Cycling in the winter can be tough on the mind and body, but provided you are adequately prepared, cycling at this time of year doesn't need to be full of suffering: it can actually be enjoyable. Here are six tips to help you prepare for a winter of cycling.
1. Stay warm - winter jackets, gloves and socks
Keeping wrapped up against the cold is obviously high on the agenda at this time of the year. Cycling-specific clothing has improved significantly over the last couple of decades, with the best winter cycling jerseys featuring advanced fabrics and waterproof coatings, and the best winter bib tights coming with a thermal lining to keep your legs from freezing. All of these features make it easier to tackle the wide range of conditions that cyclists have to cope with from rain to snow and everything in between.
Layering up with a base layer, mid-layer and jacket is the best way to tackle the cold. A good winter jacket is a smart investment if you plan a winter of cycling, and one that keeps the cold and wind at bay will make cycling much more comfortable.
> Buyer's guide: best winter cycling jackets
Don't forget the extremities: winter gloves for the hands, thick socks over the feet and overshoes, a hat under your helmet and a neck warmer around the neck to keep icy draughts out will all keep you wrapped up against the bitter cold.
2. Stay dry - mudguards and waterproof jackets
Crisp, cold weather is arguably easier to tackle than wet weather, which can pose a true challenge to cyclists. Staying dry isn't easy but there are several steps you can take, but while they might not eliminate the risk of getting damp, will delay the inevitable.
Mudguards are a favourite at road.cc, from simple clip-on ‘guards to proper full-length ones. Mudguards (or fenders if you live across the pond) keep much of the road spray from soaking your shoes, legs and bum.
Mudguards don’t protect you from falling rain, so look for a good waterproof jacket that can be worn over your other layers. There are many different waterproof fabrics and they all claim different levels of waterproofness and breathability, and typically the more you pay, the better the performance.
> Essential wet weather cycle clothing and gear
Don’t forget essentials like waterproof gloves, socks and tights or trousers as well, if you’re determined to not let the wet weather prevent you from getting out on the bike.
3. Keep your bike in good order - regular cleaning is recommended
Bikes are very sturdy things, but riding one through typical winter weather can soon take its toll on all those moving parts. Our advice is to regularly clean your bike and preferably as soon after a ride as you can.
The winter roads are often covered in grit, mud, salt and oil, and that all mixes together to form a grinding paste that can quickly lead to a deterioration in the performance of your bike. Gears, brakes and bearings are all at the mercy of the winter weather.
A basic after-ride routine should include a wash with some hot soapy water and a brush and sponge, followed by a treatment of all the moving parts, like the chain and derailleurs, to some good quality chain oil and a lubricant spray. This routine only takes about 10 minutes and very little money, but it's one that will help to keep your expensive bicycle working smoothly, and means that the next time you want to go for a ride, your bike won't be seized up.
4. Record your rides - get on Strava
Riding in the winter can really challenge your love for cycling, so one method to boost your motivation is to get on a training website like Strava, komoot or Ride With GPS.
> 6 reasons to use Strava
Logging your rides can help you keep track of your weekly distance and riding pace and gives you a goal that helps you find the motivation to head outdoors when you might otherwise be tempted to cancel. Social comradery can really help motivate you to keep cycling through the winter, with challenges like the now-famous Rapha Festive 500 a proven way to help you cycle through the winter.
5. Stay safe - ride with lights and reflectives
It’s likely you’ll be doing the majority of your riding in the dark at this time of year, especially if you commute to work most days. This means that being visible and also having good visibility is crucial.
Bike lights come at all price points, with some reliable, USB-rechargeable options starting from as little as 12 quid. Most lights nowadays can easily be charged with a USB cable, so you need never get caught short without any lights.
As well as lighting yourself up, reflective clothing is a popular choice for winter cyclists as it helps you to stand out and ensure other road users (hopefully) are more likely to notice you. Overshoes and gloves designed for winter often come with reflective details. You can also add reflective tape to your bicycle, with mudguards being an ideal place to add some reflective tape.
6. Stay indoors - get a turbo trainer
If you really can’t face the winter conditions, then you can take your cycling indoors. Sometimes, when the weather is really bad, and especially if the roads are icy, it can be safest to skip an outdoor bike ride and do a session in the comfort of your house.
Turbo trainers allow you to ride in a virtual world, don’t have to cost a fortune and they allow you to keep up your riding even if you can’t face the wintery conditions. And with apps like Zwift and The Sufferfest, training indoors needn't be boring or dull.
How do you get through the winter? Let us know your tips and tricks in the comments!
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