The Joys of Winter Cycling: 10 Do’s and Do Not’s

Doug Williams
 
 
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Sometimes we can get a bit despondent when it comes to snow, we love it for playing in, but feel like we can’t fulfill our fitness goals when there’s snow about, but don’t hang up your cycle at the first sign of the white stuff.

Cycling in snow is not only fun, it burns way more calories, and your body will also learn to use oxygen more effectively.  So make the most of your winter cycling with the do’s and do not’s of the activity.

1: Layer Clothing

Like all winter sports and activities, the keyword here is ‘layer’.  A warm base layer is perhaps most important.  You need to keep your core nice and toasty.  Add layers which can be taken off as you heat up or put back on as you cool down.  A good rule of thumb is to be slightly cold before you start your ride; this tells you that you have the correct amount of layers on.  It will be cold out there, expect it.

 

2: A New Bike

You don’t need a new bike for winter riding.  Four-inch tires are a lot of fun in the snow, but remember winter cycling can be rough on bikes.  Experiment with tire pressures, not so low you get a pinch flat, but your tire pressure needs to be low enough for more stability.  An alternative to a new bike purchase is simple: buy fatter tires, or studded tires if you are cycling on ice.

3: Wash your Bike

Like with cycling in the rain, cycling in the slush and snow is going to coat your bike in dirty water.  Wash your bike off after every ride to stop corrosion and damage that builds up over time.  An alternative is to wipe your bike down if you are unable to wash it down.

4: Fingers and Feet

When out and about in the cold your body will focus on keeping the core warm first and fingers and toes last.  Think ahead about what your hands will need.  You can buy layered gloves, and don’t forget about those air-activated heat packs.  Keep some in your backpack.  These will add much-needed warmth to your hands and feet as you can slide them inside.  Winter cycling boots are available at cycle stores and online.  Anyone who has ended up with chilled fingers and toes knows that protecting them is very important because they can really ache and complain.

5: Extra Gear

Be prepared and carry extras for those mishaps along the way.  Extra clothing in your bag needs to be tucked into a plastic bag to keep dry.  This means extra gloves and socks.  Lighter gloves are a good idea just in case of a need to change a flat.

6: Raid Your Other Gear

Look at what you already own for the slopes.  Don’t buy extra gloves if you already have ski gloves: they work just as well on a bike.  Ski helmets can be worn on a cycle as well, but do watch for overheating when wearing one.

 

7: Liquids

Thermal flasks are great for taking along a hot drink or soup.  As with any exertion, you need to stay hydrated.  If you have a water bottle, tuck it into your back jersey pocket, so it doesn’t freeze.  Remember, don’t drink really cold water or slushy drinks as your core needs to stay toasty.  If you are feeling chilled, make sure to stop and have a drink of something hot, even if it’s just a couple of mouthfuls.

8: Fenders

An absolute must.  They keep the slush from the road off you and your bike.  Nothing is worse than a line of freezing cold water up your back.  Your companions and passers-by will thank you too, as they contain the spray that your tires kick up.

9: Lights

Unless you fancy becoming roadkill, invest in lights on the front and back of your bike.  Light in winter is considerably less, and it’s easy to be caught out as night falls.  Also, add reflector strips to your backpack and wear a reflective vest of some kind.  It is always better to be safe.

10: Safety

Whenever you go out on your own and there’s a risk of injury let other people know what you’re up to, where you’re planning on going and when you expect to be back. If it’s spring time with nice warm sunshine and you end up with a broken leg it’s an inconvenience, in the winter when you’re out in freezing weather it can become life or death, so you need to get recovered quickly.

One last word: be aware of who and what shares the road with you and the conditions around you.  Have fun and stay warm.

 

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