It is no secret that the chilly Fall and Winter months are a difficult time to be an Endurance Athlete. With unpredictable weather patterns, wet or snowy conditions, and gusty winds a plenty the thought of getting outdoors for a workout is often daunting.
At Big Wheel Coaching, we are very attune to how local weather patterns, throughout the country, affect our Athletes ability to put together a successful off-season of training and prepare for their upcoming goals.
Given our daily interactions with their training, coupled with the notion that many of our Athletes hold-down full-time jobs or educational commitments, we understand the difficulty of “squeezing-in” a training session before or after work when confronted by adverse or unpredictable weather.
It is with this fact in mind that we are dedicating two episodes of the BWC Coaches Corner to preparing-for, dealing with, and cleaning-up from wet weather riding.
Whether this years’ Fall and Winter seasons bring wet weather, increased winds, chilling temperatures, or "all of the above" you can use the following tips to survive and thrive in the wet and wintery conditions.
Competing in the rain is tough, but is significantly more difficult if you have not previously trained in the wet conditions. Photo Credit: Danny Munson, DMunsonPhoto.com
5 Essential Tips For Training & Competing In Wet Conditions:
1- Wear A Rain Cape
A high-quality Rain Cape is arguably the most important article of clothing for any Athlete brave enough to race or train in soggy weather conditions.
A dry upper-body and torso is essential for any Athlete that is planning on exercising in inclement weather.
Utilizing a water-proof and breathable rain-cape is the first line of defense to making cold and dreary conditions more manageable.
We suggest a rain-cape that is both water and wind-proof.
Most often these jackets are also very light-weight and compact for easy storage in a jersey pocket, in the event it must be taken off while riding.
The importance of having a clear rain jacket becomes apparent when an Athlete must compete in the rain. Having a clear or ‘see-through’ jacket allows for race-numbers to be visible while keeping the Athlete protected from the elements.
And let’s face it, no one wants to spend big-money on a nice jacket and then pin a number to it!
2- Accessories For The Upper-Body
Besides wearing a rain cape, there are two different articles of clothing that we consider mandatory for wet weather training.
First is a nice pair of gloves. Frozen fingers are “the worst” and can be a safety hazard if they compromise your ability to control your bike.
Because of that, we suggest a glove that is both water-proof and wind-proof.
The trick with gloves is finding a set that also allows for ample finger-dexterity for shifting/braking.
Don’t make the mistake of getting bulky gloves! Thin, well insulated, and water/wind proof gloves are the way to go.
Second, be sure to wear a cycling-cap or helmet-cover!
A cycling-cap will help keep the rain and wind off your face, while a helmet-cover ensures rain does not soak your head, neck, and shoulders…
Just the thought of rain water getting between our rain-cape and base-layer gives us the chills!
This Fall and Winter will bring cold and wet weather to all parts of the country. As a goal-oriented, driven, Endurance Athlete, it is important to adapt and prepare for these weather conditions. Photo Credit: Brian McCulloch
3-Clothing For The Lower Extremities
Although layering-up for the upper-body is mandatory for wet weather training or racing, the lower-body is nearly opposite.
That’s right, “less is more” when it comes to covering your legs.
Unless it is bitterly cold, where water proof knickers are a must, we suggest utilizing bare legs with embrocation cream to protect your legs during rainy training or racing.
A couple of notes about embrocation cream:
First, avoid applying it to the area behind the knee.
Second, apply it to the top of your feet (but not the bottom).
Third, use a light application on the entire upper-leg, don’t stop where your cycling shorts start, ‘embro-up’ as high as possible.
It should also be said that washing your hands immediately after the application of embrocation cream is a must and do NOT touch your eyes or chamois area after applying embrocation cream!
Of equal importance to embrocation cream on the legs are water/wind proof shoe covers. Just as with glove selection, thinner is better, but numb feet are miserable so don’t go too thin.
It is very important to have a shoe cover that will keep water from ‘pooling’ in your shoes.
It goes without saying that your feet will likely be wet when riding or racing in the rain, but good shoe covers will make the experience far more manageable.
4- Reduce Tire Pressure
Besides making sure the motor - your body - is capable of operating in the wet, you must ensure your bike can perform well in the rain too.
In order to add piece of mind, in the form of additional traction, to any wet weather training or racing session, we suggest using a lower tire pressure than normal.
For road cyclists, the reduction could be as much as 10-20psi, while MTB riders might find that 3-5psi is enough.
As a side note, cyclocross riders and gravel-grinders will find suitable traction increases by decreasing air pressure by +/- 5psi, depending on the terrain and road/gravel mix.
5- Reduce Overall Exposure & Duration
Exposure to the elements is something that all hikers, campers, and back-packers are familiar with and respect.
As Athletes and Cyclists, we must also respect Mother Nature and her power.
In the event that your Coach scheduled a 4hr ride and an unexpected rain storm comes into the area, we recommend reducing overall duration to 50-75% of the prescribed volume.
That is to say that an hour rain ride is not bad, a two hour ride is fine, but three and four hour rides are not necessary and will leave you with a significantly higher risk of developing sickness following the session.
Training in the rain is excellent preparation for wet weather competitions, but only in moderation.
This is where the “less is more” adage comes into play.
If you have questions about ride duration and training or racing in the rain, talk to your Coach to discuss when, and if, it makes sense given your goals.
In many cases, it may be better to opt for an indoor trainer session instead or riding in the elements.
Bonus: Consider Installing Fenders
Few riders outside of the Pacific Northwest understand how much better a rain ride can be with the benefit of fenders.
Fenders, although aesthetically awkward looking, are incredibly useful because the front fender helps keep your feet dry, while a rear fender keeps water from being ‘flung-up’ your backside and soaking your torso.
If you have ever considered training in the rain, we strongly suggest using fenders.
Some types install in just five to ten minutes, a time-penalty well worth paying if you are headed out for a two-hour wet weather adventure!
Training and competing in wet conditions is not for the "fair weather" Athlete, but it's safe to say that if you are reading the BWC Newsletter, you are definitely not a "fair weather" Athlete! Photo Credit: Danny Munson, DMunsonPhoto.com
A Note About These Suggestions:
Riding in inclement conditions is not for everyone.
Although there is something romantic about training in the wet, the reality is that if your cycling goals do not include the potential for rainy events, there is little good a wet weather training session will do for you.
If, on the other hand, early season goals include events that could be wet, windy, and/or frigidly cold, it is wise to get outside to practice operating in these conditions.
Training or competing in the rain can be an empowering experience when you are well prepared.
And with the amount of time, energy, and investment our Athletes put into their fitness, it is almost inevitable that they will be confronted with the need to ride in inclement weather.
Thus we hope these tips can be utilized to help make wet weather riding more manageable and maybe even enjoyable.
Be sure to stay-tuned to for our next installment of the BWC Coaches Corner that will cover important post-rain-ride tips and tricks!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching
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