While Colorado is currently experiencing a mild winter that might change and these tips from Emily Zinn will help you for any fat bike races you might have this winter or cyclocross races next season.
This cyclocross season in Colorado was tragically low on horrific conditions. With very few exceptions, most races were a pleasant 50 degrees and sunny with a dry course. Call me hard to please, but too much of that gets dull to me. By nature cyclocross an absurd sport, conditions should be absurd to match it.
That is easy for me to say in the comfort of my warm breakfast nook, writing a blog while the smells of sautéing onions and Indian spices waft my way from the kitchen. We are amazingly good at forgetting pain, and there are certainly days where the cold is downright painful. But there are ways of keeping the pain in check and safe.
My dad’s best friend is Norwegian and has always said “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” In that idea we do not see eye to eye. There are nonetheless things you can do to keep yourself safe and less uncomfortable than you could be, though.
- Changes of clothes: You warm up all in a bundle. You sweat. Yes, you sweat. Even though it’s 5 degrees and your nose hairs are frozen, you are getting sweaty in your warmup and if you then go stand on a start line you are going to get cold, cold, cold. Wear what you’re going to warm up in to the race, then change before the race and then change into a third complete outfit immediately after the race. Change socks, gloves, undershirt, every layer that touches your body.
- Balaclava: Your buff will freeze solid and be very unpleasant against your skin. A balaclava with a nose hole and mouth hole and a buff over the top is a better option.
- Think before you embro: Embrocation is a warming salve that cyclocross racers love. It can definitely do more harm than good and has been known to leave people in pain. It gets warmer the warmer you are, so it often doesn’t make you feel warm out in your race, but then sitting under the heaters in your warm car you’ll start to burn, and you may not stop for several hours. Try a small patch under the guidance of someone who knows how to use it.
- Lube up: Put Vaseline on your nose and any exposed body parts to avoid frost nip when the temps are really low, and many people swear by Pam on their chain. I find that the cogs are the problem more than the chain, but Pam does help (somewhat) to keep mud and frozen grime from building up.
- Don’t overdress: I know this sounds ridiculous, but this is my biggest tip for cold, cold winter races. You’re going to be tempted to put on non-breathable layers, jackets over jackets over vests and ski goggles. Cyclocross is a red-zone sport and you sweat in races, no matter the temperature. If you sweat profusely your actual risk of cold injury will go up dramatically and you’re likely to feel suffocated and not have any kick. And goggles will fog. The temptation is strong. Resist! You can overdress all you want when the race is over.
There are my tips, no go have some fun in the cold!