How to Ride Outside in the Winter!

Winter Riding!

The days are getting shorter, the temperature colder and most triathletes are heading for their basements to ride their bikes. But there is another option and with the right equipment choice riding outside through most of the winter is a viable option for many, here are some helpful tips:


With the right clothing you can ride outside quite comfortably no matter what the temperature. The key is dressing right and keeping your extremities warm. Remember that everyone is different and you will need to dial in what works best for you, some people need more stuff some less

Feet – keeping your feet warm is the key to a comfortable ride

  • Neoprene Booties over your bike shoes
  • Thermal insoles
  • Thicker socks
  • Winter bike boots (may require mtn bike pedals), winter riding boots are much warmer and offer better water protection, but buy them big so that you can wear thick socks
  • Hot Shots!! Put them on top of your socks inside your bike shoes to help keep your feet warm (another reason to have shoes that are a little big)

Legs – a few options in degrees of warmth

  • Leg warmers – good till about 5C
  • Regular Tights – plain tights you can wear over your bike shorts, good to about 0C
  • Wind Tights – thicker/thermal tights with a wind block panel on the front, good for 0C and colder.

Chest Upper Body – Layering is key!

  • A tight fitting, good wicking base layer to start, then add pieces depending on how cold it is
  • Multiple layers are key and you can use things like arm warmer so that you can take them off if you get too hot
  • A good jacket that will protect you from wind and moisture

Hands –The appropriate pair of gloves are critical

  • Full finger gloves will be a bit cooler but you will have better feel in terms of shifting and braking
  • Lobster claw type gloves are the warmest but have the least feel
  • Hot shots can also be put in your gloves for added warmth.
  • Having a thin inner glove and insulating outer glove can also help

Head and Neck– another critical area

·       A skull cap is warm and good for 0C+

·       A buff around your neck for weather <10C can really help as well

·       A balaclava is the warmest and good once the temp is <0C

Keys to think about

Ø  When it comes to clothing and riding in the cold one key to remember is that you don’t want to sweat too much. Wearing too many clothes is a big mistake a lot of athletes make. You end up sweating a ton and then when you stop working you get cold, so don’t over dress, especially on the body (feet and hands are hard to over dress)

Ø  You should be a little on the cool side for your first 10min on the road and then warm up as your effort level builds, if you are hot right away you are likely overdressed

Ø   Use your jacket zipper!! Unzip your jacket when you are climbing/working hard, this will help to keep you from sweating too much and then just zip up your jacket at the top to stay warm

Ø  Overtime you will have a better feel for the right combinations of clothing work for what temperatures for you


Bike Set Up:

Ideally for winter riding you use a road bike, mtn bike or gravel bike, and it doesn’t have to be a great bike, as long as it’s in good working condition that is all the really counts. It’s not about speed it’s about the effort level, you will never be fast in the winter so a fast bike isn’t what you need

  • Tires – On a road bike (or tri bike) you can get 25-28mm tires that are a bit bigger and more comfortable and give you more grip on the road. With a gravel bike or mtn bike you have the option of getting studded tires (the tire has bunch of little carbide studs in it) that will grip any icy patches you may encounter. These tires are heavy and slower  but you will be able to ride across any ice and the studs are fine to ride on the road as well
  • Fenders – you can get cheap fenders for both the front and back that make a big difference as it will stop you from spraying yourself. This is important for rainy days and dry days. Even on dry days the roads can be wet from the snow melting, so a fender will help protect you from the spraying yoursel

After the ride there will be salt and sand on the roads at this time of year so a quick clean of your bike after a ride will help keep it in good working order:

  • Use a warm, soapy bucket of water and a cloth to wipe down your frame, wheels and components. Then use a clean dry cloth to dry your bike off
  • Some biodegradable degreaser on your chain to clean it up using an old tooth brush and rag. Then add some oil to your chain and then wipe off any extra with a clean rag

It doesn’t take a lot of time to do a quick clean of your bike and this will help to keep it in good working order for all of your rides.

On the Road:

Ride Route:  Picking the right route can go along way in helping you enjoy your day!

  • Start into the wind so that you have a tailwind later in the ride, its much warmer with a tail wind
  • Ride multiple loops, this keeps you closer to home if you do get cold and want to head back
  • Put warm water in your water bottles, this helps to stop them from freezing
  • When its below 0C your water bottles will freeze (even with hot water in them), but if you use a camelback and put it on under your jacket you will have easy access to ice free fluids!
  • Don’t take long stops, if you need to refuel that’s fine, but make it quick, stopping for too long allows your body to cool off and can make starting again very difficult
  • One big thing to remember is that you will be much slower at this time of year than in the summer, so don’t get caught up with average speed! The bulky warm clothing combined with cold dense air and wind will make you 2-5+kph slower than a beautiful mid summer ride, so don’t worry about it its about the effort!

Following these tips can help you spend more time outside and less time in your basement! Having spent lots of time inside earlier in my career I now no longer ride inside and have been able to ride outside in the winter for the last 15 years. The trainer is still a great tool, but winters in Canada can be long and being able to mix it some outdoor riding with your indoor training can really help your fitness, bike handling skills and motivation over the winter 


 Any questions contact Nigel