With summer a distant memory, it’s easy to find excuses for not getting out on your bike over the winter months, but when you’re prepared for the elements winter cycling can be a wonderful thing. Here are some top tips from British Cycling’s Breeze Network to keep you protected from the elements this winter.
Stay warm, dry and breathable
You don’t need a whole wardrobe of specially designed cycling gear for winter riding (unless you want one, of course), but a few general principles apply. When it comes to outer layers, they should be waterproof, breathable and not too thick. Underneath, your base layers should keep you warm and sweat-free, and in terms of material, merino wool is your new best friend.
Look after your fingers and toes
When the weather turns, your extremities can be vulnerable. Waterproof and windproof gloves are a great idea, especially the ones which are long enough to go under your jacket cuffs and over your wrists. Take them with you even if you don’t think it’s that cold – if your fingers go numb you won’t be able to steer or brake properly! And a pair of thick merino wool socks will keep your toes toasty and warm too.
Shorter days and longer nights mean that visibility is more important than ever in the winter. That doesn’t have to mean head-to-toe hi-vis, but it pays to think about the visibility of your cycling gear. Bright red is a good option, or white if it’s not snowing. You can also get a few removable reflective cuffs or a rucksack cover to make yourself hard to miss.
If your bike hasn’t already got mudguards fitted, you can attach and detach a pair without too much trouble. They’ll protect your clothes from getting too muddy and if you’re cycling in a group, your cycling buddies will thank you too!
Consider changing your tyres if they don’t have much grip. You don’t have to go full mountain bike style, but if you have a road bike there are plenty of alternative tyre options out there to get you through the winter months slip free.
When it comes to winter cycling, it’s well worth investing in some decent bike lights. A good pair can last you a lifetime and you’ll appreciate them when you unexpectedly find yourself in a badly lit stretch of road. Don’t forget to take them with you even if it’s not dark when you set off – winter evenings have a habit of descending all too quickly. Reflectors on your wheels are important too to make sure you’re seen from the side.
Look after your bike
The combination of water, mud and road salt can take its toll on the working parts of your bike. An extra few minutes of bike TLC will pay dividends over the winter. Don’t forget to re-oil your chain if you’ve washed it off and booking a service at your local bike shop just to make sure everything’s in working order is a good idea too.