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Snow Riding: Dressing the Part

  • By Eszter Horanyi
  • Published Dec. 13, 2011
  • Updated Oct. 11, 2012 at 4:51 PM EST


When the temperature plummets, for most of us so does the motivation to go outside and ride. Unlike many outdoor winter activities, riding a bike in cold temperatures has the added difficulty of dealing with wind chill and since it’s non-impact, keeping feet warm is challenging.

To make the situation even more difficult, since arm use is minimal but full-finger function is needed for braking and shifting, keeping blood flowing in the hands also poses a challenge.

Luckily, there are many sports out there that are played in cold weather and have figured out how to combat the cold. It’s just a matter of adapting their techniques to cycling.

Snow-bikes allow for more blood flow to the hands by relieving pressure with upright geometries. Photo: Eszter Horanyi

Snow-bikers have worked out several different systems for staying warm and the hundreds of riders in Alaska have figured out how to ride year-round in temperatures that regularly plummet to -40 degrees F.

Snow-bikes have the added advantage of rolling slower due to the terrain, helping reduce the wind chill, as well as slightly more upright geometries helping to take some pressure off the hands and increase blood flow to the fingers.

While there are many approaches to staying warm, they tend to fall under two distinct categories. People who try to stay warm by staying dry aim for wicking materials next to their skin to keep their skin and clothing dry. People who aim to stay warm by not letting their insulation get wet accept the fact that they will sweat during physical activity, and put a water-proof layer next to their skin to keep the moisture in and prevent their sweat from soaking their insulating layers.

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