Winter biking strategies

Tips for maintaining your cycling legs all winter

Icy roads are common in winter, but determined bicyclists don't need to hibernate when the mercury plummets and icy roads become a dicey proposition.

"I go to the gym unless it's a great day outside," says Mike Smith, president of Siskiyou Velo, the largest local bicycling club. "I want to be within striking distance of good cycling shape in the spring."

Riding with the pack

Recurring road rides

Every Saturday: Brisk, two- to four-hour rides begin at 9 a.m. at Cycle Sport in Medford. The course changes from week to week. Call ride leader Alex Hayes for details at 541-857-0819.

Every Saturday: Mellow 20-mile rides (10-12 mph) begin at 10 a.m. Locations and routes vary. Call David Gibb at 541-899-9030 for details.

Every Saturday: Slo-Mo rides begin at 9 a.m. and cover 14 to 18 miles. Starting locations vary. For details, call Phil Gagnon at 541-488-4289.

Every Sunday: 20-mile training rides begin at 1 p.m. along the bike path behind Bad Ass Coffee Co. in Medford. Race pace. No ride leader.

Every Sunday: Cycle Analysis in Jacksonville hosts a two- to three-hour road ride at 8 a.m. All fitness levels welcome. Riders regroup at major intersections, and there are cutoff spots to make the ride shorter if needed. Contact Jana Jenson at 541-899-9190 or email

Every Monday: Siskiyou Velo Club's 25-mile coffee rides begin at 10:30 a.m. at Colver Park in Phoenix and journey to Jacksonville. Gently rolling terrain, brisk pace. No ride leader.

Every Wednesday: 25- to 40-mile Siskiyou Velo Club show-and-go rides begin at 11 a.m. at Rogue Valley Roasting Co. in Ashland. Moderate terrain, brisk pace. No ride leader.

Recurring mountain bike rides

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Ashland: Rides organized by the crew at Ashland Cycle Sport, 191 Oak St., Ashland. Meet at 6:30 p.m. at the Ashland plaza. Riders of all abilities are welcome on the Tuesday ride, which usually lasts until dark. The Thursday ride is usually longer (two to two and a half hours) and faster-paced. Lights are highly recommended. Helmets and a safe, functioning bike are required. Call Scott at 541-488-0581 for more information. Website is

Every Wednesday, Jacksonville: Starting at 6 p.m., Cycle Analysis hosts two-hour rides on either the Britt trails in Jacksonville or nearby Johns Peak, which has almost 200 miles of trails. All comers are welcome — no age or ability limits. Helmets are mandatory, and lights are required during the winter. Contact Jana Jenson at 541-899-9190, or email

Every Saturday, Medford: Rides start at Medford Cycle Sport, and courses vary from week to week, but riders can expect a brisk road ride that lasts two to four hours. Most rides include at least one (but usually two or three) one- to three-mile climbs. Call Alex at 541-857-0819 for information and starting times. Website is

Smith employs a rigorous cross-training schedule during the cold months, including a treadmill, stationery bike, rowing machine and swimming.

"I'll also do up to 45 minutes of stretching and strength work until March," says Smith.

Like most cyclists, Smith prefers to be outdoors. Even when the temperature is above freezing on the home thermometer, shaded areas near streams and at higher elevations can spell trouble.

"I never ride below 35 degrees," Smith explains. "I bring a thermometer; it gives me a margin of safety."

Cinders from sanding trucks follow the ice and snow.

"Sanding, especially on Jacksonville Hill, is a problem," says Smith. "It can get into your chains."

If you must go out in inclement weather, having the right tires is important, says Jana Jensen, owner of Cycle Analysis in Jacksonville.

"When it's wet, use a tire with side grooves that let water slip out to prevent hydroplaning," says Jensen. "And putting fenders on can keep the rain from splashing up."

Though cycling in snow and ice on roads with traffic can be hazardous, mountain biking on snowy roads that are closed to traffic can provide adventure.

"You can get chains for your bike tires," says Jensen. "People in Alaska and Minnesota who are die-hard cyclists will not stop in the winter."

Just make sure chains will work with your specific bicycle.

"Mountain bikes with a wide space on the forks work best," says Jensen. "These chains are not high-profile."

Though lights are important — and even mandatory — for night riding, they are especially important in winter when inclement weather and short days are ever-present.

"A front light is the law," Jensen explains. "I recommend a flashing white light. Flashers are safer because they draw attention and are easier for motorists to see."

Jensen also recommends a red flashing light in the back, even though it's not required by law. Lower-end red flashers will cost about $10 to $30. A decent, rechargeable white flasher costs about $85 with 150 lumens of brightness. A top-of-the-line light with 1,500 lumens can run $300.

While comfort is important year-round, an ounce of prevention in the clothing department can prevent hypothermia or even frostbite.

"Layering is the big thing, especially with wool," says Jerry Rhoades, who has been a dedicated cyclist for more than 30 years. He averages 16,000 miles per year, nearly 50 miles per day. Among his cycling accomplishments is a 1,250-kilometer ultrarace in France that took 59 hours to complete.

"I'll start with a polypro, wool or synthetic tee. A long-sleeved shirt goes over this, then a Windbreaker," says Rhoades. "I wear neoprene booties over my shoes and a Polartec balaklava under my helmet — it's not too bulky."

When it's really cold, Rhoades wears thermal cycling pants and places a plastic bag between his sock and shoe.

"It's impervious to wind," Rhoades explains.

The layering approach also works for hands.

"I use wool liners and wool overgloves," says Rhoades. "It's kind of like a ski glove with pockets for hand warmers.

If you'd rather be indoors but still want to ride your bicycle, a wind trainer might be the answer.

"You don't need something fancy, just something that's easy to fit your bike into," says Jensen. "Some are louder, so you decide how much noise you'll put up with. The magnetic ones are quieter."

For ease of use and a quieter ride, Jensen recommends buying a smooth tire for the indoor work.

If you want to ride on local trails or roads this winter and have company while doing it, Siskiyou Velo and several local bike shops organize road rides and mountain-bike rides just about every day of the week.

"We have Wednesday night mountain-bike rides either at Johns Peak or on the Britt trails," says Jensen. "Rain or shine."

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