6 Tips to Winter Riding
Our 6-step checklist to get your bike winter ready.
Braving the winter weather with your 2-wheeled friend is not for the faint-hearted. And that’s absolutely fine! If the mere thought gives you shivers, then wrap your bike up, pop it in the shed, and get yourself on the turbo trainer. For those that like a challenge, then here’s our 6 tips to keep you safe in the saddle on your winter rides.
One of the challenges of winter riding is keeping warm yet avoiding sweat accumulating under your clothes, making you feel wet, cold and clammy … and even freezing! And so the golden rule is layers. Combine warm long sleeved base layers with breathable microfleece mid-layers and then windproof outers, such as a cycling puffer jacket and insulated tights.
Then there’s your fingers and toes! For hands, we like the two-fingered glove option as they allow enough movement whilst maximising heat transfer. As for toes, liner socks and wool socks with neoprene shoes. Remember grip is important on wet pedals and slippery ground!
And to top things off, a beanie hat and neck warmer that can double as a face protector are the last additions to your winter-ready kit.
Control The Ride
Sounds perhaps a little counter-intuitive as riding is about feeling ‘free’. However, the weather has the upper hand in Winter and so the first tip is watch for sweat build up. There’s nothing worse than feeling sticky, hot and freezing all at the same time. So slow down. Winter riding is best served focussing on endurance rather than speed.
Other factors that also play into your body temperature and moisture levels are the wind chill, sunlight Vs shade, high and low ground, particularly in valleys. And so use your layers wisely.
And if you stop for a layer adjust or just to take in the crisp air and glistening frost-bitten views, then don’t hang about as body heat gets sucked away much more quickly in the cold weather.
Your Bike, Lights & Accessories.
Check out our last blog; ‘Our 6 step checklist to get your bike winter ready’ for more details on how to show your bike a little love this season. In short, mudguards are a must for both your behind as well as any fellow cyclists, particularly in slushy conditions. Cleaning and lubricants should be your best friend to protect your bike from damage, as well as a safe ride. And consider bike protector sprays, wet lube and a chain cleaning tool and degreaser.
As for your tyres, with all the debris being washed into the road, particularly the edges, the potential for punctures increases. So, a good set of winter tyres, whilst adds weight, are much more resilient to grit, thorns and anything else that cares to have joined the kerbside party. They’ll also help with your grip on wet roads and loose surfaces. Tubeless tyres are also worth considering.
Then there’s your lights. The darker days and nights drawing in quickly means a good set of lights is essential. Make sure everything is fully charged before you set off and carry an inexpensive set of back-up lights, just in case.
Final little gem that one of our team insisted we add in, “you can thank me later”, she said, was invest in a nice warm saddle cover!
Human Fuel ...
Yes, food, of course. Your body will be burning more calories to keep you warm and so eating before and during your ride is essential. Keep snacks somewhere warm, like inside a pocket and if you take energy gels, then opt for softer products to avoid them going hard in the cold temperatures.
And don’t forget to drink. It can sometimes feel like you’re not sweating and losing moisture but fluid loss is happening and so stay hydrated. Thermal warps for water bottles or insulated flasks are a great idea to defrost a little!
Odd to be mentioning the sun in a winter related blog. However, this one catches so many out. The sun + crisp white snow = blindingly bright light and strong UV rays. Invest in a good wrap around pair of sunglasses with UVA / UVB filtered lenses.
And when planning your ride, think about where the sun will be along your course and try to avoid pedalling into the direction of a setting sun, particularly on busy roads, as your visibility can be seriously impaired.
The Gutter ...
We’ve eluded to this earlier, but the edges of roads become a magnet for anything and everything that can cause punctures, slips and falls. Then add in the icy conditions and a bit of mud and slush for good measure, and riding to close to the kerbside becomes an accident roulette.
So, don’t be afraid to cycle a little further in the lane. Motorists will understand the hazards and safely overtake you.
Winter riding can be truly exhilarating, from the challenges the weather brings, to the crisp breathtaking white views from the frost, snow and brilliant bright sunlight. Well-trodden routes take on a whole new light in the winter weather and you’ll discover new places to stop and take in the magnificent views.
And well, even if your fingers and toes do go numb, your water bottle freezes, and your teeth have been chattering faster than you can pedal, a hot shower, warm mug of coffee and your favourite cake is never too far away!