Just because temperatures are plummeting doesn’t mean your cycling performance has to.
Here’s everything you need to cycle stronger this off-season.
Ahh, the happy memories of the mid-July heat, blue skies and omnipresent sun. Not anymore.
Winter’s a snowball’s throw away, dew greets every morning, as does your steamy breath. Where once you adorned short-sleeve cycle top, bib shorts and little else, now it’s all about layering, bib longs and much more.
But nail your off-season cycling wardrobe and your outdoor efforts can be equally, if not more, enjoyable than your summer sojourns. It’s time to wrap up and ride strong.
PHYSIOLOGY OF WINTER CYCLING
Arguably the greatest danger of winter cycling isn’t you but the roads.
So our first piece of advice: if the roads are icy, either take your Campagnolo Ekar-equipped gravel bike and head off-road or train indoors.
No matter how nimble your handling, it’s no match for frozen line markings.
Thankfully, that’s a rare event. What’s of more concern is dealing with windchill – which is worse the faster you cycle.
Windchill temperature is based on the work of a pair of scientists in the 1940s, who examined physiological studies into the rate of heat loss across a range of ambient temperatures and wind speeds.
As an example, they calculated that if you’re cycling at 15mph and it’s 4°C outside, it feels like 0°C.
Accelerate to 25mph and it feels like -2°C. Either way, this presents a few problems.
Why is down to your core looking to maintain a temperature of around 35°C. If it drops by around 2°C, that’s when the symptoms of hypothermia can kick in. These include slurred speech, confusion and hyperventilation.
Not great. Thankfully, the active cyclist generates significant amounts of heat to counteract this issue; in fact, for every calorie that the cyclist burns, only around a quarter’s used for movement. The rest is produced as heat.
How much heat you generate is linked to your aerobic capacity (VO2max) with the higher your VO2max, the more heat you produce.
Then again, higher body fat provides insulation, too. It’s a complicated picture. What’s clearer is that a drop in core temperature leads to your brain restricting blood supply to the peripheries in an effort to prevent a further decrease.
This is known as ‘physiological amputation’ and is where clothing comes in. You see, your feet, hands and face all feature a large surface area with little insulation.
Throw in reduced, warming blood supply and the fact the thermoreceptors in these areas are great drivers of how hot or cold you feel and you can soon become uncomfortable.
This discomfort can soon impair muscle activation and reduce power output.
PROTECT YOUR EXTREMETIES
Cue a quality pair of cycling gloves. This is where you need to search around as you want to choose a pair that provides good insulation, waterproofing and windproofing while offering a modicum of breathability and dexterity so you can still use your bike computer.
You can’t go far wrong by choosing brushed lining for comfort with a laminated membrane to protect your hands from the biting wind. Good grip and long enough to cover your wrists are essentials, too.
This protecting your extremities stretches to your head and feet, too, with a skull cap or band recommended for your cranium and overshoes for your feet.
When it comes to your torso, it’s all about layering. This is ideal as it gives you the on-the-bike option of adding or removing clothes depending on the situation.
For instance, a fast, freewheeling descent increases windchill and lowers metabolic heat so will require a warmer set-up than a slow, long, steep descent where you’re working near your max.
Layering starts with a base layer, which is designed not only to insulate but breathe, too. This means wicking, which is essentially transferring sweat from your body to the open air.
That’s where manmade fabrics like polyester and natural fabrics like merino wool come in. Thickness of base layer’s down to how cold or freezing it is outside, but arguably more important is fit.
It needs to be snug to work properly, but not so restrictive it’s uncomfortable when you’re moving around on the saddle.
Next up you’re looking at a short-sleeved mid-layer, like Campagnolo’s Litio or female-specific Argento, or a longer-sleeved jersey, like the wool-blend Palladio winter jersey. Again, these strike the insulation-breathable sweetspot with the Palladio an option to wear as an outer layer if you see fit.
That is unless it’s very cold, which will mean a thermal windproof jacket, heavy waterproof jacket or a packable showerproof jacket.
All three are situation-specific and, again, are dependent on ambient temperature as well as if it’s raining or dry.
Down below, you’re looking at bib longs. This is where a pair of Campagnolo’s C-Tech winter bib tights come into their own.
The use of advanced fabrics, clever fabric placement and semi-neoprene cuffs result in a comfortable, warm (without overheating) and functional pair of bib longs that’ll ensure you reach optimum performance this winter.
Further ideas and accessories include arm and leg warmers, as they’re easy to slip on and off for temperature regulation.
A neck warmer’s a useful investment, too, closing the chilling gap between your jacket’s neckline and your chin, which you can also pull up to cover your mouth if needed.
This could pay off in the healthy stakes as while there’s little scientific evidence behind preventing conditions like upper respiratory tract infections, anecdotally breathing in warmer air is far more palatable for athletes prone to this condition.
So there you have it – your winter wardrobe courtesy of Campagnolo.