October has rolled around again, and here in the UK, we are having one of those ‘early winter’ freezing weeks. The wind in coming down from the Arctic, and to say that it is ‘cold’ is an understatement.
I accept that we don’t have anything like the winters in Canada or some States of the US, but it still feels pretty cold.
Winter shouldn’t stop you from cycling if you are fully prepared for the weather and the riding conditions.
As someone famous once said: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”. (Sir Ranulph Fiennes).
Here are a few helpful tips to keep you riding.
Disclaimer: Yea, they are common sense, however, Common Sense is not so common.
Windproof, thermal and water-proof clothes can keep you warm and dry, no matter the outside temperature.
A full set of quality winter clothing may be expensive, but by choosing carefully and using a number of layers, can give you a any number of options, whatever the weather is doing outside.
Don’t throw on your thermal underwear, your thick down filled Parka, and a full set of waterproofs. You will get a 100yards down the road, and have to stop as you wet, cold and clammy.
Buy Cycling specific winter clothes, as they will have been designed, to help you get the best out of your riding.
Don’t forget wind and waterproof gloves and overshoes, as your hand and feet are the areas most likely to get cold first.
And finally, a cap or beanie for under your helmet, you can lose a lot of head from head.
Don’t forget to have reflective strips on arms etc.
More riders are using lights in the daytime as well as at night. In winter and on dark and murky days, small, light and very bright rechargeable LED lights are available, and tend to be quite cheap.
Don’t forget to have front and back lights and possibly one on your helmet. Flashing lights tend to seen easier, and be careful of lights that dazzle oncoming car drivers.
Charge you lights after every time you go out, then you’ll never be caught out, with no lights.
3 Tyres & Mudguards:
23mm slicks are not the best tyres for damp and dirty roads. You are looking for plenty of grip and some puncture resistance.
Very few tyres stop all punctures – but every little helps. You may also want to look at solid tyres? A bit more expensive, but if you do a lot of winter riding, well worth the extra expense.
Punctures ae a fact of life, and they always occur the farthest you are away from home.
Carry at least 2 spare inner tubes and a working pump. Trying to repair a puncture, when you are cold and wet is not to be recommended. CO2 cartridges are great for inflating your tyres, but they only last a couple of inflations. And working at low temperatures, the head can freeze.
Mudguards are a must in winter. The spray kicked up by your rear tyre will soak your back in no time at all. And the front tyre will coat your water bottle in all sorts of road muck.
Nobody will want to ride behind you, or even anywhere near you if you don’t have mudguards.
Most Group rides in winter, make it a condition of riding to have mudguards.
4 Food / Drink:
Eating before and during your ride is important, and gels are energy bars are recommended. Keep them warm, your back pocket is best.
Don’t forget to drink, adding some hot water to your bidon before you set off, will keep your drink warmer, for at least a short time. Investing in an insulate bottle might be a good idea.
Don’t forget the café stop, for coffee and cake, but don’t spend too long there as you will cool down too much.
5 Bike / Maintenance:
Clean and service you bike after every winter ride. Clean and lubricate all the moving parts. (Chain, gears, cables, hubs and the bottom bracket). Check your brake blocks / discs for any wear or accumulated grit.
Not many of us can afford a specific “Winter Bike”. But a second hand one from Gumtree or eBay, could be money well spent. Especially if it saves your gleaming carbon beast from the harsh winter weather.
If all else fails – stay in and get on the Turbo Trainer!