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  1. #1
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    Side effects from riding in the cold

    I rode all last winter except for 6 weeks from the end of January to the middle of March when the roads were snow and ice covered. I have acqired much warmer and technically better gear this winter.

    After riding Tuesday evening for two hours I woke up during the night with flu like symptoms. Headache, aches and pains, slight cramping, and one of my nostrils was completely clogged/closed? shut. One nostril was so clogged that I could not get any sinus rinse through it and the other was difficult. I took an Ibuprofen and went back to bed. In the morning I woke up and felt fine except for maybe being slightly run down. On Saturday, I really struggled while riding. I was riding much slower and really struggled against the winds and on hills. Other than the reduced effort, I really had no symtoms. I was dressed warmly enough that nothing was cold, although I was not toasty either.

    I wonder if I am fighting a bug or what could be causing my symptoms. Is it possible to be dressed warmly enough not to be cold but have too much blood being used to keep warm that there is not enough for the muscles. I am much more warm blooded than other riders and typically require much less clothing to keep warm. I also seem to be effected more by the summer heat than most riders. At least that is my impression.

    Any theories? Other than sneezing a lot last winter because that was my first winter to ride, I do not remember having these type symptoms. I saw an allergist and have been taking shots. This is my first Fall/early winter not to have sinus infections so that seems to be taken care of.

    I was frequently overdressed and I was not able to keep my feet as warm at all last winter. I have since solved both problems, at least for the temperatures that I have ridden in so far.
    What is better than getting your heart rate up and saddle time?

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    Your body could just be fatigued....and that can impact your immune system. And yes, the cold....while it won't actually cause an illness....can also affect your ability to fend off various bugs if your body is getting chilled. Perhaps you should just take a hiatus from riding for a couple of days and see how you respond.

  3. #3
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I think you're just fighting a bug.

    I've only ever had two negative health side effects to cycling in the winter: EIA and Bronchitis. I get EIA on any coolish ride, it doesn't even have to be cold yet. And I developed Bronchitis after cycling 15 hours in very, very cold weather.

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    Banned Bikepacker67's Avatar
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    Winter is all about fighting a low grade bug.

    It's natures way of separating the weak from the strong.

    :-)

  5. #5
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Another factor is that it takes more work to ride in the winter. You might be riding a heavier, less aerodynamic bike. Your bike might be less efficient because the lube is thicker in cold temps. Your rolling resistance is higher if you're under-inflating your tires to improve handling. You are wearing clothes that not only increase weight, but also air resistance because they're more bulky. You mentioned that the wind was strong, and that can take a bigger toll in the winter.

    But they say that the biggest factor is that cold air is simply denser than warm air, so you have to work harder to push your bike and body through it. In my experience this does make a difference, and the faster you ride the greater the difference.

    Eventually you'll develop better fitness in response to the challenge. And just think how fast you'll fly on the first warm day in spring!


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  6. #6
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    Well, I woke up this morning with a mild cold. Whether I was already coming down with it and it was slowing me down on the ride I don't know or if the cold air from the ride was the culprit. Weather here is forecasted to be snow showers this week so I may get that recommended rest.

    Roody - I am tempted to train indoors this winter. My buddy that does not ride if it is too cold, too hot, too much traffic, dark, etc. trained all last winter and improved much more than I did. He sits in his tiny, utility room on his Schwinn aerobic cycle and watches videos on his computer for hours at a time and goes to the health club. I find it difficult to be that disciplined. Riding outside with a groups at regular scheduled times is much more attractive and easier even though it is cold outside.
    What is better than getting your heart rate up and saddle time?

  7. #7
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dekindy View Post
    Well, I woke up this morning with a mild cold. Whether I was already coming down with it and it was slowing me down on the ride I don't know or if the cold air from the ride was the culprit. Weather here is forecasted to be snow showers this week so I may get that recommended rest.

