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tl-w.gif (842 bytes)tr-w.gif (841 bytes)Frank 'N Fred

In which Fred hears about dealing with cold.

Yo, Frank! What's up, buddy?

Hi, Fred. Out for a walk? Say, where's your bike? Fred, you're going to forget how to balance!

Hey, quit jokin' with me. You know I don't ride when it gets too cold!

But last week when I saw you, you weren't biking either!

Well, last week it was too hot! You know I don't ride when it's too hot!

Hmm. Fred, what temperatures do you like?

Well, I figure anytime it's between, oh, 68 and 72 is OK. You know, you gotta watch out for your hypodermia and your heat frustration! You gotta be safe!

That's hypothermia and heat prostration, Fred. But you've got a good point. Temperature extremes can cause serious trouble. Also, people who get too hot or too cold may be more likely to crash. But honestly, there are ways to deal with hot and cold temperatures!

Now wait a minute, buddy. If you want to ride your bike in a snowsuit, that's up to you, but you can only UNdress so far! They got laws about that, you know!

I know, but that's not the problem. For hot weather, a good cycling jersey is fine, and nobody ever said cycling shorts are too heavy. No, I'd say in hot weather, your problem is mostly fluids.

You mean your bike's got a radiator, or what?

Almost. YOU are your bike's engine, and to keep it cool, you need to pump water through your body's radiator all the time you're riding. In hot weather, I never leave home without two big bottles full, and I make sure I take at least a couple big swigs every ten minutes, just like clockwork. In fact, for a tough ride, I set my stopwatch to remind me!

Shoot, after a bottle of plain water I'd be bored. I'd be wanting some cola or something.

Actually, plain water may not be best - although I wouldn't recommend drinking pop. I've found that I do much better in hot humid weather if I add a tiny bit of salt to my water. Others have other favorites, like sports drinks, maybe diluted a bit. The key is to experiment and find what works well for you, then drink lots of it.

You're wasting your breath, buddy. I know enough to take a drink when I'm thirsty!

But if you wait until you're thirsty, it will be too late! You can become dehydrated before you even feel thirsty! And you'll feel tired and weak long before that, without knowing why. To ride strong, drink before you're thirsty - especially on hot days. And snack before you're hungry, too.

Well, cold weather's here, so I don't have to worry about that stuff now.

You'll still feel better if you drink often. But in cold weather, you do have another concern, too. You really need to stay warm.

Heh! Time to dig out that snowsuit, huh?

Well, clothes are the key, but the snowsuit won't do it, Fred. If you bundle up with something super-heavy, you'll soak with sweat on the uphills, then it can actually chill you on the downhills! You need something fancier that you can adjust for temperature.

I don't get it. Fancy? You mean like a tuxedo?? I hope I can find my cummerbund...

I mean like some clothes that are designed for active use. What you want are several layers of clothes that work together in the cold, so you can take a layer off if you get warm, or add a layer if you get cold. Next to your skin, you want either wool or polypropylene - you know, fancy plastic fabric?

PLASTIC? Now quit joking!

I'm serious, Fred. Polypropylene and other synthetic fabrics keep your sweat away from your skin. Wool is good too. Stay away from cotton in cold weather - it soaks with sweat then freezes you. No cotton tee shirts! With a wool or polypro long-sleeved jersey, you can add some cycling tights to keep your legs warm. Put on a thin windbreaker and you'll be good down to, oh, 45 degrees or so.

So what if it gets colder?

For colder weather, you need some real insulation under your windbreaker. Get some thicker non-cotton stuff, but still lightweight. A thin sweater works, or you might get by with just an extra jersey. If it's really cold, add another middle layer, and some sort of thin cap. Helmets let lots of cold wind through.

You know what gets me? My fingers and toes get cold.

That's a common problem. You can get long-fingered cycling gloves. You can get cycling mittens, or use regular mittens, perhaps over your riding gloves. If they're fairly wind-proof, they don't have to be super thick!

For cold toes, the key is to keep the wind out, and keep your legs warm. I've actually used two pairs of thin socks with a plastic baggie between to help block the wind. And if you want to spend the money, you can buy insulated booties for winter.

But for both fingers and toes, it's important to keep things warm all the way down your arms an legs. Wind-proof tights can help, but anything you can do to keep your trunk, arms and legs warm will help fingers and toes. One neat trick is to use arm warmers or leg warmers. Arm warmers are like sweater sleeves without the sweater. They're easy to put on or take off, so you can adjust your temperature as you ride. You can stuff them into a bike bag easily, too.

I'll never figure out how many layers to wear.

Well, I'll give you a chart that I use to help me choose layers. It works pretty well for me - but you should change it if you find it doesn't work for you. Just pay attention to how you've done on a cold ride, and take notes for next time.

And by the way, if you find yourself getting chilly despite wearing all you've brought, an old racer's trick is to stuff some newspaper pages into the front of your jersey. Or get a trash bag, cut holes for your head and arms, and wear it! Keeping warm and dry is important. It helps you stay vertical, Fred!

- Frank Krygowski

Suggested Layers of Clothes for Winter Biking



Upper body























For more tips on cold weather biking...

Visit the Icebiking website. If you're dedicated enough, you can ride all winter! Take your computer to



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By Frank Krygowski











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