The Winter survival guide
Riding in the winter is one of those things that seems much worse than it is. Sure, when the weather's not great it's hard to motivate yourself to get out the door, but when you do it's almost always worth it. Here are a few things you to think about that'll make your winter rides (and post-rides) a bit better.
Mudguards help keep you dry but, more importantly, they help keep your riding buddies dry too. There’s nothing worse than sitting on the wheel and getting road spray kicked up into your face for hour after hour. Turn up for a winter group ride without mudguards and you’ll likely be told to go home – either than or the group will try and drop you double quick.
Anyone who’s ridden in the rain for any length of time knows that you get just as wet from water kicked up off the floor than from water falling from the sky. A proper set of mudguards don’t even cost that much. If you’re bike has eyelets to accept them, you can grab something like the M:Part commute full length guards for as little as £30 or, if you’re riding a bike without mounts, Crud’s Road Racer MK3 will fit to any bike (with enough clearance) for just £10 more.
Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, no, an Ass Saver doesn’t count as a mudguard. Just ask the guy riding behind you…
When you’re cold the first bits that feel it are your fingers and toes. That’s true whether you’re riding your bike or just walking down to the shops, but it tends to be worse when cycling as your fingers are out there on the handlebars with only zero degrees and the wind as their friends, and your feet are likely in those lovely, highly ventilated summer shoes you bought in June and are still just as ventilated in the biting December air.
The solution is simple: gloves and overshoes. Gloves come in all shapes and sizes, from thin merino types that leave you warmish but with a full range of movement, to full on hardcore winter varieties that might make you look like you’ve got hooves for hands but hey, you’ll be warm.
Overshoes are similar in that there are varying types. Some are plastic covers designed to keep water out, while others are fleece lined and very mush designed to keep heat in. There are also some that look and feel like shrink wrap, but are mostly intended to help you TT faster rather than protect from the elements (although that doesn’t mean they’re bad at it). Even if you’re the sort of lunatic than thinks riding in shorts during mid-January makes you some kind of Rule 5 hero, overshoes mean you’ll still be able to feel your feet, and that makes pedaling far, far easier.
Bike cleaning stuff
Yeah we know, cleaning your bike can be a pain and there’s nothing you want to do less after a long, cold ride than spend another half hour washing your bike before you get in the shower. But you know what’s more annoying? A bike that clicks, gears that skip and components that wear out in double quick time because you couldn’t be bothered to look after them.
You don’t even need that much stuff – we made a list here, you’re welcome – and once you have the technique down you can give a bike a pretty comprehensive wash in under 15mins.
Or at the very least, least remotely sensible tyres. You don’t necessarily have to ride Continental Gatorskins to avoid punctures in the winter, but if you’re riding your race day tyres you’ll spend as much time off the bike getting your hands dirty as you will riding it.
Don’t underestimate the value of a little tyre maintenance, too. You don’t have to do a full detailing every night, but some time spent checking your tyres over and removing anything that’s managed to wedge itself into them means you’ll hopefully avoid a few potential punctures before they happen.
Oh, and remember, tyres are the only part of your bike that actually touches the floor. Look after your tyres and they'll look after you.
Riding in winter without lights isn’t a great idea. Daylight is in short supply and all it takes is an unexpected puncture and you can find yourself riding home in the dark. Lights are small (for the most part) and pretty unobtrusive, especially if you mount them under your stem at the front, or on the bottom of your Garmin mount. Keep them on – it’s better to have them and not need them than the opposite.