Thursday, October 26, 2006

Brrrr it's cold!

Best of Coach Fred o^o o^o o^o o^o o^o o^o

How Cold Is Too Cold?

Question: I traditionally ride outside when the temperature is 25F (-4C) or warmer. But I recently read about a pro who says he never rides outside if it's below 40F (4.5C). I can't be tougher than a pro, can I? What is the minimum temperature for training outside? -- Barry M.

Coach Fred Matheny Replies: If you're dressed correctly and have the right equipment (detailed in my Off-Season Training for Roadies eBook), you can ride outside regardless of temperature. Iditabike racers handle below-freezing (sometimes below zero) temperatures for more than 24 hours while riding on packed snow and dodging ill-tempered moose.

But there's a big difference between riding outside and doing meaningful training. Although you can ride when your bottles freeze solid and icicles form on your balaclava, it's difficult to do an interval session in those conditions. Climbing is okay because you warm up from the combination of exertion and lack of air movement at slow speed -- but then you freeze solid on the descent.

So, in cold temperatures, by far the most effective training is accomplished indoors on a trainer or stationary bike. The specific temperature depends on your individual tolerance, road conditions, type of training you have planned and other factors such as wind velocity and direction.

The cut-off for many riders occurs in the 30-40F (-1 to 4.5C) range. When the temperature is freezing (including the windchill factor), the trainer may be a better option unless your objective is simply to get some fresh air -- or escape the trainer!


gravy said...

I've seen the professionals do it. Just stuff newspaper in yer underwear!

Problem solved.

adrian said...

I have seen that too - TDF.

Steve C said...

Feet usually are the determining factor. You can bundle everything else up enough, but even with my winter cycling shoes, thermal covers, etc. when it is below 10 degrees F it is pretty much too cold to ride on the roads.

If it is below freezing I won't ride if it has been rainy or snowy in the previous couple of days, as the chance of ice patches is too great. Hence the trainer.