Winter Riding in Vancouver is basically rain riding anywhere else. We may get a week or two or cold weather and it may even snow for a day or two but mostly it is just cold and wet.
The first thing you need is an attitude. Non riders have no idea how much fun it is to ride in the rain. They do not know that you can ride twice as hard and not have any heat problems. Some times the hardest times to ride is on that sunny day in August and having to ride through the heat. Riding in the cold and rain, if you have some basic gear, is a blast.
Here is what you will need.
1. A good waterproof cycling jacket. You can cruise the bike shops for sales because they can cost up to $200.00. The best time is mid august although most bike shops are pretty hungry right about now and will probably offer you a great deal. A good shell is perfect and cheapest and then you just wear layers.
2. Shell rain pants. An unlined shell is best for pants because you will have heat problems except on the coldest days if you get a lined pant, like a ski pant.
3. Body tights. I found a long john like lycra full length bottom and tops, that I wear when it is cold under my tights and over my socks. In Canada you can get this product at Marks, amazing product.
4. Booties. I just got a new set last winter that are a heavy neoprene like diving booties. They keep my feet perfectly warm on the coldest days and on just cool wet days warm and dry. They are open on the bottom so as not to interfere with my clip-ons.
5. Under helmet beanie. A neoprene beanie will keep your head warm and dry, make sure that you get one that covers yours ears.
6. Bike wash station. Set up a spot to clean your bike after your ride. A couple of bike hooks to hang your bike up is best so that you can back spin your chain. A hose with a high pressure nozzle to blast the dirt off the frame and out of the chain.
7. Waterproof bike pack. A place to keep the layers you will need for longer rides. After climbing a hill you will usually have to go back down the other side. If you sweat out on the hill it is good to change out your shirt before the descent on the other side. A couple of undershirts are good to carry along. I keep a pair of fabric tights and an extra pair of socks in my pack.
8. Gloves. I carry three kinds of gloves. Light water repellent, heavy water proof and warm ski like gloves. Climbing hills in heavy gloves is a drag because you will heat up and sweat. Descending in light gloves can freeze your fingers.
With this gear you can ride anywhere and anytime. You can head out into a rainstorm at night and be completely comfortable. Most cyclists have discovered that a cold day is the best for a long ride when you really want to burn off some kilometers. I wear glasses but if you don’t you may want to get a pair of ski goggles, I hear they don’t steam up as much as some of the riding goggles.
The biggest challenge will be dealing with your lying cheating body that will try to wimp out when you look out the window and the sky is dark and the rain is coming down. Just when your back starts to hurt or your knee begins to twitch, remember how good you are going to be feeling once you are flying through the rain burning off fifty km without any heat issues.
If you can just look that twenty minutes into your future, which is clearer the more your ride, you can get past this last hurdle that we all face when our bodies try and get out of the workout that it knows is coming. If you can visual the pleasure your body will be feeling as you are riding down some trail once you are out and into your ride, you will catch your meat in the lie and once you’re on to it, you at least have a chance to outwit it.
Riding three days a week throughout the winter will mean riding in the rain but once you are committed to doing it and have a little flexibility when you head out for your ride you can miss most of the real nasty stuff. Around here the rain comes through in waves or fronts and you can see the cycles of it coming if you look west and see the lines of clouds lining up. Timing is everything.
Make sure your bike has fenders of some sort and clean it as a part of your ride, the end of it. Once you have rinsed out your chain by back spinning it into the water nozzles spray put a drop or two of chain oil on it and spin it a few more times. If you can store it in a dry place, warm is not necessary but nice, it will then be ready for your next ride. Check your tire pressures before your ride as low temperatures can affect tire pressure.
Riding once is one thing but riding every second day or a least three times a week is what our bodies and minds really need, especially when going through the dark and rain of winter. If you are going to ride like this, something that will be more affective for depression and anxiety that any other kind of therapy and will make other therapies even more effective, you will be riding in the rain but also in the sun and in every other kind of weather given enough time.
I ride on a schedule and try and get in four rides a week. I find leaving it up to feelings and urges doesn’t work for me. I know ahead of time when I am going to ride and this seems to work best for me. Nothing that has such great benefits is easy but cycling pays me back on so many levels that I always feel like it gives me far more than just working out.