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Winter Cycling Don't let snow and ice discourage you this winter. The key element to year-round cycling is proper attire! Check out this winter cycling forum to chat with other ice bike fanatics.

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Old 01-21-08, 05:28 PM   #1
madavis25
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Cold weather efficiency

Does cold weather riding decrease efficiency? I commute to work year round, 7mi each direction, but every winter, my average speed drops and it feels like I am working harder to maintain my speed. It isn't very cold where I live-am temps are usually around 32 deg F, occ down to low 20's. I obviously wear more clothing, big ski gloves, light shell. I carry a couple pound battery for my light. Is it just an additive effect from increased wind resistance and increased weight, or is there something about the cold that makes muscles work less efficiently?
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Old 01-21-08, 06:09 PM   #2
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Old 01-21-08, 06:45 PM   #3
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There are a lot of threads on this subject if you search. There are even more theories, none of which are completely in and of themselves a definitive reason why you are slower, but you are SLOWER. That is really all that matters.


0f is much worse than 32F but I can notice the effect with anything below 40F or so.
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Old 01-21-08, 07:30 PM   #4
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See article on IceBike site

Go to IceBike

Conclusion is:
"If we take just the two big ticket items from the above list, Higher Air Density, and Less Aero Shape (drag) we have forces at work (and some numbers to back them up) that can account for 15 to 30 percent greater effort to maintain the same speed, or 15 to 30 percent reduction in speed."
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Old 01-21-08, 08:26 PM   #5
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That's a great explaination, but I think that page may underestimate the losses due to non-winterized bearing grease, especially on new parts (where half the grease hasn't leaked out yet).

I've had cranks I can barely turn (by themselves) until I put in an older BB.
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Old 01-22-08, 08:19 AM   #6
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Yeah, it's definitely more work to ride in the winter. I've certainly noticed that my wheels don't spin nearly as freely as they do in the summer. Chain lube doesn't work as smoothly. Denser colder air means more air resistance, and it's harder for your lungs to absorb oxygen. More energy is being devoted to keeping your body warm, rather than propelling it forward.

But look on the bright side: Come spring, you'll be stronger than any of those weenies who hang up their bike in the winter!
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Old 01-22-08, 08:32 AM   #7
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ride in winter, dominate in summer
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Old 01-22-08, 11:41 AM   #8
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Quote:
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Go to IceBike

Conclusion is:
"If we take just the two big ticket items from the above list, Higher Air Density, and Less Aero Shape (drag) we have forces at work (and some numbers to back them up) that can account for 15 to 30 percent greater effort to maintain the same speed, or 15 to 30 percent reduction in speed."
Unlike an internal combustion engine, we don't have the potential to produce more power just by breathing colder air. We had one car that was MUCH peppier around 35F than at 75 F. For us human powered machines we have to deal with the Air density and drag as mentioned above. For winter cyclists we also add less efficient tires for many of us in snowy/icy parts of the country. I don't mind. I guess I get some more effort to help burn off the Thanksgiving to Christmass food fest.

Happy riding,
André
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Old 01-24-08, 03:45 PM   #9
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Whatever it is, it adds 15 min onto my 10 mile ride.

You mean 3 pairs of long undies, tights, 3 shirts, a jacket, head stuff, gloves with liners, wool socks, boot covers, and ski goggles might slow you down? I'll have to weigh all of that sometime.

Oh yeah, and don't forget the Nokian 294's...

And I don't want to talk about the packer's loss... Or the 15 (expletive) pounds I put on over my three week Christmas break (with alot of stess to help). At least I am down 1/2 of those pounds already.

I can't wait for the spring to see what I ride like then!
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Old 01-25-08, 11:32 PM   #10
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I actually don't mind the ride or the extra work it takes to continue commuting at this time of year, but I could live without the extra time I have to spend getting into and out of my riding gear. During the summer all I have to do is throw my work clothes into my panniers and slip into a T-Short and some shorts. In the winter, I have to put on my base layer, my rain layer, and my shoe covers. Plus, I have to throw the rain cover over the panniers when I ride. That's another 2 minutes I'll never get back

Seriously, though. It takes me about 5 minutes to get ready in the summer but 15-20 in the winter.
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Old 01-25-08, 11:58 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeff-o View Post

But look on the bright side: Come spring, you'll be stronger than any of those weenies who hang up their bike in the winter!
I'm looking for a "stomp the weenie" smilie and can't find one!! But how much more will we, who endured the worst of winter, have earned the warm weather? Yes, mornings here have been 15-20 deg. F. But then afternoons are 40. It's been clear and crisp, but we're supposed to get some cold and wet, possibly even snow!!! early next week. Bring it.
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Old 01-27-08, 01:40 PM   #12
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Yeah, winter riding is work; summer riding is just riding.

The wind is another factor, IMO. For one thing, the winter winds are faster. But in addition, the denser cold air (mentioned by others) intensifies the wind's effect on movement, even at equivalent wind speeds.
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Old 01-28-08, 08:42 AM   #13
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Quote:
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Yeah, winter riding is work; summer riding is just riding.

The wind is another factor, IMO. For one thing, the winter winds are faster. But in addition, the denser cold air (mentioned by others) intensifies the wind's effect on movement, even at equivalent wind speeds.
I'll second that statement. We've had hard winter wind here for the better part of the past two weeks. The winds have been steady between 15 to 25 MPH with some days gusting up to 45 MPH. That was some hard riding. The temperature was also hovering between the mid teens and low to mid twenties the whole tome. We've also had some level of snowy precipitation for just about every day for the last week and a half as well. All that made for hard work, and messy commuting. Yesterday was the first truely nice day in weeks. We had temps hovering right around freezing, little or no wind, and bright sunny skies. I went out and finally got to use the cross country skis .

This week looks to be a "light" weather week. Temps right around or above freezing, and relatively little wind. Possible thunderstorms tomorrow and snowy winter weather returning Wednesday. In a sick sort of way I actually like the winter commute. It feels more like a bit of a battle against mother nature.

Happy riding,
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Old 01-29-08, 10:54 AM   #14
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I think just the work that the body has to do to keep you warm burns enough calories to offset the higher food intake in Winter! The workout from the actual cycling is additional.
Northern New Mexico (Albuquerque Area) has a relatively cold winter this time. Hey at one point we were even colder than Denver! I try to commute 4 times a week and at least one long weekened ride. This place is cursed by winds and I think 1 - 4AM is the only time when the wind dies.

I don't think about efficiency anymore but I did clock myself going to work 7.6 miles in 22 minutes and that includes a 300 ft climb for less than half a mile, maybe 5-8 mph cross head wind too. I was riding single speed as well -- not really slower than my summer riding but I think the winds are really terrible here in the summer!

I think the urgency to get out of the cold actually helps me to pedal through inspite of all the weight friction etc etc.

Both my fixed gears have cheapie computers that I've converted to read RPMS and I think I managed 110 in the winter and 130 in the warm seasons when on flat and moderate rolling hills. Not a 30% decrease really!
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