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RAGBRAI Training: Cold Weather Riding

  • 25 February, 2010
  • TJ Juskiewicz

Seems like a large portion of the U.S. is covered in snow right now.  If you are a RAGBRAI rider from one of the northern or eastern states and you are frustrated about not being able to do any riding, it may be helpful to know that you can get out and ride even when it’s cold. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting cabin fever.  The calendar says it is time to ride, despite what the thermometer says. Each day that ticks by means that RAGBRAI is one day closer!  Riding outdoors when it is cold is possible.  It helps if you have roads that are clear and dry.  Riding on ice is dangerous and should be avoided.  Also, watch out for sand that’s been put down on roads for traction – it helps when it’s icy but on dry roads it become slippery.

Here are some tips for staying warm while you ride in the cold:

Feet: I wear wool socks (Smart Wool and Teko) and then wear winter bike shoes.  I only use one pair of socks but some people use two.  I have Sidi winter shoes but there are other brands such as Northwave.  On longer rides, lasting more than 1.5 hours, I put charcoal toe warmers on the outside of my shoes, and then cover with heavy duty shoe covers. Get the heaviest ones you can find.  I have Peal Izumi. My feet are the first things to go numb when it’s cold so I really put a lot of effort into keeping them warm.

Legs:  I have heavy duty bib leg warmers.  These have a covered front which covers my chest which adds another layer of wind protection for my front. 

Upper body:  I start with a wicking undershirt and then put on a heavy turtleneck shirt. Then put on the bib leg warmers.  Over that I wear my wool blend cycling jacket. 

Hands:  I wear heavy cycling gloves. There are several levels of heaviness you can find. I have three pairs and choose the pair depending on the temperature. For really cold days you might choose to wear ski gloves or mittens.

Head:  On cold days, below 35F, I wear my winter cycling cap under my helmet. It’s a Peal Izumi and had a visor and ear flaps. Not the most stylish piece of clothing but keeps my noggin warm. When its warmer, I just use a heavy ear/headband under my helmet. When it’s really cold, some people wear a face mask or ski googles.  When it’s that cold, I go skiing!

This is enough to keep me warm for at least 2 hours when its freezing out, literally. When your water bottle freezes, you know its time to head for home. 

Warmly, Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Coach and owner of Cyclesport Coaching (www.CyclesportCoaching.com) . He coaches individual cyclists, the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and the JDRF Greater Iowa Chapter for the Ride to Cure Diabetes.  He can be contacted at Coach@CyclesportCoaching.com.


  1. Bacchettaman

    I think Dave was discribing what he wore, riding Day 3 into Indianola last year-haha!

  2. Sandaltan .

    I love to read about winter riding,keep it up Dave. Are TJ and Wes out there with you…probably TJ’s idea…he loves the change of seasons and especially that snow.

  3. GhostRider

    Hey Y’all,

    You can also go out to Colorado for some high altitude training. We just raced on a groomed snow trail around beautiful Leadville, CO. Think it over.


  4. Lazaro Summarell

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