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Getting Sluggish At Lower Temps?

Old 12-08-13, 10:40 PM
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jyl
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Getting Sluggish At Lower Temps?

In the past couple weeks, it has gotten rapidly colder in Portland. Two weeks ago I was riding in about 45 F (40F in the morning, 50F in the afternoon), now I'm riding in 23 F (20F in the morning, 25-28F in the afternoon).

I have good clothes and don't feel uncomfortably cold, a little bit chilly for the first several blocks maybe. However, I notice that I feel weaker on my commute. Not greatly weaker like if I were sick or had a dragging brake. But a little sluggish, sort of "plugging along" instead of "charging along".

Why might this be? Is the chill through my pants (regular + rain pants) affecting my muscles? The cold air affecting my breathing? Is my mind deciding that just riding in this temp is good enough, so no reason to push hard? Do you ever experience this? How then do people feel when riding in really cold temps like Midwesterners , East Coasters, and Montanans do?

I guess I better quantify a little. On a mild grade where normally I'm pushing 53 x 17 at 18 mph, now I'm gearing down to 53 x 21 and pedaling a faster cadence for 16 mph. On a stretch of flat road where normally I'm in 53 x 13 at 25 mph, in the drops and keeping up well enough with traffic to be in the center of the lane, now I'm in 53 x 21 in the hoods and plugging along at 20 mph off to the right of the lane. Normally my HR gets to 170+ during the ride, now it maybe sees 160. Basically I am taking it kind of easy, except I feel like I'm trying but just not getting the usual power. Not that I have a power meter or anything. It does seem a fair bit windier lately.

Last edited by jyl; 12-08-13 at 10:55 PM.
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Old 12-08-13, 10:43 PM
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It happens. Just gotta engage Beast Mode until spring rolls around again.
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Old 12-08-13, 10:49 PM
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It's a combination of many things. The cold. Denser air. More weight with clothing and lights. Not wanting to sweat and get cold. Stiffer tires. More friction on moving parts.
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Old 12-08-13, 11:29 PM
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Cold temps = less performance. Nothing you can do about it.

You're lucky in portland. It's been -5F to -20F here for the past week (most of the time hovering around -10 to -15F.) Talk about cold! Luckily the first couple of days I had 6 inches of snow to push through
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Old 12-09-13, 12:00 AM
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Having ridden for years in all temps, I've concluded that I'm most efficient (fastest) at temps in the 50s, and things fall off fast below 50. At the other extreme, it falls off slightly above 60, then rapidly above 80 or so.
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Old 12-09-13, 05:46 AM
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I have a problem breathing in the cold. My nose starts to snot up like crazy, and just the sniffing alone takes my breath away. After a couple of blocks, I'm panting to beat the band and feeling like I'm going to drop dead.

Like the others, I suggest you just grin and bear it 'til the Spring.
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Old 12-09-13, 06:29 AM
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I would love to have your sluggish performance!!

IMO, you are rolling..
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Old 12-09-13, 09:56 AM
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You are still doing fine. The denser air has a lot more resistance to overcome and the bike just doesn't roll as easily when its cold. Extra clothing adds weight and affects your mobility. Its one of those things that comes with cold weather riding. Now just try to add a little snow and it gets much worse. What I do is allow more time and do not put forth more effort. It will wear you down quicker and the enjoyment will slowly leak away. Just pace yourself and enjoy the ride in a slower fashion.
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Old 12-09-13, 10:24 AM
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Wow 25mph in the flats is impressive.

As far as the sluggishness, it's a bunch of things but all related to the cold. Just push on through and you'll be back at your high speeds in Spring.
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Old 12-09-13, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
It's a combination of many things. The cold. Denser air. More weight with clothing and lights. Not wanting to sweat and get cold. Stiffer tires. More friction on moving parts.
Every year I wonder the same thing, and then remember how I go through the same phases every year. Looking forward to the boost that happens when it warms up again helps me keep going until it's too slippery to ride outside.
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Old 12-09-13, 10:47 AM
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Thanks for the reassurance, everyone.

