"The Benefits of a Winter Mission."- Tales from the Trails

"The Benefits of a Winter Mission."- Tales from the Trails

Some people love the snow, some people hate it. I can never relate when I hear neighbours, friends, teachers, or coworkers say they hate the snow… After all we live in Canada and snow in the winter is about as imminent as sun in the summer. I mean, I get it- Winter is dark and can feel isolating at times. The temperature is cold, snow makes getting around slower, errands are not as easy to accomplish when the city is backed up, and road salt is quite hard on pets, cars, and gear. Overall, the Winter season is not as easy on us as other seasons of the year. Yet the winter can also be quite beautiful. There are many things that make Winter enjoyable- soup, indoor hobbies, hot apple cider in the forrest over an open fire, binge watching Sex and the City with your roommates... But some of the most rewarding feelings during the Winter months come from exercise outdoors. Cross country skiing, hiking, cycling, or pond hockey are some of the popular ones in my neck of the woods. These activities can be enjoyed individually or communally, as long as you are moving your body, you will reap the many benefits.

It also helps to know how dress for the occasions. Here in Ontario, it could be snowing one day, frigid and sunny the next day, and raining the day after, so acquiring the right gear to get you through the mission is nearly essential. 

We’ve compiled a list of our Top 5 Winter Mission Essentials in hopes that you might be able to dial in your setup and enjoy what Jack Frost has to offer.

In no particular order…

  1. A Moisture Wicking Base Layer

This is a crucial piece to any outdoor enthusiast’s Winter Gear setup. If you do not have your base layer sorted, you will quickly spiral into a sweaty and cold mess. Before you know it, the situation could be dire. First and foremost, I would have to recommend wool across the board for any layer that will touch your skin. The natural fibres pull sweat and condensation away from your body, and keep you warm despite the moisture levels. On the more budget friendly side, a mix of wool and polyester may do the trick for you. Steer clear of cotton- which has no moisture wicking properties and will feel cold and clammy in no time.

  1. Eye Protection

Everyone knows what it’s like to cry from the bitter cold. Did you know that the snow reflects very intense UV rays? Prolonged exposure to the suns reflection off of the snow or ice will result in something called “Snow Blindness”. Look it up. Which is why sunglasses in the daytime, even if it’s not particularly sunny, are essential. There are many lenses that provide UV protection for low-high light settings. There are also plain clear glasses, which are probably my most used pair in my rotation. Clears are beneficial at all times of the day, but particularly after dark(which seems like most of the day during the winter), when visibility is crucial for staying upright amongst black ice, unpredictable snow, and biting wind. 

  1. Fenders on the Winter Rig

If you are interested in cycling year round, there is one addition you must make to your bike during the sloppy months that will significantly impact your experience for the better. Fenders not only stop the muck from destroying your leather shoes, staining your selvage jeans, and leaving a nice rat tail on your favourite jacket, fenders also cut down on the wear and tear of your bicycle itself- saving you money and time in the long run. When you contain the salty water from seeping into your bearings, gears, and frame holes, you will significantly prolong the life of your bike and its parts. Nothing is permanent, you can always take them off when it gets warm and sunny and they’ll be good to put on again next season. Invest in fenders, you will not regret it. 

  1. Wool socks

Wool socks are a staple in the outdoor activity realm. There is literally nothing worse than the discomfort you experience when your feet are wet, cold, and losing circulation on a mission. Quality wool socks are not something to overlook. They regulate the temperature of your feet, remain warm even when sweaty, and are durable enough to invest some of your hard earned pennies in. It also helps to have a shoe that can fit some of the bulkier socks you might wear throughout the winter. Having a bit of room inside your shoe will provide some space for dead air which traps the warmth your body gives off, letting your feet breathe, and allowing for inevitable swelling on a longer ride or hike. This set up is similar to the insulation in between the walls of your house. If your feet do start to go numb and cold, don’t fret, get off the bike and run with it for a few hundred feet. Do some jumping jacks. This change of movement encourages blood to flow down to your extremities, warming them up, and dissipating the numbness. It is also quite proactive to bring a change of socks on any Winter ride, hike, or ski. Keep an extra pair deep down inside your bag, just incase. 

  1. A positive attitude.

Quite possibly the biggest deal breaker is the approach to the experience. One must be optimistic about the fun they are about to have. You cant think too long about how much warmer you are inside, how you could just ride your trainer with Zwaft going, or how it might be potentially dangerous to embark on such a ridiculous outing. Winter adaptation makes you stronger for when the conditions are less harsh. Bike handling skills significantly improve when you are faced with unpredictable snow, ice, and the frigid air. Being adaptable is a great characteristic to hone, and it takes time to get good at adapting to constantly changing conditions. In one ride you could see any number of conditions, its best to plan for it- check the weather radar in your region, and plan accordingly. Ride into the headwind on the way out, so on the ride home you’ve got wind in your sails. Bring a hot drink in a thermos or stop for one mid-mission, its incredible how much dopamine you receive from a hot beverage during a cold outing. 

Pairing all of these things together should do you well. Remember to not over dress, one should be able to warm up to the appropriate temperature after about 10 minutes of adjusting. Dress in layers as well, ones that can be shed and stowed. Steer clear of high traffic roads- out of control drivers are literally a toe-tab waiting for you. Stick to the trails, the scenery is better there anyway. 

We hope that this list will motivate you to take advantage of the current conditions outside- wherever you are. The benefits of exercise during the Winter months are astronomical. One just has to put themselves out there! 


Happy trails!

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Jonathan Porkstein

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