As the cold weather hits us for the coming months, it is time to turn our attention to what we should wear and what modifications we might need to make to our bikes to ensure that we have a safe and conformable as possible ride.
When we ride we create our own wind as we move forward, so whatever the reported temperature, it will feel colder as we ride and create a wind chill. So it is very important to dress for the conditions before we leave the house. My rule of thumb is if you over dress and get to warm you can remove layers. If you don’t have it, you can’t wear it! In winter you can get cold very quickly, and once cold it will take a while to warm back up again, if you ever do, before a warm bath to thaw you out. You can get a mechanical that leaves you standing next to the road for period of time. You have stooping and starting from cafe’s, both of which can cause you to get very cold as the sweat you have generated as you ride, now makes you cold and uncomfortable.
These situations can be limited and avoided with the right clothing choice. There is a famous saying that is so true, ” There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad cloths”
It is also necessary to make certain alterations to your bike. If your bike is winter ready and up to the job, then you have much less chance of being stranded at the side of the road. If it isn’t you could be in for some long waits, in some horrible conditions. And if you are on a club ride you will also be making all your mates hang around too. Of course lots of situations will arise when out riding to make us have to stop from time to time, however, we can do our best to keep these to a minimum, and hopefully the following will help you.
Some days may be colder than others, however as a good rule of thumb for sub 5 degree conditions you will need
A good thermal base layer
The material you choose is a matter of choice. However, there are some very good base layers. A good base layer will keep you warm without holding sweat, which will get you cold when standing around for any given period of time.
Thermal Tights or Bib Tights
On colder days longs are needed. You can get winter tights with or without padding. Some people prefer to have them without padding and wear their own shorts underneath. Best to try some on and see what may suit you best. Thermal tights are usually a but thicker than normal and help with a bit of wind protection.
A good quality thermal winter jacket will be invaluable on very cold days. The materiel will have a waxy feel that will give wind protection to offset the wind chill effect. Most also have higher collars as in the picture, to stop cold wing going down onto your chest, and thicker elasticated cuffs.
In my opinion this is an absolute must and will be an absolute savior if ever stuck. These are very thin wind and waterproof jackets. The beauty of these are that they will fold up very small and fit easily in your back pocket, ready for when needed
If you ever stop and start to feel cold, these make an excellent extra layer, and because of the wind cheating element, you will soon get warm in it. They are also useful if you stayed a little longer then expected in the cafe, as an extra layer till you get warm again. Then simply take it off, fold it again and put back in your back pocket.
There are various things you could wear under your helmet. A good quality scull cap is ideal as it is made of thin thermal material, which will fit comfortably under your lid. It will also be designed so it covers your ears and is longer at the back keeping your whole head warm.
Cycling shoes, especially road cycling shoes are designed to let your feet breath as you get hot. They will generally have mesh on the toes and small vent holes under neath. This is great for warm summer riding, but no use to you in the winter as the icy wind cuts through your toes. So it is advisable to get a good pair of overshoes. Overshoes fit neatly over your normal shoe and have a slot underneath for your cleat to come through enabling you to still clip in and out of your pedal.
I am afraid it is time to put the finger less gloves in the draw and get a good pair of winter gloves. There are a few choices out there, however you may want to consider a pair of waterproof, windproof pair. As you ride in winter it is generally your hands and feet that feel it the most. So it is wise to get a good substantial pair. If you can’t feel your fingers, you can’t feel your brakes!!
A snoop is a great addition to your winter armory. On very cold days will protect your face well and prevent cold winds traveling down your jersey onto your chest.
Now your all kitted out, what about…..
The winter brings with it some challenging conditions. The roads stay damp a lot, and after the autumn the lanes and roads will be full of grit, grim, thorns and much more, making punctures potentially more common than in warmer sunnier conditions. We can lower our chances of this happenig with the right tyre choice. It’s time now to put your lighter, faster summer tyres away for a few months and pick a more robust option.
There are a few good choices out there You would be best with a good quality Kevlar tyre such as the popular Conti Gator Skins
The roads are damp a lot in winter which means your bike will through a lot of that up off the roads on to you. Especially up your back and up the from of the legs. This can get quite uncomfortable and also be quite unpleasant if you get wet and end up standing around at the side of the road. You can fit mudguards to your bike which will stop this from happening and help keep you dry.
You have a couple of choices. If your bike allows and you have mudguard eyes on your bike (little purpose made holes at the bottom of the front forks and rear triangle )
Then you can fit full mudguards to your bike
If you do not have mudgaurd eyes, you can get the next best thing, Race Blades
Which are easily fitted onto any bike
During the winter months and shorter days, it is sensible to always hae lights with you. It is easy to get caught out as it gets light later and dark earlier. It is also worth considering riding with lights on all the time as it can be quite dim during dayight hours.There are some great lights on the market now. They needn’t cost a fortune, however ensure they are good bright ones, rechargeable ones are more common now and are an excellent option
Bikes get dirtier quicker during the winter. It is very important to regularly clean and lube your bike during these months of inclement weather. Keep all moving parts lubed, and now winter change the lube you use to a wet one
On the ride
As well as all the equipment listed above, ensure you have on you two spare tubes, tyre levers, multi tool and bump. Again, to save time wasted at the side of the road, it is a good consideration to use gas to inflate your tyres post puncture. You will need to buy a device and gas canister
And also carry a spare canister.
This may save precious time at the side of the road.
Although winter can be cold and miserable at times. It is no reason to stop riding. There is some excellent adventures and a lot of great things to see during the winter months. All we need to do is put a bit of thought and effort into how we prepare for our rides and we all stay safe and warm and everyone gets the best out of their ride.