Question: I’ve been riding when temperatures get above 25F degrees, but I recently read about a pro who says he never rides outside if it’s below 40. I can’t be tougher than a pro, can I? What is the minimum temperature for training outside? — Barry M.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: If you’re dressed correctly and have the right equipment, you can ride outside regardless of temperature. Iditabike racers handle below-freezing (sometimes below zero) temperatures for more than 24 hours while riding on packed snow and dodging ill-tempered moose.
But there’s a big difference between riding outside and doing meaningful training. Although you can ride when your bottles freeze solid and icicles form on your balaclava, it’s difficult to do an interval session in those conditions.
Climbing is okay because you warm up from the combination of exertion and lack of air movement at slow speed — but then you freeze solid on the descent.
So, in cold temperatures, by far the most effective training is accomplished indoors on a trainer or stationary bike. The specific temperature depends on your individual tolerance, road conditions, type of training you have planned and other factors such as wind direction.
The cut-off for many riders occurs in the 30-40F range. When the temperature is freezing (including the windchill factor), the trainer may be a better option unless your objective is simply to get some fresh air — or escape the trainer!