7 Fundamentals for the Survival of Cycling in Winter
Dreading the thought of getting on your bike throughout the winter months? Us too – but just because it’s cold and miserable it shouldn’t cause us to abandon our love for cycling. To counteract this trepidation, we’ve come up with 7 tips to gear ourselves up and get out on our bikes, ready to take on the cold weather and brave cycling in winter.
Start Off Warm and Energised
Give yourself an advantage by getting on your bike already warm and energised. Your extremities can get cold very quickly when riding against the wind which means that, if you start your ride already cold, you’re setting yourself up for an unpleasant and miserable journey. Before you get on your bike make sure the environment that you’re in is warm and toasty. If you can, have a hot drink to really warm yourself up.
As your body works hard to fight the chill, your energy levels will be more limited than usual. Ensure that you have a high energy snack before cycling in winter such as an energy bar or a gel packet. This will give you the boost that you need to triumph over the elements.
Riding in the winter is challenging so you’ll want to make sure that you’re planning your routes instead of just jumping on your bike and seeing where it takes you. There’ll naturally be more obstacles when cycling in winter such as debris, wet/cold weather, early sunsets, and limited energy, so before braving the cold set out a route that will be short and within easy reach.
Circuits near to where you live are ideal as you can ride them several times and get in a real workout or you can end it quickly and get home if needed. Don’t risk sustaining an injury far from home in the cold, especially when it’s dark for most of the day during winter.
Wear the Right Clothing
Dressing properly for the weather is vital when it comes to cycling in winter. Cold wind will hit you hard once you pick up speed so you’ll need to take steps to battle against it. Ensure that your extremities are well covered; wind proof gloves, thermal socks, and a hat or balaclavas are must-haves on the road. A good pair of wind proof gloves is especially important as your hands will bear the brunt of a lot of the initial wind impact.
Avoid thick coats and fleecy materials that will have you sweating as you ride and opt for cycle-specific clothing. Layers are key here; go for a base layer that wicks away moisture, a thermal mid layer to keep warmth in, and an outer layer such as a soft-shell or waterproof jacket. Full length thermal bib tights are also an essential for cycling in winter. Don’t overdress though as you’ll quickly warm up on your bike and you don’t want to overheat.
Make Sure You and Your Bike Are Equipped
If you haven’t got a dedicated winter bike, you’ll want to make sure that your bike has all of the essential accessories to make cycling in winter easier and safer. We’ve listed some of these winter essentials below:
- Bike light – As it’s getting darker earlier, a light is a must to ensure that you are visible to others and they can see you.
- High visibility clothing – Keep yourself visible to cars and others motors with some form of high visibility clothing. Whether it’s an armband, vest or jacket, it’s important to wear the right reflective apparel to stay safe on dark roads.
- Mudguards – Mudguards will reduce mud spray to keep you, your bike, and any fellow riders protected.
- Wide tyres – With more debris on the roads, your risk of a puncture increases. Consider switching your tyres to wide tyres with a deep tread that can handle unpredictable surfaces.
- Things to carry with you – puncture repair kit, water, a high energy snack, and a method of communication, e.g. a mobile phone.
If you don’t want the winter weather to spoil your summer bike and you’re looking to invest in a winter bike, take a look at our selection of manual push bikes and electric bikes. Our hybrid bikes and mountain bikes are better suited to handling a winter climate thanks to their deep tyre tread and robust components.
Remember to Stretch
When the weather’s cold, your muscles will tighten, meaning that stretching is paramount before venturing out on your bike. If you don’t stretch properly you’ll put yourself at high risk of muscle injury. You’ll need to approach stretching in cold weather very differently to your usual stretches in spring and summer.
As your muscles are already tight, going straight into a stretch can pull or strain a muscle that’s cold. Before starting your stretching routine, do a light walk, jog or shuffle to warm up and loosen your muscles.
In winter, opt for dynamic stretches instead of static stretching to get your blood flowing. This means instead of stretching out a muscle and holding it for a few seconds, do gentle repetitive motions, such as arm circles or leg kicks.
Take Care of Your Bike
If you’ve ridden in winter before, you know that the state of your bike afterwards can be quite a task to tackle. If this is your first time cycling in winter, you’ll find out pretty soon how taxing the clean up process can be. With wetter ground, snow, frost, and debris, your bike isn’t going to be at its prettiest after even just an hour’s ride.
Depending on how often you ride, it’s preferable that you clean and clear any grit and grime from your bike after every journey or, at the very least, once or twice a week. You’ll want to check all the components thoroughly to ensure that there isn’t any build up that’ll affect future rides or cause rusting. Give extra focus to your chain, gears, brakes, and wheel rims – you’ll also need to lube your chain and gears more frequently.
Don’t Give Up
Motivation can easily slip away during the dark and cold months, which means that you’ve got to work hard to keep your enthusiasm going. Feeling the bitter cold wind and seeing your breath in the cold air is always disheartening and winter tiredness can easily creep in. There’s nothing stronger than the temptation to stay inside under a warm blanket in a heated room. We’ve been discussing the ways in which we stay motivated when it’s cold and here are the ones we swear by:
- Keep your curtains/blinds open so that you wake up to natural light
- Set a timer so that the heating comes on half an hour before you’re due to get out of bed – no more excuses staying under the duvet!
- Go straight from bed to shower to feel rejuvenated in minutes
- Do a light warm up indoors – getting your heart rate up and blood pumping will motivate you to get out and do a proper workout
Most importantly, remember cycling in winter isn’t a punishment – it’s a challenge that offers great reward.
If you’d like to speak with someone about investing in a Pro Rider Leisure bike for winter but you’re not sure which one’s best for you, please contact our friendly and knowledgeable service team either via phone or email.
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