Thursday, November 03, 2022

WW4M: Cold Weather Riding Tips

 This is another "WW4M" post. That means "What Works For Me" and it may not work for you. So, take that with the following words into consideration..... Also- Standard Disclaimer.

Whisky Winston Bar
Today I am doing a "Cold Weather Riding" clinic at the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective. There are a few things I am leaving out of that talk because I cannot possibly fit everything into an hour-long presentation, so I am providing attendees with some links to do more research. You know, you won't remember everything you hear one time anyway, most likely, so all the research I did will be made public to those folks. Part of that is this post. 

One thing a lot of folks disregard, or don't even think about, is how the touch-points of your bicycle, and even other parts of your bicycle, will affect whether or not you stay warm.  Well, you can really enhance your experience riding in the cold if you employ the following ideas.

Carbon Fiber Components: Carbon is a notorious material from the standpoint of light-weight and strength. But did you know that it also has terrible heat transfer properties? Yes! And that is a good thing for cycling in cold weather. Carbon handle bars make a huge difference  in hands staying warm or not. Part of this is also what grips you use, but carbon versus aluminum is no contest when it comes to hand warmth. Aluminum will transfer heat quite well, and because it can do that, it also conducts heat from your hands to the bar. This is bad news for longer term cold weather outings. However; not everyone can get, or afford carbon handle bars. For you there are more ideas. Read on...

Ergon Bio-Kork Grips

Cork: Cork, which is a type of wood , makes a great grip material. You maybe have seen cork grips on fishing rods and understand that they are comfortable and that they are not too hot or too cold to hold in any weather. 

Well, those same traits that make cork good for fishing rods also works well for a bicycle grip. You can get traditional cork grips, ergonomic ones, (shown), or you can get cork drop bar tape as well. 

Cork does a great job as a grip. It's lightweight, doesn't transfer heat well, and it is soft to the touch. You may even decide that cork grips are for you year-round instead of just for cold weather riding! 

One interesting anecdote: I used Ergon Bio-Kork grips on one of my fat bikes for years. (Grips shown here for reference) They worked great, and if you had any doubt that they were keeping your hands warm all you had to do was to touch that metal collar with the pinch bolt through it. You'd find out that the cork was indeed doing a great job at keeping yer mitts warm and toasty! 

Composite Flat Pedals: Another great idea is to ditch your clipless pedals, thread in some flats, and use standard Winter footwear. But do NOT use metal pedals! Your feet will still get cold! That's because heat transfer from the foot, which is a very vascular part of the body, is exacerbated by using heat-sucking metal pedals, (and clipless applies as well)

The answer is to use a composite pedal which cuts way down on heat transfer. A great example that doesn't cost an arm and a leg is Fyxation's Mesa MP pedals. I've been using these pedals for over a decade now and I have several bikes set up with them. Great bearings, decent grip, and of course, no heat sucking metal.

The bonus here is that with a good set of flat pedals, you can wear whatever footwear you want to keep your feet warm. I'm partial to insulated, waterproof hiking shoes or my go-to really cold weather choice- the Keen snow boot, (whichever model they seem to have is good, usually) 

Other Touch Points: While carbon brake levers are awesome in cold weather, having the option to use them may not be available or possible for many of us. That's when you use ingenuity to overcome the problem! 

I have a big roll of gaffer tape. It's tape used in the visual arts field, but it has many other practical usages. One is to cover levers made of metal to allow you to have a barrier between fingers and heat-sucking metal. Plus, it gives you a better grip! 

It is cheap and can be purchased in wide enough rolls that you can customize your tape to fit almost any lever. Just make sure that you clean the lever first with isopropyl alcohol to get any dirt or skin oils off the surfaces you want to cover up. Gaffer tape is pretty sticky and should adhere to any anodized aluminum surface well. And the tape is cheap enough that you can replace worn bits of tape without feeling like you are throwing money into a fire. 

You can find a ton of uses for a roll of gaffer tape so the investment is well worth it. I use my roll for camera grip, labeling tool boxes, and even for marking a skills course for bike rodeos I do. It's pretty amazing stuff, but I digress....

Saddles: You can even look at your saddle and maybe make an improvement there as well. I've found that natural materials tend to be warmer than synthetic covers on saddles. So, leather, or even those Brooks saddles that are made from a cotton/rubber mix can prove to be warmer on the ol' buns. 

But by far, the leather covered saddles I have are better in terms of feeling warmer. So, give something like that a try. It doesn't have to be a Brooks either, or even that type of saddle. Just anything with a leather cover seems to be better for me.

Finally fenders  won't directly keep you warmer, but by deflecting water, snow, slush, or ice, fenders can keep those precipitates from getting on you, which would keep you warmer. Most likely, anyway, and besides, fenders do a great job of keeping that chemical soup they squirt on roads these days from destroying your drive train. (If you get full coverage fenders, that is)

Okay, that's a wrap for now. Got any great tips to share? Hit me up in the comments!


teamdarb said...

My top tip for cold weather riding is to eat before going out and use a saddle cover if leaving the bike outside. The saddle cover is not left on the saddle at lock up. Instead carry it with you and install when remounting to prevent the initial cold shock and long warm up to the anus.

I do not use liners in my bottom layers for winter and my anus gets painfully uncomfortable. That intial get on to a cold saddle is the worse for a less than meaty built human- imagine a Yeti trying to whisper real loud to your insides from below. Actually....that may be more warming than a cold saddle top.

I use an assortment of materials from a piece of wool cloth to an old helmet rain cover.

NY Roll said...

Thicker shoe/boot insoles and wool clothing if one can afford too. I run merino wool base layers in the winter and wicking moisture away from the skin in cold climates helps immensely.

Jon BALER said...

I find flat pedals in general are warmer than clipless even if they are metal. Clipless shoes tend to be tight fitting with minimal material around the toes, so any regular or flat pedal shoe will be warmer.

Jeff said...

Gaffer tape? who knew? I put one in the cart at amazon and went back to buy it today, but they are out of black now. I think you gave Amazon a boost with your post!