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Winter riding in the Alps

January 5, 2023

From time to time, I fancy getting into indoor riding. You know, buy one of those high tech smart trainers and sweat in the basement. Leave my smartphone to look at another screen. Hang out in the metaverse. That would be cool, right?

And then I wake up and I remember that I live in the Swiss Alps. I’m in the middle of a giant playground where kids athletes like me are having fun all year round with their toys sophisticated equipment. In summer, I ride my road or gravel bike. In winter, I go ski touring – when there’s snow, which is less common these days. And I keep riding because that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 40 years and I just love it.

OK, I live at the top of a 10km climb and that adds to the challenge of riding outside. I have to make sure I don’t freeze going downhill and don’t overheat when climbing. I also need to stay away from icy roads.

All of this can be done if you follow some simple advice that I am going to share with you. It is based on 40 years of making mistakes and freezing my butt as a result, so it’s gotta be good.

  • Tip 1: stay on the sunny side

First, it’s about route choice. This amazing road I love in summer because it’s in the shade? Well, it’s a problem in winter. It’s cold as f*ck and possibly icy. So, choose climbs (and descents) that are in the sun.

The road in the valley down there is great to ride… in summer

  • Tip 2: and if it’s really, really cold or raining or snowing, stay low

Ride in the valley. Or just go skiing because it might be a powder day higher up.

It’s a good day to stay low

  • Tip 3: go slow

You will also sweat like a pig if you push hard when you climb. That’s inevitable, no matter what clothing brands tell you. And it’s a problem: once at the top, you will be wet and you will freeze on the downhill. Therefore, keep your heart rate under control and enjoy the sceneries.

Trying to go easy on a 19% climb in our village

If you follow this simple advice, you can enjoy riding your bike in the alpine winter. It won’t be exactly like summer, but it’ll be fun. Most of the time.

And of course, it’s about how you dress. According to a Norwegian saying, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”. Or is it Swedish? No one really knows and it may just be totally made up, but you get the idea.

And… (drum roll) this is where Velocio comes in. These folks know a thing or two when it comes to riding in awful weather: the brand has its roots in New England. I’ve never been there but it sounds like an awesome and very, very cold place to ride in winter.

A few weeks ago, as the days were getting shorter and temperatures were dropping in the mountains, they shipped us a big box and just said: “here are our deep winter products, ride and shoot them in their natural habitat”.

With my wife Lillie, we were thrilled: testing Velocio gear and documenting our experience has become our reason to get outside during the cold season.

It’s fair to say we would have stayed in otherwise

To make it even more fun, we have decided to share it in the form of a collection of rides on Switchback: our favorite winter loops in our corner of the Alps. Each ride comes with a description of how we dressed, and why.

The first of these rides, a loop in the Rhone valley we do when climbing is not an option, is already up – click here to check it out. We’ll add more as we ride and shoot throughout the winter.

We’re stoked to have the opportunity to show that winter riding in the Alps is possible. It’s essentially like summer, just (s)lower.

Alain

 

Note to indoor riders: you ride a bike, and that’s enough to make you awesome.

Winter riding where I live > indoor riding > winter riding in many places > staying on the sofa.

We cyclists are one big tribe, see you on the road or the trails this summer.


Comments 2

  1. Great write-up. I pretty much follow your same script, except I would add fenders. Fenders in the wet make a HUGE difference in keeping me much drier and therefore warmer.

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