By Amy Shaw
Winter is coming. But that doesn’t have to mean cycling hibernation for the next 6 months – the crisp morning air and crunch of leaves beneath tyres make it worth bracing the elements. Cycling in the upcoming winter months can mean riding at extreme intensities and speed, so it’s important to head out prepared. We’ve come up with some tips to help you get ready for your long trip on the road.
Get fit… beforehand
Long cycling trips in the colder months are a lot more demanding than summer ones. There’s a lot more pushing the bike to warm your toes, the gear is heavier and camping in the snow is much more demanding than camping on a nice green field. Make sure you’re in good shape before heading off on your journey.
Check the weather
In the summer, getting wet whilst cycling isn’t a big deal. In winter, drying out is near impossible. And let’s not even mention snowstorms… Check the weather before you leave and if it looks bad, postpone by a few days until it clears up.
Prepare your camp
Get a thick sleeping pad to insulate yourself from the ground. Pick a sleeping bag that will protect you from the temperature you’re exposed to. And of course, get a tent from a reputable brand. Learn how to set it up before getting on your trip. No one wants to spend hours in the cold figuring out how to set up a tent.
Plan, plan, plan
Set up an itinerary prior to your departure, and leave a copy with a friend or family member know where you’re going. In need of campsite inspiration? Head over to The Camping and Caravanning Club for some great ideas where to stay on your trip.
Look after your bike
Before you head off, give your bike a once-over. That means brakes, gears, lights should be fully functional and everything is clean and lubricated. It might also be a good idea to switch to a tyre with more tread, as letting a bit of air out of larger tyres increases their grip. De-icer (or WD40) can also help metal components or a frozen bike lock, and mudguards will protect your bike (and you!) from unfortunate spray.
It’s a given you’ll have to contend with some pretty harsh weather if you’re cycling in winter. Your best bet is to pack lots of layers, as there can be big drops in your body temperature throughout the day. Three layers is the bare minimum. Start with a base layer, like a long sleeved jersey. Merino wool is always a safe bet, as it’s warm, retains heat when it’s wet and is odour resistant. The number of layers on top depends on the conditions and the properties of each item of clothing. Add a mid-weight winter jersey or a softshell for more protection against the elements. Look out for high collars, snug cuffs and a close fit to contain body heat. To top it off, a lightweight waterproof shell will protect you from the British winter, and can be rolled up to fit in a jersey pocket. If you’re planning to ride in all conditions, a heavyweight fully waterproof jacket might be a wiser investment as it still lets body moisture escape whilst keeping water out.
… And brighten up
Your bike shouldn’t be the only thing showing up on dark roads. High visibility clothing will make sure you are seen by all drivers.
Protect your legs
When cycling, your legs are constantly working; that means they’ll stay a lot warmer than your upper body. No need to layer up, some full-length bibtights or thermal tights will be enough to keep you warm and comfortable. But remember that strips and bands are essential for those dark winter nights.
Watch your extremities
You lose a lot of body heat through the head. Wearing an extra layer under your helmet can make a big difference when dealing with the wind chill of riding downhill. Two different pairs of gloves (a lighter one and a waterproof one) are also a must to make sure your hands are always warm and dry. Don’t forget overshoes and warm winter socks for your feet.
Now the last thing to do is to have a great time. So good luck!