With the clocks now going back we head at pace into deepest darkest winter and a fresh set of challenges for you to face in continuing to ride your bike either as part of your daily commute or merely for kicks as you escape the house. In the height of summer you can sneak out in nothing more than a vest & your favourite lycra budgie smugglers but now November is upon us riding takes a touch more thought. Here are our essentials for winter cycling.
Start at the beginning
Starting with the obvious essential for a winter ride…your bike. Few of us can claim to only have a single bike to choose from so come winter your first decision point is to decide which bike to take. For me the roadie gets hung up and heads into hibernation and the mountain bike gets let out for good behaviour as a safer bet in wet and wintry conditions. So that is step 1 taken care and a bike to use for winter.
Fitting out your bike
Next step is to clad your chosen steed with all the necessary accessories to cater for the demands of winter. Lights are a must as even in the sunny morning rides you need to be lit up like a Christmas tree to avoid getting side swiped by some motorist in a hurry to get their first coffee of the day. Come the evenings not only is your rear light useful a serious lumens front light may be a must if you are heading along the trails, we’d go for more than 400 lumens if the budget can stomach it.
Mud guards come next as you have to be expecting to be riding in the rain. If you are on a roadie then full mudguards work well or even on a mountain bike a set of mud guards will come in handy to avoid arriving at work looking like a Picasso. If you are sticking with the road bike then some more heavy duty tyres should be considered as those all weather 23mm summer specials will soon leave you feeling nervous.
Even on a mountain bike worth checking your tyres and inner tubes to think about suitable puncture protection as autumn leaves can hide some nasty objects skulking about ready to ruin your ride. Finally a set of tools and pump ensuring that you don’t end up stranded in January on a country lane with no mobile signal and mechanical disaster while the rain lashes down and your evening plans rapidly disappear.
So the bike is good to go but you aren’t. Head out without sufficient kit and expect to suffer with an unpleasant ride unless you get lucky and pick a random tropical day with sunny climes. Bottom up approach and starting with your feet. Quality socks and either winter shoes or bike shoes with boot covers are a must. You lose plenty of heat through feet stuck in a fixed position so take care of them tootsies. Onto the legs and your slinky shorts need to give way to some tights ideally with some reflective elements to help give more chance to be seen. Base layers rule when it comes to maintaining a good core temperature.
Trial and Error
We have completed some tests on a number of good options but try for yourself and see what works well. Also be prepared for multiple base layers as the temperature drops below zero. In January it is common place to pair a vest base layer with a long sleeved full one. An outer skin is also a must as the best base layers soon crumble when they get wet so a waterproof jacket with suitable reflective elements and plenty of protection from the rain works well. Forget your winter coat with all the padding, this should be a bike specific item that couples staying dry with protecting you from the winds. We also recommend you add in a neck warmer, we favour the lose fitted thin options that you can pull up over your face when the temperature really drops. It is also easy to remove should you overheat.
Gloves a Must
Hands to consider next. On occasion we have crossed paths with a fellow cyclist who forgot their gloves and every time it is pained set of faces we meet. Full gloves with serious lining and the ability to withstand the rain irrespective of what you are riding are our recommendation.
Onto the nugget and of course a helmet that is a true hygiene factor for us when riding but in order to make the winter ride that much more enjoyable we recommend a head band of some form that will keep your ears nice and snug. You lose some audio perception from the muffling this causes but nothing like wearing headphones and the improved comfort it delivers offsets this to make it worthwhile. That is you good to go!
Final bit to consider is a bag and again we have some good reviews for you to consider in this area (we love the Deuter range of bags and check out our review of the Deuter Giga Bike Rucksack). Ensure whatever you pick it has a waterproof outer skin that can also provide some high visibility reflective capacity. Other factors like waist and chest straps of course but safety first and make sure you are seen.
Roll on Summer
It is a faff but come Spring when you brave those long rides once more you will feel the difference of having maintained some all year round cycling keeping the mileage up. Enjoy!