    Roody - I am tempted to train indoors this winter. My buddy that does not ride if it is too cold, too hot, too much traffic, dark, etc. trained all last winter and improved much more than I did. He sits in his tiny, utility room on his Schwinn aerobic cycle and watches videos on his computer for hours at a time and goes to the health club. I find it difficult to be that disciplined. Riding outside with a groups at regular scheduled times is much more attractive and easier even though it is cold outside
    .
    It's cool if people want to ride indoors, but I would feel like a hamster if I did that. Winter is such a beautiful season. I feel sorry for people who miss it because they imagine that they might feel cold. I won't say that I never feel cold, but it's rare that I do, and rarer each year as I gain experience and knowledge.

    But believe me, whatever was tiring you out, it was NOT the cold air. A mild illness will do that, and so will exercising harder than you're accustomed to. I go through that with the start of every cold season, I think for the reasons I mentioned in my previous post. It affected me all last week, when we had our first cold snap with temps consistently below zero and winds that were well above 15 mph for the entire week. This week I'm acclimated and I'm a little more fit from riding in the dense air. My stamina and enjoyment levels are both back to normal now, and I'm having fun on my bike.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by dekindy View Post
    I rode all last winter except for 6 weeks from the end of January to the middle of March when the roads were snow and ice covered. I have acqired much warmer and technically better gear this winter.

    After riding Tuesday evening for two hours I woke up during the night with flu like symptoms. Headache, aches and pains, slight cramping, and one of my nostrils was completely clogged/closed? shut. One nostril was so clogged that I could not get any sinus rinse through it and the other was difficult. I took an Ibuprofen and went back to bed. In the morning I woke up and felt fine except for maybe being slightly run down. On Saturday, I really struggled while riding. I was riding much slower and really struggled against the winds and on hills. Other than the reduced effort, I really had no symptoms. I was dressed warmly enough that nothing was cold, although I was not toasty either.

    I wonder if I am fighting a bug or what could be causing my symptoms. Is it possible to be dressed warmly enough not to be cold but have too much blood being used to keep warm that there is not enough for the muscles. I am much more warm blooded than other riders and typically require much less clothing to keep warm. I also seem to be effected more by the summer heat than most riders. At least that is my impression.

    Any theories? Other than sneezing a lot last winter because that was my first winter to ride, I do not remember having these type symptoms. I saw an allergist and have been taking shots. This is my first Fall/early winter not to have sinus infections so that seems to be taken care of.

    I was frequently overdressed and I was not able to keep my feet as warm at all last winter. I have since solved both problems, at least for the temperatures that I have ridden in so far.
    Sinus rinse? Are you a hypochondriac? Look, you have ZERO evidence that this bug has anything to do with winter riding. It's a little bizarre to say, hmmmmm i rode in the cold and now i'm sick, so that's probably why.

    Since i have been riding in the winter (this is my 5th season) I have been healthier than ever before. I never have colds and usually never get sick. But i am not naive enough to think that i never will. So I am not willing to totally link my health to winter riding, but the facts remain. I have been cold and sick free for a long time. Meanwhile I watch so many others who are sicker than dogs who hardly spend 30 seconds per day outdoors.

    I'm not going to say that there are NO side effects to riding in the cold, because i am not that arrogant. I really have no idea. I can only speak from my experiences which lead me to believe that it makes ME healthier.
    Last edited by Portis; 12-02-07 at 06:21 PM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    It's cool if people want to ride indoors, but I would feel like a hamster if I did that. Winter is such a beautiful season. I feel sorry for people who miss it because they imagine that they might feel cold. I won't say that I never feel cold, but it's rare that I do, and rarer each year as I gain experience and knowledge.

