Words credited to Jessica Strange
Cycling during the colder months can be a beautiful and bold thing; clear blue skies and crisp mornings really do make for perfect riding conditions. But we all know that winter can prove challenging for cyclists and rides can be unpredictable and testing, which means it’s essential to be ready for anything. I’ve learnt this can ultimately be achieved through thorough preparation, developing strong habits and learning from your mistakes.
Over the years, as I’ve built up my own personal riding experience, I’ve had plenty of winter cycling ups and downs. While the downs haven’t always been pretty, they’ve helped me to make changes to my pre-ride planning, routine and mindset. So, with this in mind, I’m sharing my top winter riding tips to help anyone who finds the darker, colder months naturally more demanding but are keen to embrace the challenges of hands-on outdoor sports and adventure, whatever the season. And remember – it’s important to find out what works for you.
Winter Clothing – Stay Warm
First of all, it’s important to be kitted out correctly for the season. Winter is the time to dig out your thermal lined bib-tights and long-sleeved jerseys, jackets and base layers. It’s important to keep your muscles warm while riding, both for performance and comfort. Cycling, unlike activities such as running, keeps your body in a fixed position, meaning layering and choosing winter-specific apparel is the best bet when the temperature is low.
Waterproofs – Keep the Water Out
Winter riding comes with unavoidable showers and downpours in the UK, so waterproof clothing and accessories are essential to prevent your ride from being cut short. Sealskinz offers high quality, 100% waterproof options here – the new Waterproof Cold Weather Gloves with its globally patented, revolutionary Fusion Control™ technology is a brilliant solution to cold and wet hands, while the Waterproof Cold Weather Mid Length Sock with Hydrostop is another go-to piece, offering warmth and much-needed dryness.
Accessories – Practical and Effective
Accessories are a simple winner! Overshoes, such as Sealskinz’s Waterproof All Weather Cycle Oversock, keep feet dry on even the longest of rides and protect your shoes in the worst of conditions. While I’ve mentioned gloves already, glove liners also add additional warmth when needed – the Solo Merino Liner Glove is a great pick for layering. Finally, a cycling cap such as the Waterproof All Weather Cycle Cap can keep your head and ears dry and comfortable. All a brilliant combination to keep outdoor adventurers moving!
Tyres – Get a Grip
During winter, the roads and trails are likely to be wetter with a layer of additional grime? on top. It might be a good time to consider your tyre set up and head to the local bike shop for assistance on what will work best for you and your bike. Both the tread pattern and pressure are areas you’ll want to consider. I would always advice seeking help here if you are unsure.
Mudguards – Simple Protection
Yep, wetter and grittier surface conditions will kick up some spray – so be sure to consider adding mudguards! These will keep your face and bum (a little bit) dryer and cleaner. Whether you’re cycling to the office or supermarket, or heading for a long ride on the weekend, the dryer you can stay in that department, the better.
Lights – A Bright Idea
Sadly, we get a lot less daylight during winter, but with so many great bike lights available you can carry on riding. Bike lights not only help to illuminate the road or trail ahead, but they help you remain seen by drivers and other trail users. It is so important to be seen when riding as it’ll boost your confidence on the bike and help you to enjoy your ride.
Bike Maintenance – Don’t Let It Slip
Your bike will probably get a lot dirtier in the winter, even if you’re riding the exact same routes as in the summer. Grit and grime can build up on the bike, especially around the moving parts like the drivetrain. If you don’t clean this off properly then it’ll cause your components to wear out a lot quicker and may lead to a bike’s worst ailment…rust! Keep on top of maintenance and ensure you don’t let this slop over winter and your bike will reward you.
Attitude – Positivity and preparation!
It can be so difficult to get motivated for a ride sometimes, especially when it’s cold and dreary outside. But if you prepare for your ride, dress appropriately and remember that skin is waterproof too, then there’s no reason not to be bold, brave and confident and embrace the fun, excitement and challenges that outdoor adventuring in the colder months will bring. Adopting a positive attitude and building your ride into your routine will help you get out the door, even when everything inside is telling you not to!
While it’s never possible to completely block out the worst of the weather in the UK, there really is a positively challenging side to cycling in the winter months and enjoying it. Preparing ahead of your ride and kitting yourself out is key – if you get that right, then there really is no excuse not to be bold. Happy riding!