(I need to clarify that 25 mph is for a 1 mile burst, not a sustained cruise - on my commute bike carrying my backpack and my 50 years I'm not exactly TT'ing. There is a four lane road with no bike lane that I take for a little ways because it is direct. At 25 mph you are close enough to car speed that drivers treat you like a slower car - don't taligate, give you the whole lane when passing, etc - but at <20 mph you start getting a bit of questionable behavior. Strong incentive to speed up.)
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Old 12-09-13, 10:49 AM
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All of the above. You're just slower in cold weather and there's not much you can do about it. However, even though I've been riding year-round for many years, I am always initially surprised when my average speeds starting dropping with the onset of cold weather. I keep thinking that there must be something wrong with me or my bike setup until I realize that it's just due to the cold.
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Old 12-09-13, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by jyl View Post
In the past couple weeks, it has gotten rapidly colder in Portland. Two weeks ago I was riding in about 45 F (40F in the morning, 50F in the afternoon), now I'm riding in 23 F (20F in the morning, 25-28F in the afternoon).

I have good clothes and don't feel uncomfortably cold, a little bit chilly for the first several blocks maybe. However, I notice that I feel weaker on my commute. Not greatly weaker like if I were sick or had a dragging brake. But a little sluggish, sort of "plugging along" instead of "charging along".

Why might this be? Is the chill through my pants (regular + rain pants) affecting my muscles? The cold air affecting my breathing? Is my mind deciding that just riding in this temp is good enough, so no reason to push hard? Do you ever experience this? How then do people feel when riding in really cold temps like Midwesterners , East Coasters, and Montanans do?

I guess I better quantify a little. On a mild grade where normally I'm pushing 53 x 17 at 18 mph, now I'm gearing down to 53 x 21 and pedaling a faster cadence for 16 mph. On a stretch of flat road where normally I'm in 53 x 13 at 25 mph, in the drops and keeping up well enough with traffic to be in the center of the lane, now I'm in 53 x 21 in the hoods and plugging along at 20 mph off to the right of the lane. Normally my HR gets to 170+ during the ride, now it maybe sees 160. Basically I am taking it kind of easy, except I feel like I'm trying but just not getting the usual power. Not that I have a power meter or anything. It does seem a fair bit windier lately.
I rode my hardtail 29 to work one night last week, when it was in the teens and I felt the same way. By the time I finished my 3.3 mile uphill trek to work, I was walking ... Getting old sucks butt guys!
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Old 12-09-13, 12:14 PM
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Try 900 gr studded tires to slow your roll as well. Or HTFU and picture yourself not in a car.
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Old 12-09-13, 12:31 PM
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This is normal. Cold weather means you work harder to go slower. Accept it as fact, plan accordingly and enjoy the ride.
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Old 12-09-13, 02:45 PM
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There's a sweet spot for me where it's not too hot and not too cold, and I can ride faster/easier without getting too sweaty while not needing too many layers.
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Old 12-09-13, 03:29 PM
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I was thinking of posting a similar question. Glad to hear from the responses that this seems to be normal.

Today was my first real "cold" commute, 28 degrees (sure this is nothing for many of you but I live in CA so this is cold) and I noticed I was just a bit slower overall. I found it even noticeable from last week when it was about 40 degrees.

I found breathing to be harder...lungs felt "heavier" plus I was more stuffed up then normal.

I eventually just gave in trying to push to keep my normal pace and decided an extra few minutes is worth not sweating as much in my layers anyway.
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Old 12-09-13, 07:41 PM
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Just an idea: Check your tire pressures - they drop a bit as the temperature falls. This is not a big change, but it could affect your performance some.

I've not noticed any performance change with the cold. Typically winter temps are mid 30's in the morning, but we have had 3-4 days i the 20's. One morning dropped to 19! I do have a bit of a motivational challenge getting started, but once I am moving, the weather doesn't seem to matter (except for hail or sleet or anything else that hurts when it hits)
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Old 12-09-13, 08:14 PM
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This thread was useful when I rode home today. It was a little warmer, about 24 F. Thanks to your responses, I understood why I was slower, and instead of being bewildered and frustrated, or wondering if I was getting sick, I knew it was normal. So I was able to reply in a normal way, by pushing harder on the pedals, standing up when I needed to, or spinning faster when that was necessary. Success, kind of - I felt like I was charging again, okay just a mini-charge, but anyway it was a lot better than the sluggish drones of recent days. Thanks!
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Old 12-09-13, 08:25 PM
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All of the above plus the mental aspect. Personally I would rather be out in 90 degree weather hitting it hard with sweat rolling off me than the least bit of cold weather. I am a shorts kind of guy, would wear them year round. When it starts to get cold out I put a cap on, heavy coat, and stick with shorts. When it gets colder than what the jacket can handle I would rather sit inside in shorts than put pants on and go outside. Maybe I need to move further south**********Hawaii maybe.
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