    But believe me, whatever was tiring you out, it was NOT the cold air. A mild illness will do that, and so will exercising harder than you're accustomed to. I go through that with the start of every cold season, I think for the reasons I mentioned in my previous post. It affected me all last week, when we had our first cold snap with temps consistently below zero and winds that were well above 15 mph for the entire week. This week I'm acclimated and I'm a little more fit from riding in the dense air. My stamina and enjoyment levels are both back to normal now, and I'm having fun on my bike.
    I agree. I enjoyed riding outdoors last winter, especially at night during the holidays. Now that I have been to the allergist I was hoping to have a more enjoyable experience and am still hopeful. But if I could be as disciplined as my buddy I might be able to make better progress. I plan to continue riding outdoors once I am over this cold and see how it goes.
    What is better than getting your heart rate up and saddle time?

  10. #10
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    Last Thursday the 24MPH winds blew everything up my nose and wreaked havoc on my sinuses until today. I'm now keeping it covered with my balaclava and fighting glasses fogging until my PSolar arrives. I take allergy shots as well.

    Is it customary for the extremities to feel cold after a ride, but not during? Lately I've noticed that my feet do not feel cold during the ride, yet they feel a little chilly once I'm inside and stripping for the showers.

  11. #11
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    Its not that cold i live north of 60 and right now its -25c no ill effects what so ever. My bike on the other hand acts up, sluggish shifting, frozen hubs, just plane slow moving. rather xc ski, but we could use more snow.

  12. #12
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by effigy View Post
    Is it customary for the extremities to feel cold after a ride, but not during? Lately I've noticed that my feet do not feel cold during the ride, yet they feel a little chilly once I'm inside and stripping for the showers.
    Yes ... blood is one of the main things that keeps you warm. While you are riding, it is pumping all over the place quite quickly, but when you stop riding it slows down and doesn't pump as much to the surface of your skin or your extremities. I can feel quite hot while riding in the winter, then come inside and freeze for a couple hours.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    I've only ever had two negative health side effects to cycling in the winter: EIA and Bronchitis. I get EIA on any coolish ride, it doesn't even have to be cold yet. And I developed Bronchitis after cycling 15 hours in very, very cold weather.
    I get the same things.

    EIA early in the spring. I live in a sheltered valley that is prone to temperature inversions that go on for weeks at a time. The air quality gets pretty bad at times and actually makes cycling an unhealthy activity for about 4-6 weeks every winter. The only time I ever seem to get EIA is when I've been forced into inactivity for month or so and then really start stepping it up.

    Bronchitus in the dead of winter. The air here gets so unbelievably dry that riding on the odd January days that are clear enough and something less than frigid (between 15F and 25F) that my lungs get dried out pretty quickly. The cough that results from trying to hock up all that dried out phlegm can stick around for weeks at a time if I'm not careful.

  14. #14
    Senior Member sumguy's Avatar
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    What is EIA? My only winter problem is nose bleeds.

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    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    Sounds like you're fighting off a bug. I ride outside year-round and rarely ever get colds or the flu. When I do come down with a cold, I usually shake it off very quickly. Being outside in cold weather does not cause colds, particularly if you are dressed properly, and the exercise probably makes you more resistant to infections.

  16. #16
    Senior Member mistertwo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sumguy View Post
    What is EIA? My only winter problem is nose bleeds.
    I can't speak for the others, but I always thought EIA was Exercise Induced Asthma. I get it occasionally after riding extremely hard.
    Herp derpa derp

  17. #17
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sumguy View Post
    What is EIA? My only winter problem is nose bleeds.
    EIA is Exercise Induced Asthma ... mine started with hacking up a lung for about an hour when I came in from exercising (cycling or skiing) outside on cool or cold days. From there it progressed to hacking up a lung for several hours after coming in from the outside on cool or cold days. From there it progressed to hacking up a lung while I was still on my bicycle on cool or cold days. And from there it progressed to hacking so much I began to hyperventilate and couldn't breathe any time I exerted myself outside.

    I went to the Dr, who sent me to a specialist, who sent me for tests, and it was determined I have EIA, and I've been given an inhaler to carry around with me on the bicycle.

  18. #18
    Senior Member aMull's Avatar
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    ^ Do you have to have some form of asthma already for that to happen?

