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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 01-31-05, 06:46 PM   #1
gabiker
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Lack of power in cold

Hello,

I have never posted here and I am sure I don't ride in the cold like most of you do, but I do have a question that maybe someone can answer. I don't know if it is just a coincidence, but it just seems that I don't have near the power when it is cold that I do when it is warm. It also seems that the colder it is the less the power is there. I also seem to have sore legs most of the winter.

I might add that I am 52 and rode 6,000 miles last year and 752 miles so far this year and probably about a B rider. I have also noticed my average mpg is about 2 to 3 lower.

Anybody else have these problems or am I just plain ole tired???

Thanks...
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Old 01-31-05, 07:02 PM   #2
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That's completely normal. There are various reasons for it, including:

1. Air density - cold air is denser than hot air
2. The fact that your tires will likely be flatter in the cold - take a full balloon outside in the cold and you'll see what I mean
3. The amount of clothing you're wearing - the more you wear the more weight you're carrying around with you and the more constricting it is
4. The fact that cold can cause parts of the bicycle to freeze up or not run as smoothly, more friction
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Old 01-31-05, 07:04 PM   #3
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Warm or cold, I'm slow all year round, but some very good riders think of the winter as a time to cut back some on their mileage and recover from the stress of the summer season. For what it's worth, Chris Charmichael (Lance Armstrong's coach) says in one of his books (which just happens to be an arm's reach away): "Winter takes more out of you because of the elements and lower fitness levels. Don't ride as long, and allow more recovery time than after warmer rides."
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Old 01-31-05, 07:05 PM   #4
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I can't speak to the specifics as I'm not your age (not to be mean just to state things as they are). However, it's absolutely true that as the temp goes down so does my speed. Things get cold and stiff and creaky.

Come spring it all limbers up again.
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Old 01-31-05, 07:24 PM   #5
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Indeed the cold slows you down. I cant wait for summer or at least spring im so tired of cold . Plus i made a bunch of upgrades this winter so im hoping for a thrill
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Old 01-31-05, 07:47 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Machka
That's completely normal. There are various reasons for it, including:

1. Air density - cold air is denser than hot air
2. The fact that your tires will likely be flatter in the cold - take a full balloon outside in the cold and you'll see what I mean
3. The amount of clothing you're wearing - the more you wear the more weight you're carrying around with you and the more constricting it is
4. The fact that cold can cause parts of the bicycle to freeze up or not run as smoothly, more friction
Thanks,

Most of that is what I thought. Is there anything to do with muscles? It seems like my muscles never warm up when it is could either. I have two bikes a Ti and a 853 Reynolds steel and the Ti is always a better ride, but it seems like the Steel bike this time of the year is like riding a tank. Maybe it is just not as stiff or responsive is all that is.

Anyway thanks for your quick response.

By the way I looked at you website and some of the rides you do. You need to come East and do some of the rides over this way. There are some really good ones like Bike VA, Cycle NC And Brat (Bike ride across TN) as well as BRAG (Bicycle ride across GA)
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Old 02-01-05, 08:12 AM   #7
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Takes me longer to get where I'm going in the cold. But I keep doing it because I like it and just think of how much faster I'll be when it warms up!
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Old 02-01-05, 08:33 AM   #8
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I've noticed the slow-down too. Some of it is thicker tires (Nokian studded 35's instead of near-slick 28's), some of it is weight and wind resistance from my nylon shell. But I'd guess some of it is that it takes energy just to breath in cold weather, and that's energy your legs can't use.

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Old 02-01-05, 11:04 AM   #9
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All of the above postings are good advice. In addition to that.

It takes a lot of calories to keep warm in the cold. Just by being cold you have less power to put into the pedals. That is probably the biggest factor when it is very cold.
Not the only factor, all the others are true too. It all adds up.
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Old 02-01-05, 02:44 PM   #10
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Machka is very well informed.

For me, another issue is psychological. When it gets very cold (meaning below 0 F) I just am not as happy about riding and just don't ride as hard. Getting tired bothers me more and aches that I woud ignore on a summer's day become very bothersome.

