Winter Riding...learning by years of mistakes...

When the window to ride is open I have to jump in with both feet, regardless of the weather. My window to ride was open this past Sunday morning. Even though the temperature was reading 8 degrees at the house I was motivated to grab my Salsa Horsethief hit the snow on Shenandoah Mountain. A last minute connect with Andrew from the shop and I had a motivated riding partner

Andrew climbing up near the Reddish Saddle

Over the years I have made a lot of mistakes when it comes to winter riding. What I have learned through these mistakes is something I would like to share so hopefully you will get to experience a beautiful winter riding day on the mountain.

Final adjustment time before the downhill.


Thomas's top ten tips to making the winter ride a little bit better!

1- Taping the brake levers:  I run a thin layer of cloth tape on my mountain & commuter bike brake levers to help insulate my hands from cold metal. Constant touching of the cold levers will sap your hands of heat. 

2 - Warm cloths: Make sure all your riding gear is warm when you go to put it on...a riding bag in the trunk does not count.  

3 - When to get dress: Don't get dress in a parking lot, you will lose all your body heat. If  it is a close drive to your riding destination then get dress in the warmth of the house. If it is longer drive I like to get partially dress at home then do a quick pull off 5 or 10 minutes from the destination, this will allow me and my cloths to get acclimated, I am also ready to roll when I arrive. 

4 - Gloves: Very seldom am I doing a ride with only one set of gloves. I usually have two pairs to cover a temperature range, doing a quick swap out before my hands get too hot or cold. I will sometimes store the extra gloves under my vest to act as a warmth layer and get the second pair of gloves warm (putting cold hands in cold gloves does not help).   Bar Mitts...there is nothing better for days like it was today! On cold mornings our family even uses them on the trail-a-bike for taking the 5 year old to school.

5 - Shoes:  I sometimes use toe covers but most of the time nothing is better then a good pair of winter shoes. This is not low cost purchase, but when I did the math the two pairs of winter shoes I used over 14 years cost me less then $40 a year (just got my 3rd pair last year). How many times have you told yourself on a cold ride you would do anything for warm feet! 

Decision time..."freshies" either way!


6 - Helmets: Do you ski or snowboard? If you do you probably have a warmer helmet. When the weather gets really cold I grab my snow board helmet instead of my bike helmet. It has great coverage and warmth. 

7 - Neck gator: We don't put enough importance on keeping our necks warms. So much of our daily living (and riding) tension is held through our next and shoulders. Keeping this area is key to a healthy ride and life! I love a merino wool multi tube that goes around your next. It keeps this area to warm and is easy to pull over your face as needed. 

8 - Go wool base layer:  A good merino wool base layer should be what you have covering your top half.  A merino wool base layer is comfortable and keeps you warm when it gets damp from sweat. Just remember to gentle wash in cold and never put in the dryer. 

9: Vest: No matter if it is in the 50's or single digits I am always wearing my vest.   A vest is a great  way to keep your core warm and preventing you from over sweating.  

10: Adjust & eat at the right time: Adjust you cloths and eat before it is too late: Almost every ride I will have a few "time to adjust" break points.  Make this clothing adjustments before you are a slightest bit too cold or too warm. If you get too cold it takes your body way to much energy to try and get warm again. Our bodies also consume a lot more calories when it is fighting to stay warm so remember to eat when you are not hungry yet.  When you take these adjustment brakes do them in sunny and wind sheltered spots.