Winter is nearly here, and it’s time to get ready for the chilly air and dirty roads of the off-season.
Some riders find it tough to get out in the inclement weather and low light of winter, however, a few key tips and hacks will help you roll through to spring and keep you fit and having fun!
Here are our five top tips for cycling through the winter.
ALWAYS USE LIGHTS, WHATEVER THE WEATHER!
No matter what time of day or what the weather is, we suggest you always have lights on your bike in winter.
Needless to say, if you’re out cycling in the early morning or late at night, lights are essential in the short days of the cooler months. Likewise, rain, fog or mist make a good set of lights a must-have.
However, we suggest you always keep a small set of lights on your bike even in the midday sun for the next few months. The hazy light of winter can make it harder for motorists to pick out a rider, and so an extra element of visibility provides that extra level of reassurance.
Always having your lights mounted on your bike – even if only a pair of lower-lumen blinker lights – also means that if you’re caught out in a sudden storm, you have the extra visibility.
When running lights in the daytime, setting them on a ‘flash’ or ‘blink’ mode tends to be optimal. When the light starts to dim, it’s best to set the front light to a constant ‘headlight’ mode and keep the rear light flashing.
KIT YOUR BIKE OUT RIGHT
A few simple adaptations and alterations to your bicycle will make your winter rides more comfortable and safer. Along with having lights on your bike, the addition of mudguards and winter tyres will see you sail through winter with no problems.
A rear mudguard is the minimum when it comes to prevention from wet and muck, while a guard on the front wheel is great but more of an added bonus.
You don’t need to go all-in with fixed mudguards bolted onto your frame – there are more and more great clip-on mudguards available now, with our favourite being RaceBlades, which offer full coverage, are lightweight, and can be easily removed.
The second essential is the use of solid winter tyres. Put your super-thin, fast-rolling racing rubber in the store cupboard for a few months and opt for a tyre with heavier tread and more robust build.
All major tyre manufacturers offer a winter-specific option that provides increased puncture protection from the road debris that blights winter roads, and typically also use heavier sidewalls and deeper tread patterns for grip in the wet.
KEEP THE EXTREMITIES WARM
While a good set of winter tights and a weatherproof jacket are essentials for your winter wardrobe, don’t overlook how much of a difference having warm hands, feet and head can make!
You lose the majority of your body heat through your head and the sensitivity of your fingers and toes makes frozen digits a misery.
It’s well worth investing in a good pair of gloves that block wind and keep out the rain. While a good pair can be pricey, they’ll be useful for months, and more importantly, you can’t brake or change gear when your fingers are numb!
Similarly, overshoes are game-changers.
There’s a huge range of overshoes available, from fully-waterproof neoprene booties and heavy-duty thermal covers to smaller toe warmers. It can be a good idea to have a couple of options to suit the conditions, but at the least, one pair of all-weather overshoes will make your rides one heck of a lot more fun. Cold, wet feet are bona fide ride-ruiners!
Finally, something to cover your head can make all the difference to how warm you feel overall. A full ear-covering beanie under your helmet is great in the coolest weather, while a peaked cycling cap keeps the wind off your head in the late autumn and early spring.
HACK YOUR POST-RIDE BIKE CLEANING
We totally understand that after a cold or wet ride in the middle of January, the first thing on your mind after a bike ride is coffee, cake and a warm shower. However, leaving your bike caked in winter mud, grit and debris can speed the deterioration of your valuable components such as the chain and cassette.
Plus, we all know that dirty bikes don’t ride as fast, right?!
By perfecting a speedy cleaning routine that focuses on the key parts of the bike, you can give your pride and joy a good once-over in less than ten minutes before heading inside to settle down to your post-ride daze. Giving the bike an immediate clean prevents the accumulation and engraining of dirt, and means you get it out of the way while you’re still in your dirty gear.
Check out our ten-minute, ten-point guide for speedy bike cleaning – all you need is a small selection of basic items ready by the door before you head out. Once you’ve completed this quick process, your bicycle will be perfect for your next ride, saving you time and money in the long run.
BE PREPARED TO GO INDOORS
We all love riding in the great outdoors, and many of us are willing to put up with some chilly weather or rain to get our biking buzz. However, there can come a time in winter where it is neither safe nor sensible to ride on the open roads.
Riding on the road when there’s a risk of ice is a gamble that we would advise against. We’ve been on the receiving end of patches of black ice that have left us on the tarmac, sore and with ripped up clothing and damaged components. Similarly, riding on the road in high winds can be dangerous if riding in areas of heavier traffic.
When the weather takes a turn for the worse, heading off-road makes for the best option. Fat tyres and trails make ice less of an issue, and riding in woodland shelters you from the wind. However, sometimes, you’ve just got to accept that going outside isn’t the best idea, even on the mountain bike.
Fortunately, riding inside is more fun, engaging and rewarding than ever! Platforms such as Zwift and Road Grand Tours make working out indoors better than ever, and if paired up with a smart trainer, it feels just as good as riding the road.
And fear not, a well-structured set on intervals for an hour will keep you just as fit and energised as a few hours on the road!