The tiptoeing of winter into our lives doesn’t have to stop you cycling. All you must be is prepared for the ‘best’ of Highland weather!
Cycling through the rest of the year tends to be a much more pleasant affair but getting on the bike during winter can seem like a daunting prospect, even to the most hardened of riders.
There’s still plenty of enjoyment to be gained from winter riding, however. Keeping those legs pedalling and facing the bracing weather can bring its own health and fitness benefits too. Read below for some top winter cycling tips.
Your clothing will be the difference between enjoying cycling and enduring your cycling. The right windproof, waterproof, thermal gear can keep you warm on dry on rides – making winter a breeze!
A full set of winter clothing can at first seem like a large expense but choosing carefully and layering up can give you a range of clothing to suit a range of temperatures.
It’s not just a case of chucking on slick waterproofs over thick fleeces to keep you toasty. The last thing you want is sweat to a accumulate under your clothes to make you feel wet, cold, and clammy – the very thing you are trying to avoid!
Get yourself some good cycle-specific clothing that’ll keep you warm and dry but won’t leave you freezing in your own juices. Look out for a waterproof jacket, thermal tights and undervest, windproof jersey and gloves. Glasses can be a great help as well when having to face that hard winter wind we all know and love, as well as the spray and grit that gets thrown up from the wet ground.
This all might seem a great expense, but it’ll be worth it once you’re out there, believe me.
Look after your feet! Few things are more uncomfortable than soggy, cold feet in the middle of a journey.
There are lots of different ways to keep your feet dry in rain or snow. Waterproof shoes, waterproof socks or overshoes are all good options. Make sure that your chosen option is suitable for the kind of shoes and pedals you use, as overshoes can only be used with clip-on pedals.
The overcast, gloomy and sometimes pitch-black winter days brings its own challenges to the winter rider. Small, bright rechargeable LED lights are essential for this time of year and happily, they shouldn’t cost the earth.
Many riders are choosing to use lights all year round. They help highlight your presence to other road users which is always a plus point whether it is daylight or otherwise.
4. Food and drink
Eating enough before and during a ride is as important no matter the season as it is at any other time of year. Energy bars are great all year round, but because of their composition, they may become rock hard as temperatures drop. So, either keep them warm or be prepared to chew like you’re being paid to! Gels are a great alternative energy source during the winter too.
Fluid intake is always important – no matter the weather. Try mixing your regular drink with hot water to add a wee bit of warmth to your ride.
Your tires are important when cycling in the winter months. Wider tyres are great for winter riding, giving you better contact with the potentially slick surface, but keep an eye on wear and tear – they can erode pretty quickly and as highlighted above, debris on the road in winter is a real killer for your tires. If you can get hold of tires that have any degree of puncture protection as well, that’s only going to help!
Wet road conditions mean that you’re far more likely to get a puncture from every little bit of debris on the road.
Make sure that you have at least two tubes and a working pump. As we stated above, tyres with puncture protection on them will go some way to protect you from punctures happening too often.
Mudguards are essential for winter cycling – both for you and the cyclist behind you! All sorts of muck and a deluge of water can come off a spinning tyre, both on your and the unfortunate soul behind you. It’ll reduce the amount of water and mud that gets thrown up onto you and that can only be a good thing.
You’re only as fit as the bike you’re riding. It goes without saying, but you should keep your bike in good condition at all year round. But in winter you’ll need to pay particular attention to the moving parts pf the equipment like your chain, cables, gears, and bottom bracket.
It’s best to get into the habit of regularly checking the whole bike over, as well as implementing a cleaning schedule as all sorts of grime that get into the nooks and crannies and start eroding the parts that matter. Salt is a particular killer and it’s used often in the winter months on the roads.
9. A Winter Bike
In an ideal world, we’d have a bike for every season.
An aluminium-framed road bike kitted out with all the above equipment that could be wheeled out every winter and safely stored during the more pleasant weather is the perfect scenario. The winter bike could be equipped with cheaper parts, mudguards, wider tyres and lights, that way the higher toll paid by your winter equipment won’t hit your pocket. A good practice favoured by many is to keep an old bike for your winter activities, not only is it a good exercise in recycling but again, it’s a very good economical decision in the long run.
10. Be Prepared
Be prepared for the worst of the weather. Check the forecast, plan your route, keep spares and the necessary tools of what you can fix on the roadside. Take a charged phone and some money/card in case of an emergency. You don’t want to get stuck anywhere especially if the Highland weather is in full swing!