I feel like I ride with my head down and shoulders bowed, as if the heavier, cold air was pushing me down...
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Old 02-01-05, 02:50 PM   #11
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yeah, i suffer from a bad attitude on colder rides as well. it makes every mile seem like two and often i just feel like heading back home. it takes some work to get in the right frame of mind to pull off a good ride when it's really cold.
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Old 02-01-05, 03:09 PM   #12
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(These numbers are made up, you may or may not put out more or less depending on how fit you are.)
Imagine your body is putting out 400 watts. 250 goes to riding, 100 goes towards maintaining bodily functions, 50 is for heat. In the summer, you're trying to dissipate all 50 watts. In the winter, you have a 50-75 watt deficit cause you need 100-125 watts just to keep warm. Right there and then, your power to the wheels drops from 250 to 200-175. You've lost 20% of your power.
Not to mention you can't take in enough oxygen cause the air's so dry.
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Old 02-01-05, 03:10 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timmhaan
yeah, i suffer from a bad attitude on colder rides as well. it makes every mile seem like two and often i just feel like heading back home. it takes some work to get in the right frame of mind to pull off a good ride when it's really cold.
Come on man, I started commuting again, besides, supposed to be in the 40's this week.
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Old 02-01-05, 03:27 PM   #14
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In the summer, I average 30 km/hr give or take, round trip. In the winter, I'm down to 24-25. That's a big difference. Some of it is due to poorer road conditions. Some is due to extra drag from clothing. I'm also riding in the dark one way. But a big part of it, for me at least, is reduced aerobic capacity in the cold. I find in the cold my lungs constrict and I just can't opperate at the same level as I could in warm air. Anyone else experience this?
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Old 02-01-05, 05:44 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slvoid
Come on man, I started commuting again, besides, supposed to be in the 40's this week.
hey, i'm out there. not every day, but trying. you gotta remember, i'm from the southwest originally - it's taking me a good chunk of my life to get used to the cold. don't think i'll ever be completely though. but yeah, 40's will be nice for a change.
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Old 02-01-05, 07:01 PM   #16
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Generally speaking, i am about 2-4 miles per hour slower in the winter on my daily 20+ mile Mountain Bike rides. Sometimes more sometimes less. I find that road conditions are the biggest factor after you get below freezing. I have noticed that i am not particulary slower at 5 F than i am at 32 F. I am a lot slower at 32 F than i am at 60 F however.
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Old 02-01-05, 07:06 PM   #17
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When it gets down in the teens, the nylon shell I wear is thick and catches the wind like a sail, and also the bulky clothes prevent me from getting into a good posture for speed and long term comfort.
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Old 02-02-05, 06:10 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timmhaan
hey, i'm out there. not every day, but trying. you gotta remember, i'm from the southwest originally - it's taking me a good chunk of my life to get used to the cold. don't think i'll ever be completely though. but yeah, 40's will be nice for a change.
Hehe I started commuting again, it's good to be back out there. I was getting a) comfortable and satisfied with just standing or especially sitting there on the subway for an hour and a half, b) tired of all the people around me on the subway.
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Old 02-02-05, 08:14 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darkmother
But a big part of it, for me at least, is reduced aerobic capacity in the cold. I find in the cold my lungs constrict and I just can't opperate at the same level as I could in warm air. Anyone else experience this?
Yep, I have to go over a steep, but short, bridge on my commute. When it's warmer out, I can pedal hard all the way up without my breathing increasing noticeably. However, when it gets really cold I'm sucking air so hard through my teeth my gums hurt (and that's typically when a big diesel truck passes by and leaves me surrounded by a cloud of fumes )
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Old 02-02-05, 09:28 AM   #20
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Well I am sure I don't ride in the low temps that most of you do, but 30's and 40's to us is probably like 10's and 20's to most of you and it is either kicking my a$$ or I am fighting a bug, because it is hard riding lately.
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Old 02-02-05, 10:26 AM   #21
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Quote:
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Well I am sure I don't ride in the low temps that most of you do, but 30's and 40's to us is probably like 10's and 20's to most of you and it is either kicking my a$$ or I am fighting a bug, because it is hard riding lately.
I guess it's all relative. To me, 30's and 40's is warm weather.
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Old 02-02-05, 11:39 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darkmother
But a big part of it, for me at least, is reduced aerobic capacity in the cold. I find in the cold my lungs constrict and I just can't opperate at the same level as I could in warm air. Anyone else experience this?

My lungs don't react to the cold like that. However, when it is below 0 F, it seems that cars and trucks don't burn their fuel as efficiently. I sometimes will get a big cloud of exhaust, right in the kisser, as they start from a traffic light or something. I'll tell ya, it's like I can feel those little sacks in my lungs turning brown and dying. Especially if I'm panting from riding hard.
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Old 02-02-05, 09:26 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gabiker
Hello,

I have never posted here and I am sure I don't ride in the cold like most of you do, but I do have a question that maybe someone can answer. I don't know if it is just a coincidence, but it just seems that I don't have near the power when it is cold that I do when it is warm. It also seems that the colder it is the less the power is there. I also seem to have sore legs most of the winter.

I might add that I am 52 and rode 6,000 miles last year and 752 miles so far this year and probably about a B rider. I have also noticed my average mpg is about 2 to 3 lower.

Anybody else have these problems or am I just plain ole tired???

Thanks...
Having southern blood myself, I was prone to cold before cycling. The good news is that your body adjusts to the cold and you may find that less layers are actually needed. After the first year of riding, I noticed that I need less layers. Less layers means less wind resistance and better range of motion.

So right now (starting 4th yr of riding in winter temps) in 38F, I need just a very thin duo-fold long sleeve and Polar tech 100 tights, no cap (BMX Helmet), but definately warm gloves. Lighter weight tights would be helpful but I just haven't bought more clothes.
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Old 02-02-05, 09:48 PM   #24
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I'm not sure if this is true, but it sounds plausible. Someone told me that us humans have less oxygen to breathe in the winter because the trees are bare and not producing oxygen as they do in the summer.
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Old 02-02-05, 10:32 PM   #25
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I'm not sure if this is true, but it sounds plausible. Someone told me that us humans have less oxygen to breathe in the winter because the trees are bare and not producing oxygen as they do in the summer.
Oxygen gets distributed pretty evenly in the lower troposphere, that's why you don't often run into pure pockets of oxygen and combust or find people running down the street in terror away from the pocket of nitrogen sweeping over the city.
There's a lot of oxygen produced by algae in the oceans too.
I say the constriction, dryness and general cold temperatures in the lungs slow you down a lot more.

Imagine if you're losing 75 watts in heat, that affects your speed a LOT, for some people it could be like half their power right there.
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