RIDING OUTSIDE – THE COLD WEATHER GUIDE
The warm weather may be gone, but that doesn’t mean you need to hang your bike up and hibernate for the Winter just yet. Riding outdoors in the colder months can be as enjoyable and productive as riding indoors as long as you dress appropriately and plan ahead by following the tips below.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”
While this may be a bit of a broad statement, clothing is definitely very important for cold weather cycling. As the year draws to a close, long gone are the halcyon days of summer; where all you needed to wear was a pair of bib shorts and a short sleeve jersey. Fortunately, advancements in winter cycling clothing mean you don’t need to wrap up like the Michelin Man to stay warm. Layers are important, but it is more the quality of the layers rather than the quantity.
Starting from the bottom up:
Thick socks are great, but only if you have enough room in your cycling shoes for the extra thickness. Thick socks and tight cycling shoes will prevent your feet from being able to move and breathe, so they will quickly become numb. It’s better to wear a warm but thin Merino Wool sock, then Toe Warmers on your cycling shoe and then thick Shoe Covers on top. For even more insulation and warmth, try experimenting with tin foil or sandwich bags between your shoes and Shoe Covers.
Full length Bib Shorts with a fleece lining are perfect for cold weather riding, you can also wear regular Bib Shorts and Leg Warmers.
A sweat-wicking base layer is just as important in the Winter as it is in the Summer, it may be freezing cold outside, but you’ll still sweat once you start logging those cold weather base miles.
For the jersey, a short sleeve full zip jersey paired with arm warmers or a long sleeve jersey will both have the same effect. This mostly comes down to personal preference, as a comfortable jersey that fits well under your outer jacket is more important than a thick and uncomfortable jersey.
On top of your jersey a warm Cycling Jacket will go a long way in keeping you warm from the wind chill. For the wet and cold rides, there’s no better Long Sleeve Jersey than the Castelli Gabba or its replacement Perfetto. It is pricey, but if you’re planning on riding no matter the weather, it would be a solid investment.
A warm Cycling Cap or Bandana under your helmet will really help keep your head toasty, especially if your helmet has numerous vents.
Full finger Gloves are a vital part of the cold weather cycling outfit. There are numerous types and styles, but remember the thicker the glove the less dexterity you’ll have with your fingers for shifting gears, pressing buttons on your cycling computer and fixing flat tyres. Thin gloves with thicker gloves over the top are an option, or you can also try Bar Mitts that attached to your handlebars over the hoods and allow you to wear thinner gloves and then slot your hands into the Bar Mitt.
With all of the above clothing bright and reflective colours such as fluorescent yellow and orange are especially important when riding in the colder and darker months.
If warm clothing is important for cold weather riding, then good lights are vital. As the weather gets colder, the amount of daylight rapidly decreases, so being able to see and be seen when out is important. Aim to have at least one bright rear light, two would be better, with one on steady and one flashing. Also, look out for well-sealed rear lights that don’t mind being splattered with all kinds of winter road grime and dirt. For the front light you’ll want something bright enough to light up in front of you, but not overly bright to startle oncoming traffic. For the same reason, it's better to keep your front light fully on instead of blinking/flashing.
RIDE A DIFFERENT BIKE
Another option for this time for the year is to ride a different type of bike. If you usually ride a road bike during the warmer months, then why not dust off your Mountain Bike and take to the local trails? Or if the snow gets really bad, why not invest in a Fat Bike and discover the joys of riding in the snow. You can explore some new routes and see some fantastic scenery during this time of year, while still getting in a great ride.
KEEP YOUR BIKE CLEAN
No matter which bike you choose to take out, the major downside of riding in the colder and often wet weather, is that you’ll have to keep on top of the bike maintenance. Road grime, salt and grit on the roads and dirty rain/snow will accelerate wear on all parts of your bike. While having a dedicated Winter Bike is ideal, it’s still worth keeping the bike clean. A quick wipe down and spray with some Muc-off cleaner and regular checking of wear on your brake pads and rims, as well as keeping your chain oiled are all worth the extra ten minutes after getting back from a ride, to save being stranded out in the cold trying to fix what might have been an avoidable mechanical.
If your bike has clearance for them, Mudguards are really good at keeping some of the dirt and grime off the exposed components of your bike and will save you a lot of time when it comes to cleaning your bike.
An Insulated Cycling Bottle filled with hot coffee or tea in your second bottle cage is perfect for warming you up during those first few freezing miles.
Sun Tan Lotion; even though it may be icy cold, the low sun and the cold weather will quickly dry your skin out. Wearing moisturising sun tan lotion is something often forgotten in the colder months.
The Hardmen of Cycling aim to ride outside year-round, no matter what the weather is like, and if you follow the above tips hopefully your outdoor riding will be a lot more fun this year and will help you carry your accumulated fitness into next year once the weather starts to warm up again.