Should I ride through the Winter?

October 12, 2020 Off By Mike I Was

But baby it’s cold outside…..

The nights are drawing in, the winds getting a bit colder and more blustery and motivation starts to wane. I know, I get it – I feel the same. I’m not a massive fan of riding in the cold and dark either… However, riding in the Autumn and Winter, even for shorter rides and at lower frequency, can have some real benefits to fitness and technique come Spring and Summer.

So how do I stay motivated?

Staying motivated in the colder months is all about preparation and having the right kit. Getting soaked and cold is no fun on a bicycle and it can have a negative impact on concentration, and safety levels. So, the first thing I would say is ride when you want to, not when you have to!

Plan some chilled (pun intended) shorter rides where you can test your equipment but be within a short distance of home or warmth. Conditions can change dramatically and hypothermia is no laughing matter!

Goup of cyclists posing for a photo in the rain with London in the background
Riding in the cold and rain isn’t all bad – if you have the right gear!

What is meant by layering up?

The first imperative for riding in the colder months is your gear. As tempting as it might be to bung on a thick puffa jacket or fleece, by the time you’re up to speed and pushing out loads of heat those types of jackets will probably get you overheated in no time. The smart choice is to layer up!

Start with the ‘base layer’ – this is a close fitting layer of undergarments that tend to be made of natural fibres like cotton, bamboo or wool (merino is a firm favourite of mine) – natural fibres will absorb and wick sweat away so you don’t cool rapidly when you slow down or stop. Then add your normal cycling clothing (though don’t shy away from thermal cycling tights – they are often great!) followed by a thermal top, or gilet paired with arm-warmers. Leg warmers too can be a cheap and acceptable alternative to thermal tights.

What about tootsies and fingers?

Keeping hands and fingers warm is a challenge because you want to stay warm (or at least not get cold) but you need to maintain dexterity on the brakes and gears. Again, layering can help – a close fitting silk underglove can trap that essential layer of air in your gloves and keep those fingers nice and toastie!

Toes are a different matter – I don’t know about you, but when my feet are cold, I feel cold all over. But because your toes are not moving so much when clipped in they are likely to bear the brunt of the cold wind. The answer to this is overshoes. Even thin waterproof overshoes can make a massive difference, but if you can stretch to it, a pair of thermal overshoes, or even better, Winter boots will repay your investment time and time again – and keep you extra warm if you have to enjoy your coffee and cake outside during these crazy COVID times!

And use your head!

Significant amounts of heat can be lost from your head – even more so when travelling at speed, so don’t forget to cover your bonce with a thermal skull cap or beanie – seriously, even if it feels balmy when you start off, keeping your head covered is a sensible precaution in the cooler months.

What about wind and rain?

I have got to be honest with you – the cold I can take, but the wind and rain can sap motivation like nothing else I know. So here you have to be proactive. One of my best investments was a Gore waterproof jacket – it’s an excellent windbreaker, and not a drop of water gets through – and yet it rarely gets sweaty and damp on the inside. If you’re going to ride in the Winter, you need a good wind/waterproof. A good waterproof jacket will provide all the windbreaking protection you need, but a wind proof alone is useless if it gets soaked.

Sounds like a faff…..

Well, yeah, I guess it is, but retaining the option to cycle through the Winter will help banish SAD, keep you fit, justify tucking into the inevitable pile of mince pies AND make cycling again in the Spring much less challenging! Give it a go – don’t beat yourself up if you don’t cycle as much, just choose your days, and times and get out and about, if only for a bit!