Cold Weather Ride Leader Briefing
Five of our regular CBC kids arrived thinking they were ready for a Saturday road ride on sunny fall morning with the temperature at 34 degrees and windy. The safety issues that they presented: no socks, blue jeans, summer shorts, no gloves, no eyewear. As ride leaders we realized we needed to educate the kids about the conditions for hypothermia, clothing selection, and cold weather cycling safety. Most importantly we tell kids that taking care of themselves, takes care of the group.
How Body Heat is Lost: adapted from www.survivaltopics.com
1. Conduction - the movement of heat from a warmer object to a cooler one when they are in direct contact with one another. The rate of heat transfer between two objects of different temperatures depends upon several factors including: the temperature difference between the two objects, the total surface area where the two objects are in contact, and the efficiency of the insulation that is between the objects. Place insulation between you and the object you are touching.
2. Convection - two objects in contact that are moving relative to one another. For example, when your warm face is exposed to a blast of cold air the speed of that air matters. If the cold air is moving slowly it may not cool your face very much at all. However, if the air is traveling 60 miles per hour you may actually receive a frostbite wound in a matter of seconds. Wear a windproof outer shell.
3. Radiation - transfer of electromagnetic energy between two objects. For example exposed human skin acts as a radiator. The more total area of exposed skin, the more energy is radiated to the environment, assuming that the body is warmer than its surroundings. To minimize the amount of radiative heat you lose to your environment make sure all exposed areas of your skin are covered including the head, face, neck, and hands. Cover all exposed areas of your skin.
4. Evaporation - When water evaporates its change in state from liquid to a gas takes up a great deal of energy and lowers the temperature of the surface on which it occurs. In cold environments, evaporation can be a killer as it consumes a large amount of energy and warmth from your body and transfers it to the outside world. In addition, when the clothing you need to stay warm becomes wet it looses much of its insulative value and exposes you to the risk of hypothermia. Sty dry and avoid deep heavy breathing.
Safe Clothing adapted from Biking 101 by Toronto4Kids
Remember the saying to wear clothing that is BRIGHT, LIGHT, AND TIGHT.
Wear bright colored clothes that will help kids be visible (no dark clothes at dusk, at night, and during the low contrast light times of the year). Reflective outer shell clothing is the best and even better if it keeps the wind from penetrating. Lightweight clothes will avoid becoming overheated and dress in layers during the cold weather seasons. Make sure pant legs are not too loose-fitting [especially wind pants] or flared as they can get caught in the chain while riding. Wear shoes that grip the bike's pedals (avoid shoes with heels, or flip-flops that can all create problems while riding). Kids should never ride barefoot!
Wear full finger gloves and remember to test that you can adequately engage your brake levers and adjust your gears with gloves before you head into traffic or down hills. Consider wearing eyewear since the cold wind blowing into your eyes can cause tearing and in turn impair your vision. Gray tinted sunglasses will also help while riding into the east into the morning sunrise or the west into the setting sun.
Consider the common saying that "cotton kills." The reason why has to do with moisture management in cold and cool conditions. In fact, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing cotton when you can stay dry and warm. The problem results from the challenge of staying dry and warm when cycling in cold weather. Problems with cotton occur when the cotton gets wet. Cotton does not wick moisture and can become abrasive when wet. Because cotton holds so much moisture, it can hold that moisture against your body and sap body heat from you. Wear wool or synthetic fabrics. Adapted from www.fiends.backcountry.net
Wear a cycling cap or balaclava under your cycling helmet. Remember to make sure your helmet sill fits properly. Review the helmet fitting guidelines - eyes, earns, mouth. Some kids place their hoodie hoods under their helmets which impedes there peripheral vision and forces their bike helmet to sit too high on their heads.
Remember to stay hydrated which cyclists often forget during the cold seasons. Use an insulated water bottle or remember to blow the water in a hydration tube back into the bag so water doesn't freeze in the nipple or tube.
It takes time for the body to be warmed up so on colder days set aside extra time for a dynamic stretch to get the blood pumping. Although it may seem like a waste of time, you will notice the effects the following day. It could be as simple as a walking lunge, butt kickers, knees to chest, or elbow to opposite knee. All of which will stretch the major muscle groups used while cycling, get your heart rate up, and pump blood to key areas of your body.