8 Jan 2018

HOW TO AVOID WINTER INJURIES

When the temperature drops, there’s no reason to hibernate along with your summer bike. In fact, winter riding can be a cyclist’s secret weapon, laying the foundation for summertime success thanks to heavier set-ups and tougher conditions. It can, however, also mean an increased risk of injury. Here’s what to look out for, and how to get through the colder season drama-free.

Winter or not, warming up is important for cycling performance but, just like your car, it takes your body that little bit longer to get going when it’s cold outside. Riding cold can increase likelihood of muscular strains or tears, so resist the temptation to sling your leg over the top tube and immediately go for that segment. Instead, begin with higher cadence, progressively building pace. After your session, stretch out or attend a yoga class to aid recovery.

Be nice to knees

One of the most frequent complaints for cyclists is gnarly knees. Looking after these all-important joints is vital – especially in winter when they’re more vulnerable because, unlike muscles, tendons are harder to thermoregulate due to the lack of direct blood supply. Protect them with a good bike fit, a pair of quality knee warmers or bib tights, and avoiding unnecessary stress by sticking to lower gears. For extra defense, oil ‘em up. Rub in a little natural oil, such as arnica, to aid warmth.

If you’re cycling in winter, you’re probably resilient to a bit of cold, but when frozen fingers and toes set in, they can ruin a good ride. Hands and feet are particularly vulnerable in winter, not only because they’re on weather-exposed contact points, but also, because our bodies prioritise warmth to our vital organs through peripheral vasoconstriction – reducing blood flow to the extremities when we get chilly.

Win on warmth

To combat cold hands, insulate with a pair of gloves thick enough to keep heat in, but slim enough to ensure you’ll never miss a shift (or brake!). Some cyclists swear by ‘double gloving’ or using a lobster-shaped mitts – experiment to find what works for you. Hands will also benefit from keeping your overall temperature up; avoiding lingering in the cold. If you do have to stop, have a hat or neck warmer at-the-ready to keep the heat in.

Keeping feet toasty isn’t just a comfort thing; frostnip or chilblains can spell painful, swollen toes. The solution? Wooly socks and quality overshoes to keep your toes warm and dry. Merino wool is a cyclist go-to, while some roadies swear by a layer of cling film or silver foil to trap in heat. Finally, avoid foot numbness by ensuring you’ve enough room to wiggle toes within the extra layers; you may need a wider pair of cycling shoes for winter riding.

Stay bright

Winter-proofing your bike is the final piece in the puzzle and absolutely critical, for commuting or training in the dark. Get set with bright lights to see and be seen; use at least 500 lumen and maximise visibility by wearing clothing with reflective material or strips. For all-weather confidence, a pair of winter tires is a must. They’re thicker for puncture-protection and the extra tread provides more grip on slippery surfaces.

If there’s ice or snow on the ground you’re probably better off sticking to the turbo, otherwise, with your body and bike winter-prepped, you’ll soon be sucking up a coffee with a smile on your face mid-chilly club run, which as every winter rider knows, are secretly the best ones.