Spring is here according to the calendar, the primroses and daffodils are blooming, but it’s not all sunshine. All too often, just as you’ve got your bike set up for some spring outings, the weather turns chilly or wet. Don’t be put off – this is the UK after all, and the weather can swing from balmy temperatures to Arctic blasts and back again in just a few days. As the old saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather for cycling, just bad clothing. It’s all about planning; with the right gear and a little winter cycling motivation, you can make the most of the longer hours of daylight and enjoy your bike, whatever the weather throws at us. Follow our handy winter bike riding tips and get out there and enjoy riding your bike this spring!
1. Proper Clothing
One of the most important cold weather cycling tips is to keep warm, both for comfort and safety. If the weather’s turned a bit nippy, think about keeping your hands, feet, head and torso warm. If it’s really cold, a helmet liner will help to prevent heat loss through your head. Insulate your torso with layers of moisture-wicking clothing topped off with a lightweight, breathable, water and windproof jacket. Protecting your hands is essential as if they get cold, you won’t be able to control your bike properly so opt for thermal gloves. Thermal socks will help to keep your feet cosy and if the temperature looks set to drop below about 15 degrees, you might like to try some knee warmers to protect your joints.
2. Set out warm
It takes a while to warm up on a ride so getting warm before you set out will prevent your extremities from getting cold early on. Before you set off, enjoy a nice hot drink in a warm room – you might even feel a bit too warm but this will allow you to warm up on your ride more comfortably. Remember to wear layers too, so that although you may set off warm you’ll be able to comfortably remove some of the layers as you get hotter mid ride.
3. Be seen
The evenings may be getting lighter but when you’re riding in poor visibility, it’s essential to be seen. Even if you’re not planning to ride after dark, it’s easy to be caught out by bad weather. Make sure you have reflectors and a set of front and rear lights in good working order and choose clothing in bright, reflective colours. Cycling boots with reflective patches are a very effective way of making yourself more visible. Using these reflective patches on moving parts of your body, such as your feet, legs and hands, has been proven to be the most effective way to be visible in poor conditions so this is certainly worth considering.
4. Pay attention to the wind direction
When planning your ride, think about your energy levels. It’s a good idea to aim for the first half of your ride to be into a headwind whenever possible while you are still fresh and full of energy and then you will have the advantage of a tailwind to help you on the homeward stretch. This is particularly important in cold weather as then you won’t have a chilly breeze blowing in your face when you are hot and tired.
5. Plan your route
If the weather’s looking threatening, consider planning a figure of eight route from your starting point. This will allow you to cut short your ride and return home at any point if you get too chilled or tired.
6. Ride with friends
There are so many advantages to cycling in a group: the time will speed by as you chat with your mates, you can take turns at shielding one another from the wind and it’s far safer – and handier – if a mechanical mishap should occur.
7. Look after your bike
Clean your bike after every ride in wet or muddy conditions and make sure that the chain and gears are lubricated on a regular basis. As winter draws to a close, it’s advisable to get your bike serviced to ensure that it’s safe and in good repair for the coming season.
And finally, if the weather really closes in…
8. Try an indoor trainer
However strong your winter cycling motivation, sometimes cold or wet weather means that your usual route is not feasible. However, you can still keep up your fitness levels with an indoor trainer. This is particularly helpful if you are training for a competition and is most effective for HI (high intensity) workouts. You can still ride outside whenever possible but if outdoor conditions are too cold, wet or icy, a trainer offers a safe and effective way to ride.
No matter where you decide to cycle, just remember this: ‘the only bad ride is the ride you didn’t go on!’.