I’ll let you into a little secret, 2017 is the year for me to get riding again, it’s been a long time but now I’m back on the bike, well, sort of, the weather’s a bit rubbish so I’ve set up a turbo trainer and I’m getting stuck in on that a few times a week, then I’ll be off into the hills. I think a mobile Outdoor Revival office is in order!
So, unless you have very mild winters where you live, there’s going to be something here that is helpful this for you. Below are some tips and hints to help you brave the cold and keep on cycling through the winter.
Winter Bikes and Riding
You’re not going to get out riding if you’ve not got a bike you can use and if you have, winter riding is hard on your bike so you might want to keep hold of your old one when you upgrade. Some people invest in a bike that they use just for winter and store it away the rest of the year.
A winter bike doesn’t have to be flash – most people use an old bike and fit it out for winter with the wider tires, lights, and mudguards. It is up to you and your budget. It’s worth noting though that some things are essential, such as the lights (at night and low light) and mudguards all the time, it’s horrible getting soaked from spray off of the tires.
If you’ve only got one bike you can prep it for the winter and then strip some fo the gear off when the good weather comes again.
Look after your bike, especially the moving parts. Wash off your bike after every ride and check over your bike well before your next ride and keep an eye on the brake blocks and rims as winter is hard on these areas. Keep your chain well-oiled and check the cables regularly. Salt water from the roads is very corrosive over time.
Keep it cleaned and protected and you’ll have no hiccups in your plans to get out in the fresh air.
Punctures, Tires, and Mudguards
Be prepared for this as the worse the weather the more likely you are to get a puncture. Carry spare tubes and a working pump with you. Do check it works before you go out. It’s really hard going and uncomfortable to work on your bike if you’re hands are really cold, carry a pair of thin gloves to give your hands some dexterity and protection from the cold,
Opt for wider tires in winter, and a type that offers more protection from punctures and is harder wearing. There is a wide range available, and your local cycle shop professional can point you in the right direction.
Mud guards are essential unless you like cold water splashing up your back in the freezing cold. They protect you and your bike from the muck and water on the road as well as your cycling buddies and any passersby.
Good lights are essential, in winter daylight is lost quicker, it gets dark earlier and often even daytime can be overcast with low light. There are many lights available from cheap to expensive, buy the best ones that you can. Get them for the front and back of your bike, Being seen and being able to see are very important so make sure you carry spare batteries just in case
It’s also worth thinking about reflective strips, they can make you much more visible, especially in low light. Safety is very important so make it a priority.
The stuff for you
This is the most important area for you when cycling through the frost, snow, fridged winds and rain. We talk about this regularly – Layering, from a good base layer right up to an outer waterproof layer, will make your cycle trips so much more comfortable. Remember you are going to sweat even though it’s cold out.
Cycling specific clothing takes this into consideration and often has the properties to pull the moisture away from your skin. You want to feel cool before you start: if you already feel warm you need to take a layer or two off because you’re going to heat up.
You will need good quality winter gloves and boots. Remember that your body will keep your core warm first and you don’t want your hands and feet to get too chilled.
Ski gloves work well here, and you can get specialized winter cycling boots. If you can afford to kit yourself out all in the best bike gear then that’s great but there’s often no need as you’ve probably already got items you can use, such as the gloves.
Wear clear or tinted glasses to keep spray and grit from your eyes. They will also give them some protection from cold wind.
The only way to look after yourself is to make sure you get your clothing right, and you adjust it as needed to keep you at a good temperature while protected from the elements, sometimes it’s a hassle but it’s worth investing the time to get it right.
Food and Drink
Before you go out on your bike have something to eat and drink, get yourself prepared with foods that will give you energy to cycle and heat your body.
You will be burning more calories riding in the winter rather than in summer. Pack something that’s easy to get hold of and consume, such as gels or bars. Remember, that it’s cold, some foods will get really hard and you don’t need a detour to the dentist!
Drink regularly, as you’ll be sweating and you don’t want to become dehydrated. Pack a thermal flask for something hot. Store your water bottle close to you as it can chill down and you don’t want to drink too much cold water.
Stop in at a café or coffee shop on longer trips. This will help you warm up, and a large coffee and cake will never go awry.
Remember though that you don’t want your muscles to cool down too much or they’ll stiffen up and cause problems.
Being prepared is the most important thing, you need to plan ahead for possible changes in weather and route. Carry extra clothing, a phone, and money for emergencies. Think of the worst that can happen and plan for it.
Be sensible and let someone know where you are going, particularly if it’s a long ride. Always check the weather and make sure that you’re bike is ready to go.
Now all that’s left is to get out there and have fun. Heck, after writing this I’m going to get the bike off the turbo trainer and get on the road!
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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it.
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