The Village Idiot. That's exactly what I thought when I saw someone riding a bike in the winter. But once I learned to pile on the right clothes, check the weather and find the right routes, I was able to sneak in a few extra miles during the winter. Miles that don't include staring at a computer on a spin bike and wondering: Just how long can an hour really last? This is all coming from a Florida gal.
- Courtesy Dirty Free Hub
- Linda English and Bryn Gabriel enjoying the Water and Lava route, one of the many Dirty Freehub gravel bike routes in Central Oregon. Find the route description at Dirty Freehub.
Here are my secrets to winter riding, (besides layering):
Wear a hydration pack and fill it with hot water right before you leave. Usually the first half hour is the WORST! But with a hydration pack filled with hot water, the first half hour is toasty. This gives me just enough time to warm up from my riding.
Buy really good winter riding boots. Mine keep my feet so hot that I can hardly stand to put them on in the house, but I am always thankful for them on colder days.
Find flat or rolling routes. Routes with one big continuous uphill and then one blasting downhill will have you sweating on the climb up and your teeth chattering on the way down.
Find routes with bail-out points or that let you stay close to town. When the weather heads south, just head straight home to a hot bath and a good cup of tea. I will also speed call a friend to come pick me up—but it's good to pick the friend who will skip the lecture about why I decided to ride in bad weather.
Check the elevation on your routes: The maps on RidewithGPS include the elevation. If you're headed to an area that's going to be as high as the Virginia Meissner Sno-Park and you know people are skiing at Meissner, that should be a red flag that you're going to hit snow.
- Courtesy Dirty Free Hub
- Kevin English, co-founder of Dirty Freehub, on the Water and Lava gravel route.
What are the GO-TO gravel routes that I ride in the winter? Here's a list of the ones from Dirty Freehub that keep you low in elevation and typically stay a little more frost free. Of course, if anything like the blizzard of 2018 blows in, all bets are off; either buy a fat bike, or I'll see you at spin class.
Alpaca: A 45-mile loop with 1,700 feet of climbing. Starts in Tumalo and tosses in mountain views and lots of rolling farmland.
West Side Tour: A 25-mile loop with loads of places to punch out. Includes First Street Rapids, River Trail, Shevlin Park, Phil's Trailhead, Good Dog Park, Miller Park and Drake Park. Starts in Bend.
Horse to Horse: A 36-mile loop with 1,800 feet of gain that includes Horse Butte and Horse Ridge. Starts east of Bend.
Twin Bridges Gravel: A gravel twist on a Bend classic ride. 40 miles and 1,800 feet of climbing. Starts in Northwest Crossing.
Townie: Meander all over Bend on loads of dirt roads and canal trails that we're sure you didn't even know existed. 14 miles and 500 feet of gain. Starts in the Old Mill.
East Side Tour: 43 miles and 1,500 feet of gain. Like the West side Tour, this is a mixed-gravel loop on the east side of Bend. Some river, some canal, some road. Starts in Drake Park.
Lower Bridge Gravel: 77 miles and 3,100 feet of gain. A mixed-gravel version of the classic Lower Bridge road route. This route is best ridden in the winter. Starts in Northwest Crossing.
To find all of the route details, including downloadable maps, head to dirtyfreehub.com.