Winter Cycling Tips

winter cycling

Winter’s no time to hang up your wheels. With crisp morning air, the scrunch of leaves beneath tyres and lure of a steaming coffee post-ride, it’s well worth bracing the elements. As a wise cyclist once said, there’s no bad weather for cycling, just the wrong clothing.

 

LOOKING AFTER YOUR BIKE

  • Check everything is working properly on your bike. Go over your brakes, gears and lights to make fully functional and keep everything clean and lubricated.
  • You might want to switch to a tyre with more tread. Letting a bit of air out of larger tyres increases their grip.
  • Road grit can damage your bike, so giving it a good rinse will prevent rust.
  • De-icer (or WD40) can also come in handy to thaw metal components or a frozen bike lock.
  • Mudguards will protect you and your bike from spray.

 

SHINING LIGHT

Be safe, be seen, be legal!  By law you must have a front and rear light. Bike lights vary from basic blinkers to high-performance off-road lamps. As performance increases, so do price and battery life. As a rule of thumb, LED lights are sturdier, brighter for their size and have an outstanding battery life. Halogen lights tend to be cheaper. It’s a good idea to have at set of small, LED back-up lights, just in case your main lamps fail.

 

ICE ICE BABY

Ice is a menace to cyclists. It’s the only type of weather where it might be best to avoid cycling altogether.If you think you’re about to stray onto ice, go slow, cycle straight, don’t brake and don’t panic. If stopping is inevitable, you need to apply the rear brake gently and might need to dab a foot down. It’s best to walk your bike around an icy patch, or know your limits and use alternative transport.

 

LET IT SNOW

With a bit of preparation, you <i>can<i> still cycle in snow. Mountain bikes cope well with the demands of snowy surfaces due to their knobbly tyres, lower gears and generous frame clearances. Even hybrids and cyclocross bikes will give it a good go. They’re expensive, but if you’re really committed to riding right through winter, studded snow tyres will keep you rolling.

 

Dress for winter

Brighten up! A good set of lights will make your bike show up, but high visibility clothing will make sure you are seen too. Multiple layers are sensible when the mercury plummets. But remember, you will still generate heat from exercising, so make sure you can remove some clothing if you’re too warm. Versatile layering is especially important in the changeable conditions of spring and autumn. Here’s what to wear, from the top.

Headgear

A woolly hat might be tempting, but we’d recommend a helmet to protect yourself in the event of an icy spill. A helmet liner or skullcap will provide extra warmth. When it’s a bit warmer, a headband will keep your forehead and ears toastie, without making your crown too hot.

 

UPPER BODY

Three layers will get you through the worst the season has to offer.

BASE LAYERS

Base layers are all keeping you warm and wicking sweat away from your skin.

 

MID LAYER

This is the layer to remove if the weather improves.  Warmth without weight is the target. A standard cycling jersey makes a good mid layer.

 

TOP LAYER OR SHELL

Waterproof, windproof and breathable are your wishlist here. Getting all three comes at a price, though. Reflective strips and panels are also important here, as it’s your outer layer.

 

GLOVES

Great winter gloves are vital. It’s not just about comfort – if your fingers get cold, you could lose control of your bike. The warmest winter gloves are bulkier as they have an outer and inner layer. Long cuffs will tuck into your jacket to avoid chilled wrists. Consider waterproofing and a thin inner glove for really nasty conditions.

 

THE LOWER BODY

Cyclists’ legs are constantly working, so they stay a lot warmer than the upper body. Full-length bibtights or thermal tights are enough to keep you warm and comfortable. Looser cycling trousers are an option for commuters or the more self-conscious cyclist. Whatever you choose, reflective strips and bands are essential for those dark winter nights.

 

LEG AND ARM WARMERS

These will help prolong the use of your warm weather gear. Pair them with shorts or jerseys to cover bare skin. They’re ideal if you think you’ll get hot while riding as they’re very easy to remove and carry in a pocket or pack.

 

FEET

Cold feet can ruin a ride. Thermal insulated and  wicking socks will keep your feet comfortable for hours. You can buy specialist winter shoes cycling shoes if you ride a lot in freezing weather, but we’d recommend a pair of overshoes. These stretchy boots fit over your regular cycling shoes, offering water resistance and insulation. Again, reflectivity is useful as your moving feet make you very visible if lit up.

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JT August 31, 2012 Bike Guides, Bikes, Clothing