Just because it’s winter there’s no need to stop riding. With a few careful choices of kit and understanding what type of riding to do, winter cycling can be a fun and rewarding experience.
Our Winter Cycling 101 is your go-to list for keeping the pedals turning this winter!
Of course, fundamental to your winter cycling is making sure your bike is suitable for some cold and wet miles. A few component and accessory adaptions and your bike will become a trusty steed to take you through the harshest of weathers.
The bike itself
- Your best bike is for the best weather!
- Needless to say, save your favourite, fancy bike for when the weather will be kind to it. The road dirt that comes with winter won’t be kind to your expensive components, so you should save your pride and joy for the clean, dry days.
- Cyclocross bikes, or steel or titanium road bikes, make great choices for winter thanks to their more robust build and sturdy construction.
- If you have a bike with disc brakes, using that is a no-brainer. Rim brakes don’t always cope so well in the wet, with the stopping distance increasing due to the lack of friction on a wet rim. Disc brakes don’t suffer in the damp, and so make a great option if you have them.
- Wet bums are no fun!
- Road spray going all up your back isn’t a lot of fun, and it sucks even more for your buddy riding behind you. Mudguards will keep you dry, and stop your friend from eating road dirt.
- Even if your bike doesn’t have the eyelets for permanent mudguards, there’s plenty of options available to you. There’s plenty of brands making mudguards that attach to your bike’s forks with removable mounting systems, which are just as effective as a traditional mudguard. Check out these ‘Raceblades’; here at PBT towers they’re our choice.
- Give yourself the gift of traction
- The wet mucky roads of winter are not the place for your thin lightweight race rubber. Get a good heavy tyre such as Continental Gatorskins (https://conti-tyres.co.uk/commuting-touring/gatorskin), which have a thicker construction, giving you better resistance from the thorns, grit and flints that may work their way into your tyres.
- You also don’t want to opt for skinny tyres. Try to get some that are 25mm or wider to give you better traction on the road and improve you safety and confidence on those damp, slippery surfaces.
- Be safe, be seen!
- Shorter days and the increased risk of cloud, mist and rain make lights a must. There’s a huge range available, from the brightest of floodlights to the gentlest of blinkers. If you’re going to be riding before the sun’s up, we suggest you use a front light of at least 500 lumens.
- At PBT towers, we like to use a rear light all the time in winter, even on a bright day. The light is soft and the sun is low at this time of year, making it all the easier to be missed by a motorist. Don’t run the risk!
Protect it from the elements
- Give it a warm bed at night
- Your bike will take enough of a pounding out on the road, so you might as well treat it to some warmth and dryness when it’s in your yard or garage. This will keep the key components clean and clear of rust and debris that will wear them away.
- Our PRO BIKE TOOL bike cover is the obvious choice here! Available in a range of sizes, and made of a ripstop fabric that seals out wind, rain, snow, ice and dust, your bikes will be kept snug and happy when they’re at home.
No matter how hard you ride, you won’t be able to keep yourself warm in the mercury is as low as zero. The range of clothing on the market is endless, but there are a few key things to know when you’re considering your winter cycling wardrobe.
The main layer
- The three Ws: Warm, windproof, waterproof!
- Investing in a solid winter jacket will mean you keep riding through the winter. If you select the right item, the garment should work for all your winter rides, and so will be worth the money!
- Remember, when selecting your jacket, there’s more to it than just warmth. As with your gloves, having a windproof element will make an enormous difference to your entire sense of warmth, so opt for something to block out those wintery winds! Likewise, waterproofing is vital. You can never completely trust the weather forecast in winter, so having a jacket with at least an element of waterproofing will make a huge difference.
- At PRO BIKE TOOL, we really rate the Castelli Alpha or Void Armour jacket for an all-eventuality go-to top.
- The core is king
- Alongside your extremities, your core is essential for ensuring overall warmth. A good baselayer to wear under your jersey or jacket is a vital part of your wardrobe.
- You want your baselayer to be made of merino if possible. This is a wool that is renowned as being super-warm, but perhaps just as importantly, is excellent at wicking sweat and regulating body temperature. Although it may be cold outside, you will work up a sweat, and so you don’t want to have that moisture on your skin, making you uncomfortable and cold – merino will prevent this.
- Keep those toes toasty!
- Ensuring that your extremities are warm makes a huge difference to how you feel overall. If your fingers and toes are warm, your whole body will feel warm. For your feet, a good pair of merino socks is the first step. We love Pongo’s merino range for warmth, comfort, and style (https://www.pongolondon.cc/collections/winter-cycling-socks). For the really cold or wet days, get yourself a pair of overshoes to give you an extra barrier – most overshoes are waterproof and thermal. On your hands, you ideally want gloves that are windproof – your fingers take a lot of the wind as you ride and blocking this certainly helps overall warmth.
- And of course, keep that head warm! You lose a huge amount of body heat through your head, and so a cap or thin skullcap beneath your helmet will save you some warmth. In the coolest of temperatures, a hat covering your ears is highly advisable
Your winter cycling needs to adapt to the elements to keep you safe and get you in good shape for the spring. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of the cooler months.
- Steady she goes
- For road riders, winter is the time to do your ‘base training’ – that is, long lower intensity riding that will build your aerobic capacity. To get fit and ready for summer, you want to use these winter months to do some steady rides of at least two to three hours, keeping the intensity level low – you should be able to easily chat with your ride buddies… no puffing and panting! This type of riding is essential to building a platform of endurance for you to build on when the warmer months arrive.
- Mix it up
- If you only ride on the road, winter is a great time to get off-road with an MTB, cyclocross bike, or gravel bike. When you’re off the tarmac and on rough terrain, the risk of hitting ice is minimised, and you can get a great workout in less time than you would in the same time on the road. And it’s a great way to build your bike handling skills for the summer!
- Don’t forget to drink
- You may not feel the urge to drink so much when you ride in the cold as you don’t sweat so much. However, you cannot neglect your hydration! You will still be sweating to some extent, and you will be losing more moisture through your breath than normal due to the difference in air and body temperature.
- Go Zwift!
- Remember, much as we all love to go ride in the great outdoors, sometimes it’s just not safe to get out. If you’re ever in doubt, it’s time to get on the turbo trainer. With the decrease in cost of ‘smart’ trainers and growth in platforms such as Zwift, riding indoors is becoming more fun and interactive – so give it a try!