Cycling in winter needn't feel like a chore. Once your bike's ready, and you're properly kitted out, the darkness and cold air are no longer a problem but part of the joy. Here are our pre, mid and post riding tips to ensure you're smiling whilst cycling in winter.
One of the hardest parts of cycling in winter is the motivation to actually get in the saddle. It's way too easy to sit in front of the fire watching television when it's cold and wet outside!
I find it helps to have my gear accessible without too much effort. I always make sure my bib-tights, jersey, jacket, overshoes, socks, shoes, gloves and helmet are placed together so that when I get that sudden urge to pull the bike out, I can do so before a glimpse at the wintry weather defers me.
When struggling for motivation I often refer to the famous quote from John F Kennedy - "Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride"
Make sure you have prepared plenty of liquids for your ride. I tend to take 1 bottle of water and 1 water bottle filled with an energy drink - I personally opt for the SIS energy products, but there are a number of top cycling energy products available. An energy bar or energy gel can be advantageous, especially if you're planning a long ride as they'll help ensure your energy levels are topped up.
It is important that you program your brain for winter riding; this simply means looking further ahead and planning your position on the path or road, aiming your front wheel at dry patches or grippy sections, avoiding white painted road markings, manhole covers and those dreaded potholes as these can be slippery when wet and/or icy.
More potholes appear in winter and when filled with rain water and snow can hide all manner of detritus, as well as their depth. At best you might just get a shock as you hit one, at worst you can get a puncture from the impact or even be thrown from your bike.
- Potholes like these can be easily covered by rain and snow
It's fair to say it's all in the mind. As long as you're warm and have decent lights, winter riding is great fun. Some people will change their routes to spend more time off-road purely for the enjoyment of sliding about in the winter weather.
I always find it helps my motivation if I record my ride time, average speed and calories burnt using my bike GPS as soon as I get out of the saddle. Most bike computers will record these metrics. I always try to better these statistics each time I go out, almost like a little solo competition to push me further and entice me out on the bike.
If you have just got back from a lengthy ride it is recommended you try and intake some protein and carbohydrates. This doesn't have to be anything too difficult to prepare. I find a banana and a glass of milk or an SIS REGO recovery drink work a treat. It's sometimes easy to overlook the value of a snack after riding but when you think of the amount of calories burnt during a ride it really is important to keep your body properly nourished. I can burn anything up to 1000 calories in a 1 hour ride.
- The REGO recovery drink from SIS makes a great post ride drink.
- When it's icy, use only your rear brake, with gentle, progressive application, and you'll have no problems.
- If your bike slides and starts going sideways, don't panic, make small corrections rather than sudden over steering that'll set you up in a weave, and you'll be fine.
- Being warm is the key to staying focused and enjoying your time in the saddle. It's worth noting though, that if you're warm when you set off you're probably wearing too many layers for more than 30 minutes in the saddle.
- In the winter months when it's not as warm, it's natural to not feel as thirsty. It is vital that you keep topping up your fluid intake as you would in summer to prevent becoming tired and dehydrated.
- Once you've got in from your winter ride, why not enjoy a well deserved cup of tea and reflect on how cycling in winter isn't actually all that bad!