Winter in this city can make or break a person—not just as an athlete, but as a normal human being who enjoys sunshine and showing up to social gatherings without windburn and numb digits.
More often than not, when someone hears about training here, year-round on a bike, the assumption is that they’ve misinterpreted what you’ve said or that you’re not right in the head. However, cold as it may be, Chicago winter riding and training has some real benefits.
First, the path is always empty; there are no headphone-wearing darters, children running to and from barbeques, or tourists stopped dead center to photograph the skyline. The only other people you’ll see are other cyclists and runners who are on a mission. People are polite, they wave, they acknowledge the (admittedly off kilter) sensibility that brings you both out and about in inclement conditions.
Second, you stay warmer moving on a bike than standing stationary waiting for the CTA. Seriously. Give me the option of riding for an hour, or standing in the middle of 90/94 on a Red Line stop for who knows how long, with the wind whipping at every angle imaginable? Yeah, I’ll get on the bike.
Finally, winter riding is fun. Fresh snow? Cars stuck in? Make some fresh tracks in the powder with your cx bike. An ice storm? Pop on some studded tires, and cruise uninterrupted on streets with nary a moving vehicle in view.
In order to take advantage of winter riding and training, there are some non-negotiables when it comes to kit and gear—and, as all things bike, some ‘nice to haves’ that simply make the whole process more enjoyable.
|Winter Riding Necessities||(No So) Little Luxuries|
· These may turn your hands into cloven form, but try them once and you’ll never go back. There’s enough dexterity to shift, but keeping your fingers together makes heating them more efficient.
· Gore and Louis Garneau both make durable and warm versions of this item.
All things merino!
· Merino base layers, merino socks, merino neck gators. Wool keeps you super toasty, is lightweight, and unlike synthetic products doesn’t get stinky in a single ride.
· Rapha makes great merino accessories, and the women’s turtlenecks are polished enough to double as workwear under a blazer. A commuter’s dream.
· Check out The Athletic’s winter weight merino socks. Snazzy pants patterns, plus cushy and cozy toes.
· A cap that provides wind protection, covers your ears, and is helmet compatible so as to not leave a large dent in your forehead is essential. Rapha makes a few that fit the bill.
· When lobster gloves aren’t enough, these neoprene shells slip over your bars and are impenetrable to wind.
Thermal/Windproof/Waterproof Bib Tights
· Fuzzy roubaix fabric paired with water resistance vastly improves any workout when it’s damp and clammy out.
· Two hours into a wretchedly cold ride, and instead of shifting with a finger or two you’re trying to move a teensy piece of plastic with an ice paddle of a hand. We’ve all been there. It means you ride in the wrong gear the whole way home…swearing at the weather, your bike, your hands.
· Here’s the thing: eTap is a button. It doesn’t matter how immobile your fingers are—you push it and it works. You can shift to your heart’s content…or until your core gets so cold that you’re forced to go inside. Their marketing campaign really should claim: “The best thing to happen to winter riding … ever.”