Some of us can’t do without a regular dose of outdoor fitness. Many people who love cycling stash their bikes when chilly winter weather comes rolling in. But does the entry of winter really justify giving up biking?
Pros of Winter Cycling
Higher Calorie Burn
Biking – especially in cold weather – burns more calories per mile than walking or skiing. That’s certainly worth considering!
Beating the Winter Blahs
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a chemical imbalance caused by a relatively low exposure to natural sunlight. It’s common in the winter and can throw off circadian rhythms and negatively affect mood. So cycling on a sunny day could help ease the “winter blues.”
Most winter sports, like skiing and ice-skating, have a high injury risk. Cycling has less of an impact on the joints because you’re in a more comfortable sitting position and your body stays in a relatively fixed position while you ride.
Cons of Winter Cycling
Risk of Exposure
Even with appropriate clothing, there’s a risk of exposure to the elements. If you’re suddenly caught in an extreme change of weather, frostbite is an unfortunate possibility.
When cycling during winter, there’s always the need to stay aware of frozen pools of ice on the road. As a precaution, always ride in an alert position while on the lookout for any potential frozen hazards. Also, look closely for black ice, especially at nighttime.
It gets dark earlier in the winter. Even during the day, visibility can be diminished – extreme winters are the brightest and drivers’ view may be impaired. Extra care should also be taken in mountainous areas where there’s the possibility of sudden, unexpected dips in visibility.
Remember there are special safety considerations to make while biking through the hazards of ice and snow. Many bikes aren’t quite setup to handle the special conditions, so make sure your is. You’ll also want to wear the right gear:
Facemask: While riding against the chilly winds, you’ll definitely need a facemask to prevent getting frostbitten.
Goggles: Ski goggles really come in handy here, since your eyes are exposed to foreign particles, especially in icy, windy, conditions. And you want safe, clear riding. Teary blinking eyes can really get you in a bind and make it difficult to freely ride.
Reflective Vest: Wearing a vest can help you be seen well, whether it’s a bright sun or dark evening that’s obstructing drivers’ view.
Under-clothing Layers: Retaining your body heat is important in blustery winter conditions, so have insulation under your regular clothing to keep warm and wick moisture away from your skin.
Boots: Warm waterproof boots will go a long way in helping you achieve a comfortable ride, since ice and slush can spray up as you go.