With the temperature starting to drop, the evenings getting darker and the sportive season drawing to a close many people will be thinking of packing the bike and cycling kit away for the winter. If this is you, please think again, you can easily continue to ride throughout the winter, you just need to plan ahead.
The change in conditions means that you aren’t likely to get a personal best or be hitting your highest average speeds. So enjoy the slower pace, grab a map, a camera and go out exploring, turn down that road you always pass, find new routes and the enjoy the views and ride.
I came across this lovely little lane, with it’s tunnel effect of trees and leaf covered verges, completely by accident one day whilst out cycling.
Another day, I got to enjoy a frosty morning with the mist slowly being burnt away by the rising sun, casting long shadows as I cycled through this avenue of oak trees.
The low evening sun with it’s golden light illuminating the landscape, gives you that added incentive to climb up through the valley to find the highest vantage point.
“There is no such thing as the wrong type of weather, just the wrong choice in clothing” – I can’t remember who said it or where I first heard it, but it is so true.
Plan ahead, check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. You may need to invest in some winter specific bike clothing, but it’s money well spent. I would say at a minimum you should have a windstopper jacket, lightweight showerproof jacket (that you can pack away into a jersey pocket), a pair of roubaix lined bib tights, overshoes, full finger gloves, neck warmer/buff and a windproof skull cap. If you’re looking for a skull cap I would recommend the Pearl Izumi Barrier Skull Cap, it’s the best for keeping your head and more importantly your ears warm!
Talking about the wind, its generally going to be stronger during the autumn and winter months. Plan your route accordingly and head out into the wind, that way you will have a tailwind for the return leg making the second half of your ride easier. If you want a quick and easy way of checking the general wind direction and speed, take a look at Earth it’s a virtualisation of global weather conditions that is updated every three hours.
If you have the right clothing you can just about tackle any weather conditions, the only time I won’t ride is if it is icy. Wear what you think is appropriate for the conditions, but think layers. It’s easy to take off a layer if you get too hot.
I’ve even cycled to the top of Butser Hill (the highest hill in the South Downs) in the snow.
Again, think layers, here I’m wearing bib tights, a thermal long sleeve base layer, a normal cycling jersey, windstopper jacket, lightweight showerproof jacket, buff and skull cap. If anything I was probably too warm climbing, but remember it’s colder on the descent.
The last item to consider is your bike. You can ride any bike over the winter, but think about the effect the water and salt will have on the components over time. I rode my normal road bike over the first winter, but ended up having to replace the headset and a wheel (quick release skewer seized in the hub) so I generally do pack it away and use my old mountain bike over the winter unless it’s dry and sunny. The most important thing is to clean and lubricate the bike after every winter ride if you want to keep it running smoothly and maintain the components.
With my London to Paris ride coming up in April next year I’m going to need to put the training miles in over the winter so ideally I need a road bike for the winter. I could have gone out a bought a winter road bike, but over my time cycling I have gained a nice collection of spares as certain parts have been upgraded.
I went out I bought a second hand frameset, a cheap set of bars, a stem and a saddle for approx £95 and built up my own winter trainer bike, the only item left for me to do now is add some mudguards and maybe look for a good set of winter tyres.
If you haven’t got a collection of spares, look at the second hand market, there’s some great deals to be had. Just check the frame is in good condition, look for any dings and dents, rust etc, ask the seller if it’s had any crashes and check the frame/serial number of any potential purchase against a database of stolen bikes, such as Check That Bike and Bike Register
Remember it doesn’t need to cost a fortune, it’s a bike for all those days when the conditions aren’t suitable for your best bike.
The main point is to remain active over the winter, get outside and enjoy yourself.