Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a health care professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.
It’s pretty easy to feel good during summertime. The days are long, the sun is warm, and it seems that everyone is always outside playing. Being outside and active comes relatively easily and, like many activities, cycling is usually more fun when it’s sunny. When the seasons change, however, staying out and active is not so easy. Days are shorter, darkness comes sooner and, of course, there’s a lot of rain. Our instincts tell us to hunker down, conserve energy and take it easy. Certainly, after an active summer, a bit of that is in order. Winter in the Northwest is no reason to stop looking after ourselves, however.
Where we live, opportunities for staying active are seemingly endless, no matter what season it is. Winter doesn’t have to mean staying off one’s bike. Cycling can be an integral part of a winter wellness routine.
A short guide to doing just that:
Cycling is great, but without other activities to balance it out, we risk becoming one-dimensional. Find a regular yoga class that suits your schedule. Walk more in daily activities, and take an occasional weekend hike. There is no shortage of winter sports leagues in Portland, from volleyball to Futsal, and they’re mostly based right here in inner-southeast. Doing something other than what you normally do will make you better balanced and more fit in the long run.
Prepare Your Clothing
There is an old saying – “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” That holds true for cycling as much as it does for other outdoor pursuits. The combination of exposure to the elements and the endless wind make proper clothing critical to comfortable winter riding. The key to keeping your extremities warm is keeping your core that way too. Start with a good base layer. Merino wool or a high-quality synthetic will help keep the sweat you generate off your skin. The added advantage of wool is that it won’t smell bad, making it a good choice for twice-a-day wear such as commutes to and from work. Next, choose your middle and outer layers. In these parts, a moderate insulator, like a long-sleeve thermal jersey topped off with a high-visibility vest (on mild days) or a wind/rain shell (on colder and/or wet days), often proves most versatile.
It is important to keep your muscles protected from the wind, so a good set of cycling legwarmers, tights, or wind pants is highly recommended. Finish off your winter riding wardrobe with a good set of water-resistant gloves and shoe-covers. Putting a short-brimmed cycling cap under your helmet will also keep rainfall out of your eyes without restricting visibility, making for a much more pleasant ride.
Prepare your bike
Around these parts, it’s not unusual for avid riders to have different bikes for summer and winter. For the more casual rider, this is overkill, and a few simple additions to one’s normal bike will make for much more pleasant winter riding. First, add a set of good, full-coverage fenders with some mudflaps. The fenders will keep virtually all of the road grime off you and your bike, and the flaps will keep it off your shoes and anyone riding behind you as well.
Next, get a set of fresh tires for winter. Your local bike shop can help you with this if you’re unsure about what works best. Slightly more durable and puncture-resistant tires will provide more traction and help you avoid the unpleasant task of changing a punctured tube with cold, wet hands.
Finally, make sure you’re visible. A bright headlight and flashing tail lamp are a good start. It’s useful to put a strip of reflective tape on each side of your bike’s fork as well as down the back of each fender. Some manufacturers even make tires with reflective sides.
A lot of maintaining one’s wellness routine comes down to preparation. By having the right gear and clothing, as well as varying our routines, we can keep fit, fresh, and happy through the long Portland winter.
Adnan Kadir is a USAC-certified Level 1 cycling coach who can be reached at 503.516.1943, www.aeolusendurance.com