The onset winter weather shouldn’t stop you cycling if you’re fully prepared for the weather and riding conditions. Take a look at our winter riding tips.
Cycling through winter can seem daunting even if you’ve ridden in the colder months before. Although it’s no contender when it comes to riding through the summer in short sleeves and sunglasses, there’s lots of enjoyment to be had from winter riding.
The most obvious and arguably important factor in winter weather riding is the right windproof, thermal and waterproof gear which will keep you dry and warm on rides so you’ll barely notice the cold. A full set of winter clothing can at first seem like a large expense but choosing carefully and layering up can give you a range of clothing to suit a range of temperatures.
Whilst there’s the temptation to wear a thick fleece and waterproof to stave off the cold, they’ll also make you sweat even when the temperature is zero. Sweat can accumulate under your clothes and make you feel wet, cold and clammy. Use cycling specific clothing as types for other sports may not have the correct fit for your position when riding or the correct properties which will keep you moisture free.
Good quality winter and waterproof gloves and overshoes will help keep your extremities warm, this is the most likely area to get cold first.
Maybe you’re not sure whether you have enough clothes on, go outside before your ride and see how you feel, the effort of riding will warm you up, so remember this.
The worse the weather the more likely you are to get a puncture, wet road conditions will create some kind of magical lubrication for thorns, shards of glass and sharp pieces of flint which can stab their way through your tyre and into your inner tube. This tends to happen at the most inconvenient point of the ride.
Make sure that you have at least two tubes and a working pump, you’ll need to check this if you haven’t used it for a while. Some people are more keen on CO2 cartridges to inflate their tyres but its important that you’re aware that these will run out after one or two inflations.
When you use them in low temperatures the gas can cause the head of the canister to freeze, as well as your gloves or fingers.
If you’re riding in a group make sure that you have enough tubes and pumps before setting off.
Food and drink
Eating enough before and during a ride is important, some energy bars can become very hard during low temperatures so keep them somewhere warm or opt for a softer product like gels.
It’s also important to keep drinking regularly as well as it may not be obvious that you’re sweating under your clothing. Fluid loss can happen when cycling at any temperature and if the temperature is really cold you should mix your drink with hot or warm water to stave off the chilling effect.
More and more riders are using lights all year round, they’re using them in daylight as a way of highlighting their presence to other road users. In winter it’s arguably more important as it can get very gloomy and overcast on winter days when the sun is at its weakest.
Small, light and bright rechargeable LED lights can be commonly found and won’t break the bank. Having lights with you at all times also relives the worry that you will get caught in the dark during shorter days so make sure that your lights are charged before every ride.
Damp and mucky lanes on 23mm racing rubber isn’t the best idea for a number of reasons, not least the lack of grip and risk of slicing up expensive rubber. We recommend tyres that provide puncture protection and are harder wearing.
As most cyclers will know, mudguards are a winter essential as the spray and grunge kicked up as you ride along can land directly into your face, water bottle, up your back and soak you making it very uncomfortable.
Anyone who has tried to ride directly behind someone who doesn’t have mudguards in the wet will know exactly how much water is sprayed up by a rotating bike tyre.
It’s important to keep your bike in good condition at all times and in winter you’ll need to pay more attention to moving parts like the chain, gears, cables, hubs and bottom bracket. Give your bike a regular check over and try and wash off the grime. You can check for wear on the rims and brake blocks as wet weather can be particularly harsh on these areas.
Keep your chain oiled regularly and make sure that your cables are in good shape as salty water off gritted roads can cause problems with components and the water getting into the exposed cables can cause shifting.
Keeping on top of your bike’s maintenance means you can minimise the number of mechanical mishaps that you may have when you’re out riding. The last thing you’ll want to do is find our yourself stranded at the side of a cold road.
As the winter can be harsh on bikes some people may have a specific bike just for winter, usually they’ll be equipped with cheaper parts, mudguards, wider tyres and lights, sometimes lower gears to cope with a slower winter pace.
Many keep hold of an old bike when they buy a new one and turn it into a winter bike. Others will go out specifically and buy a bike for the purpose like a cheaper aluminium framed road bike, a hybrid or a mountain bike with slicks.
Your winter bike may be heavy and you can reasonably expect to see your average speed drop so you’ll be flying when you switch back to your ‘best’ bike in the Spring.
You may have exact requirements for the ride you are planning on going on so make sure that you plan a sensible route to match the predicted weather forecast and take a charged phone with you, some money in case of emergencies and consider all of the above advice.