Using your bike in winter
As the cold, wet winter months set in, you may be tempted to park your bike up for a few months in the garage and stay indoors by the fire. No-one would blame you, really.
But don’t let bad weather and plummeting temperatures deter you from hitting the road on two wheels – there are still plenty of benefits to be had from cycling in winter time.
Let’s take a look at what you can do to best prepare your bike for winter.
There’s never a good time to blow a tyre when out on the road, whether you’re driving or cycling. Unfortunately, winter weather generally makes for far worse road conditions as blustery wind, driving rain and snow leave tarmac coated with a layer of debris just waiting to burst your tyres.
Always head out with a reliable pump and at least two tubes to ensure you aren’t caught out. Don’t simply hope for the best when you set off, and don’t rely on an accompanying cyclist to have spares.
Also, make sure you have the right sort of tyres fitted for a winter journey. Thin racing tyres will do you no good on muddy December roads, so it’s worth investing in winter-specific rubbers designed to stay intact and keep you moving. Solid or tubeless tyres are also an option, but they may leave you a little out of pocket afterwards.
Ensuring you’re visible on a gloomy winter day or night-time cycle is imperative. Many cyclists opt to use lights all year round to make them more noticeable to passing traffic (not the worst idea) and most LEDs are inexpensive these days.
Take time to make sure your bike lights are fully charged and you have spare batteries on hand, even for a short winter journey.
Our light category
Don’t underestimate the importance of mudguards this winter.
The last thing you want when struggling against the elements is to be hit with a constant spray of mud and slush, or to send the same cascade of muck on to another cyclist.
Without mudguards you will, at best, get a wet back or mucky legs – at worst, your vision will be impaired or your equipment ruined.
It’s crucial to take extra care to keep your bike in good condition during the winter months, especially with parts that can easily rust if left unattended, like chains and gears.
Spend a few minutes after every cycle washing your ride down – get all the mud and grime off any metallic parts and dry everything off fully before storing your bike away safely. Don’t be afraid to break out the oil, either.
You’ll thank yourself in the long run when you make it home without anything locking or seizing.
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Your bike’s taken care of, but what about you?
Winter clothing is well worth investing in. It may be lean more towards the expensive side, but with the right kind of clothing, you’ll remain undistracted by the cold when on the road.
Take time to thoroughly research the best thermal, waterproof and windproof clothing options available to you, and buy with the long-term in mind. Clothing made specifically for cycling will reduce your chances of uncomfortable sweaty build-up on your skin, but always remember to layer up as well.
Neglecting your extremities can also be dangerous. Your body will direct more heat towards your core in colder conditions, so your hands and feet will naturally feel the freeze first. Buy a good set of gloves and overshoes, and consider wearing a pair of disposable gloves underneath to trap an extra layer of heat.
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6. Food and drink
Make sure you eat right before setting off for a winter cycle. Bear in mind that your body will rapidly burn up whatever you put in your stomach to keep your core warm, so load up on healthy carbs and bring along energy bars or gels to keep you going.
Remember to continue to drink plenty of water before and during a cycle to keep you hydrated – you may not realise how much you’re sweating in colder weather. If bringing along a warm drink such as tea or heated orange juice, make sure you have a good-quality insulated flask to keep it toasty.
Our bottles and flasks
7. Plan ahead
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, always take the time to plan in advance of your cycle.
Make sure you have a solid understanding of the route you’ll take (even if you’ve taken it before) and check the weather forecast before setting off. Bring along food, drink, a charged mobile phone, some cash, and extra clothing if possible.
Don’t let the cold winter days put you off, but do take care on the roads this chilly season!