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The Bikes Direct Guide to Winter Riding
Don’t let bad weather put you off riding this Winter when temperatures drop into single figures. With a bit of preparation and a few basic bits of kit, you’ll find cold weather riding can be just as much fun and rewarding as at any other time of year. And it’s a great way to keep up your fitness level.
It’s all about layers
Trapping warm air between layers of clothing is the best way to keep warm. And if you get too hot, you can always take off a layer or two. A synthetic or Merino wool baselayer is a great investment that can be used on or off your bike for all sporting activities. Think bright too – short days and dark evenings make it even more important to make yourself visible to other road users.
A little bit of preparation the night before can go a long way on a cold, dark morning. Check your bike, lay out your clothing in readiness and make sure you’ve got the essentials like spare tubes, a pump and lights. A head torch is really handy if you have to repair a puncture in the dark, because it’s hands-free. And speaking of cycle lights…
Light up your life
Good quality bike lights are probably your most essential piece of safety kit (with the possible exception of your helmet). LED technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years. There’s now a huge choice to suit every budget from £10 to £200 or more. You can choose from battery-powered to USB rechargeable, depending whether you just want to be seen or you want to light up your way ahead. Some of the brands that score consistently high in all the tests and reviews are Blackburn, Lezyne, Cateye, Hope and Smart – to name but a few.
Set your goals
Any sports coach will tell you that having a goal will help motivate you. For example, booking a place on a sportive or MTB ride in early spring (they’re on all year round if you’re feeling brave) will encourage you to get out on your bike more. Even just setting a simple challenge of cycling to the shops or commuting at least once a week can work wonders for your enthusiasm. Put a note in your diary and stick to it!
Check your tyres
When the roads are wet and covered in leaves, your tyres need a bit of attention. If you’re a roadie, then you might want to consider dropping the pressure a little on frosty mornings to 80-90PSI, just to increase contact with the surface. Off-road pressures of 30PSI or less can give you a bit more grip when going up steep, muddy inclines. It’s a matter of personal preference, but one thing’s for sure – if you’re riding on worn-out tyres, winter is definitely the time to switch to a new or more grippy set. Again, there’s loads of winter options from Schwalbe, Continental, Vittoria, Maxxis and Michelin that shouldn’t break the bank.
Hands and feet
There’s nothing more likely to bring a cold days ride to a swift conclusion than freezing fingers or numb toes. Gloves are essential, not least because you’ll find it difficult to stop if you can’t feel your fingers. For cold-feet sufferers, spending £20 on a pair of overshoes is a life-saver. And if you’re really prone to toes like ice-cubes you should consider buying foot warmers to slip inside your socks. Warm as toast!
Have a banana (or cake)
You burn more calories in cold weather, because your body is also having to work hard to keep you warm. That means on a long ride, it’s even more important to refuel. Bananas are great, if a little awkward to carry. High energy bars, gels and drinks work a treat – and there are now more flavours than ever to choose from. And when you’ve covered some serious miles, we all know how good a roast dinner tastes.
Mudguards make a difference
No, they won’t win you street-style points. They can also be a bit tricky to fit to your bike. The major advantage is that bum and feet stay dryer in the wet, which means you can ride further in greater comfort. Plus, with less spray and road filth hitting you, you’ll arrive at your destination a little cleaner, warmer and dryer.
Ditch the clip-ins
A tip only for the more experienced rider who’s clipped into the pedals. For those icy, snowy mornings – and this only really for the truly adventurous – it’s an idea to change your pedals from clip-ins to flats. This is just in case you have to bail and/or steady your ride by putting your feet down. A split second can make all the difference.
Try not to talk yourself out of a ride before you’ve even started. It’s one of life’s big lessons that things are often not as bad as you think they might be. It can take you a few more minutes than usual to warm up, but once you’re in your stride, there’ll be no stopping you. And don’t underestimate the feel-good factor and kudos of getting out on your bike when most people wouldn’t dream of it.
For more tips and helpful advice, contact us on 01306 876060 or pop in and see us.
By Glenn Sturgess