  19. #19
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aMull View Post
    ^ Do you have to have some form of asthma already for that to happen?
    Nope. I never had asthma as a kid or anything ... just very slowly, starting in my late teens, I began noticing those symptoms. They started very gradually ... it was YEARS before I reached the point where I would have to get off the bicycle part way through a ride because I couldn't breathe anymore (it feels like your lungs have closed). In fact before then, I just ignored the symptoms ... but after being unable to breathe on rides 2 or 3 times, I got a bit worried and finally went to see my Dr.

    I'll also add that it has reached a point with me that stress will set it off ... particularly public speaking in my case. I got up to speak in two of my classes and spent the whole time during both speeches gasping for air. In the second speech I felt like I was going to faint because I couldn't inhale. My fellow students were writing little evaluations of me, and a few of them mentioned that it looked like I was struggling to breathe ... well, yes I was!

    http://www.emedicinehealth.com/exerc...article_em.htm

  20. #20
    Senior Member aMull's Avatar
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    Well that's not good. Damn you fragile human body So do you still go out in the cold machka? Or is there a certain temperature you try to avoid?

  21. #21
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aMull View Post
    Well that's not good. Damn you fragile human body So do you still go out in the cold machka? Or is there a certain temperature you try to avoid?
    I still go out in any temperature ... the thing is my EIA starts affecting me around about 10C/50F, so it's still quite warm out. I'm not passing up all kinds of decent cycling weather because of a little breathing problem!

    However, I carry two inhalers now. My main one is Serevent, which is a long lasting one. One puff will last me 10-ish hours. My other one is a form of Ventilin, which is a fast-acting, short-lasting one. At the beginning of brevets, 24-hour events, or other organized cycling events, when I'm with a group of cyclists and I know they'll be starting fast, I'll take a puff of each inhaler. The Ventilin will get me through that first hour or so, then the Serevent will kick in and take me further into the event or right to the end of the event.

    When I'm on my own and riding slowly on a cool ride, I can breathe all the way through with no problems. But I'll use the Ventilin as soon as I get in to prevent (or reduce) the hours of hacking up lungs. When I plan to go out for a slowish cold ride, I'll use one or the other of my inhalers before I go out to prevent (or reduce) any problems.

    It's really only when I'm exerting myself ... like climbing a lot of hills or riding with faster riders ... when I run into trouble.


    And hey ... it's better than the other thing they were testing me for at the same time! I have two damaged valves in my heart so when I described my breathing problems to the specialist, he sent me for both a lung test and a test for congestive heart disease. To my relief, the results leaned toward EIA.

  22. #22
    Senior Member aMull's Avatar
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    Good work for pulling through, and with long distance cycling at that Actually are you saying that you can develop asthma with cold weather cycling? Reading that article again i think you have to have asthma already which is then triggered by exercise, and if you don't have asthma you'll be fine. Or my i getting things wrong?

  23. #23
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    No, you don't have to have asthma already. The article says (around the middle of the first page):

    "Exercise can even induce an asthma attack in people who have no other triggers and do not experience asthma under any other circumstances."

  24. #24
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    does "frostnip" count? (not now, last year)
    "Never do anything that you wouldn't want to have to explain to the paramedics."

    "His first words were 'did you bike today?' I hesitated before admitting that I had, thinking I was going to get a lecture on how bad the roads were and how I shouldn't try to bike home. Instead he said 'man, you're lucky! I've been sitting in traffic for over 1/2 hr, and I've only gone about 2 miles. Some guy on a bike passed me about 20 minutes ago and I'm sure he's home by now'."

  25. #25
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    so is it considered EIA if you only get it when exercising during cold weather, I always just figured my respiratory system was producing a little too much extra mucous in order to deal with the cold air. Mine always seems to go away an hour or 2 after a ride, and doesn't bother me at all during, just after, but then I might not be as effected as some folks

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