cycling utah Oct/Nov. 2000


Prepare yourself and bike for rigors of winter riding

By J.R. Smith

Bike Setup
      Many cyclists continue to bicycle during the winter months. And because you will be wearing thicker clothing  (i.e. tights) you should lower your saddle approximately 4-5mm. Also, during the winter your muscles are not quite as flexible so it is a good  idea to raise your stem to prevent back soreness or injury.

      During the winter develop a smoother and more efficient pedal stroke by spinning at a higher cadence (100+ RPM's) with low resistance.  Adding a cadence counter to your computer is well worth the expense and will pay dividends during  the summer.
      Use a larger tire, 700 x 28/32, on your road bike to help prevent flats and to better handle snow or ice on the road. A larger tire also increases resistance, which lets you work out at your desired heart rate but at a lower speed. This lower speed also means less danger from the wind chill factor. 
      You can see by the chart that the air temperature is not the only factor to consider when riding outside. Everyone is different as to the temperature their body can accept comfortably without incurring injury. The older you get or if you have joint problems, the less tolerant you usually are of lower temperatures.

      Be sure to dress in layers. Use a polypropylene or similar synthetic base, then a cycling jersey, and a windproof breathable jacket on top. Layering allows you to increase or decrease clothing as the temperature or conditions change.  Use a polypro or silk balclava to wear under your helmet. Remember, approximately 40% of your body heat is lost through your head.
      Wear a waterproof shoe cover. A breathable product is better than neoprene, which can cause your feet to sweat. But in extremely cold conditions keeping your feet warm is the most important. Downhill ski gloves or a liner inside cross country ski gloves is usually adequate for most conditions. Remember the extremities are the first areas that indicate a potential problem for hypothermia. Protecting your hands, feet and knees are most important. Always wear glasses.

Fluid Replacement
      Just because it is cold does not mean you don't need to drink. You loose most fluid in the winter time through convection and do not notice it as much as when it is warm. You still need to drink approximately 12oz. per hour of exercise.
Also, carry that extra gel and nutrition bar in case your ride takes longer or becomes more difficult due to weather changes.

Weight Training
      Winter is the perfect time to increase your leg strength and improve your riding capability. A good leg strength program balances opposing quadriceps and hamstrings which helps to avoid muscle pulls and tears. Weights should be used to assist your cycling not become an end to itself.
      Use periodization. Each phase should be approximately 4-6 weeks in length. You should start out twice a week then increase to three times a week.
      Phase 1 - Hypertrophy. Start out with light weight and  15-20 reps. Do 2 sets.
      Phase 2 - Preliminary strength. 10-12reps. Do 3-4 sets.
      Phase 3 - Basic strength. 8-10 reps. Do 4-5 sets.
      Phase 4 - Power. 12-15 reps. Do 3 sets. Twice a week.
      Weight training should start in mid-October to mid-November, depending on cycling discipline and when peaking is to occur.
      Your exercises should be cycling specific and should be probably not be  more than 6-8 exercises. Some recommended exercises would be for the upper body: lat pulldowns, bench press (flat or incline), curls and tricep extensions.
      For the lower body: Leg press, lunges, squats, calf raises and  hamstring curls.
      Weight lifting becomes more important as you get older and especially important for females to increase bone density. Your total weight workout should only be 60 minutes or less.             Remember your priority is improving cycling not becoming a weight lifter.

      This practice becomes more critical during colder months. Remember, light stretch before riding and more in depth and longer stretches in a warm environment after your rides. The longer, more intense the ride the longer the stretching period should be. This is critical to prevent injuries. Stretches need to be held for 15-20 seconds to be most effective. Pressure but no pain.
      Make winter training fun and not too intensive so that the summer riding and competition will be enjoyable.

      J.R. Smith is a licensed U.S.A. Cycling Elite Coach, Category 2 Official and masters racer.  He has been involved in cycling for approximately 20 years and has worked with previous U.S. National Team members and National Champions as well as managing a professional women's cycling team.  He also has instructed at Bicycling magazine and Olympic Training Center cycling camps. He presently operates a consulting business and performs services for coaching, bike fit, body composition analysis, and performance testing.  He can be contacted at (801) 944-2456 or via e-mail at [email protected]

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