WONDERS OF WINTER CYCLING…
Even in the depths of winter you can maintain fitness by cycling safely in all weathers. Ex-pro rider Jamie Burrow, Head of Product at Ribble Cycles advises on how to keep safe and enhance your riding experience, come rain or shine
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get fit and stay fit, or if you simply want to maintain a level of fitness that you’ve worked hard to achieve, cycling is the perfect sport to keep you motivated during the cold winter months.
While it’s often accepted that this is the season when cyclists keep warm and dry using home or gym trainers, getting outdoors in the fresh air is invaluable in terms of enjoyment and excitement. Here are some top tips to keep you safe and warm.
Although the long, dark and cold winter days can seem off-putting, finding motivation at this time of year is key to your coming season and sporting goals. Whether you are a full-blooded road racer or an occasional sportive rider, or simply to increase your general fitness and overall wellbeing, the foundations to your training and eventual fitness are built during the winter months. Personally, I prefer to be outside and find the cold and dark aid my motivation. Just remember that starting in these conditions, things can only get better. You will notice your form increasing along with the longer brighter days, tempting you to go that bit further and faster.
KEEP WARM & DRY
Keeping dry in winter can simply mean staying comfortable, but also staying healthy. One of my biggest issues while racing as a professional was getting sick easily. The fitter we are often makes us more prone to illness as our immune system struggles to keep up. I would always recommend having a rain jacket in your back pocket even if the forecast looks good. With typical UK weather it is so easy to get caught in a shower even just for a few minutes. It’s not even the getting wet that’s the issue. It’s staying wet and subsequently getting cold that causes the problem.
• Take a rain jacket or gilet on all rides.
• If you stop mid-ride for a coffee break put on a dry jacket instead of sitting around in damp clothes.
• Good gloves, hat and overshoes are relatively cheap items that can really save your day if the weather turns bad. Although your body usually keeps warm from the heat generated during exercise, hands and feet don’t receive the same amount of circulation and are directly in the path of cold wind and freezing hands can be one of the worst experiences on a bike.
With many of us having to fit our winter riding into our daily commute or even after work or school, we are often forced to take on the traffic as well as darkness. Staying safe in these circumstances is crucial. Obviously, fitting lights to your bike is compulsory but there are a whole host of gadgets, gizmos and accessories to help keep you seen and safe in winter.
• Reflective clothing – night vision technology is now a common theme across winter clothing with select panels or even entire garments made from 360 degree, fully reflective fabrics that are activated by car head lights. I’ve been using one of these for years now and wouldn’t ride without it during my winter commute.
• Bicycle lights have come on a long way since I started riding with the now classic, but not so powerful, battery operated lamps. We are now looking at USB chargeable, super powerful lights that could easily take on any car headlight with the level of brightness they offer. The best lights available are now graded by lumens, with around 200 lumens an acceptable output for a front light, although some manufacturers offer way over 2000 lumens, which is ideal for off road riding.
• Reflective handlebar tape – this is an often-overlooked accessory.
WEAR & TEAR
Winter is also the least favourite time of year for your beloved bicycle. Rain, snow, salty roads and hidden pot-holes are just a few of the elements your bike has to cope with during the dark season. Taking care of your machine will prolong its life span and generally keep it in fit working order like yourself.
• Check your tyres regularly for cuts and debris. Run slightly less pressure than you would in the summer for added grip in the wet.
• Use 3-1 sprays on moving parts such as gears and chain after wet weather rides. (Ideally wash your bike with clean water after all wet rides and then apply 3-1 spray.)
• Keep your chain well oiled. This will keep your gears running smoothly especially in wet conditions.
• Keep an eye on brake pad consumption as wet gritty roads will wear your brakes down faster than dry conditions.
• It’s worthwhile investing in a simple DIY maintenance kit.