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10 Worst Mistakes to Make Winter Riding

  • By Eszter Horanyi
  • Published Jan. 6, 2012
  • Updated Oct. 11, 2012 at 4:44 PM EDT
Insulated thermoses or homemade insulated Nalgenes both work well to keep water from freezing. Photo: Eszter Horanyi


We’ve all done it: overestimated the temperature outside, hammered up a climb in the cold only to freeze in our own sweat on the descent, put on that extra pair of socks in an attempt to keep feet warm only to have all blood circulation cut off from the tight fit, accidentally stayed out after the sun had dipped below the horizon. There are hundreds of ways to mess up a winter ride with more dire consequences in the winter than the summer.

There are a few classic mistakes, that when avoided, can greatly enhance a winter riding experience. This is by no means an exhaustive list of things that can go wrong, and each point has a dozen variations, but the next time you’re at the top of a climb thinking that you’re plenty warm and don’t pause to put a jacket on for the descent, think again.

Nutritional Snafus

1. Letting water bottles freeze and not hydrating

There is nothing worse than reaching for a bottle of water and finding it frozen solid. The freezing process can take a matter of minutes to a matter of hours depending on the ambient temperature and once frozen, bottles will take an eternity to melt. Many solutions exist to this problem with the simplest being the use of insulated bottles. While designed to keep cold beverages cold in hot climates, they also work to keep water in its liquid form in mildly cold temperatures. Another solution is to use a camelback with an insulated hose. By keeping the bladder near the body, the water stays warmer and as long as the water is blown back into the bladder after every drink and the mouthpiece tucked away, bladders can be used in extremely cold temperatures.

2. Bonking

While running out of food on a summer ride is unfortunate and is terrible for recovery, running out of food on a winter ride and letting blood sugar levels drop can be dangerous. When it’s cold out, it’s easy to forgo eating, especially if the food you’re eating is frozen. While riding in the cold doesn’t burn significantly more calories than riding in warmer temperatures, falling behind on calorie intake is easy to do. Always bring a variety of foods that can be eaten even temperatures are freezing.

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