rub your legs raw, a toe cover is practically unnoticeable as you ride except for keeping your feet happy.

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Vest

A vest like the Castelli Pro Light Wind Vest protects your chest from wind without the risk of overheating, so it’s ideal for peak fall weather. Early morning rides and commutes often start chilly, so zip the vest all the way up to stay cozy, but as the day warms up, you can unzip or shed the vest and cool off.

Pocket-Sized Rain Jacket

This time of year, weather shifts can happen rapidly so always ride prepared. A rain jacket like the Salomon Wind Jacket doubles as a windbreaker if temperatures suddenly drop, but it can also save you if you get stuck in a passing shower. Because it’s thin, you can cram it in your jersey pocket so it’s there if you need it but not in your way if you don’t.

SALOMON PRO BEANIE: R199

Nutrition

When it’s not super hot out, it feels less crucial to reach for your water bottle. But that’s a huge mistake. Make sure you’re drinking around one bottle per hour, says Nanci Guest, R.D., sports nutrition expert – even if you don’t feel as thirsty as you did when it was 100 degrees out, you still need to hydrate. If it’s really cold, you can even start your ride with warm or hot water.

Cold can also make you hungrier. As temps drop, you might find yourself wanting to snack more than you did on blistering hot days. While it’s great to eat enough while you’re riding, be careful not to overeat just because those warm coffee shop stops suddenly seem more appealing.

Plus, the shoulder season also means the beginning of cold and flu season, so keep your immune system in top shape by eating a healthy diet packed with nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and proteins. And if you want extra support, try Nuun’s Energy Hydration Vitamins.

This article originally appeared on bicycling.com.

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