A little preparation goes a long way when it comes to getting the most out of your winter cycling experience.
There’s no such thing as bad weather. With the right kit and a bit of preparation, you can ride your bike comfortably outside no matter what Mother Nature throws at you—if you want to. While some might prefer to spend their winter hours sweating away on a home trainer, or to just go into hibernation and avoid the bike altogether, getting out in the fresh air will help keep you sane and motivated through the darkest and coldest months of the year and ensure you are in much better shape come spring.
Winter is also a great time to work on the skills you might neglect during the rest of the year. Professional racers often used to spend the first couple of months after their off-seasons accumulating miles on fixed-gear bikes to improve their pedalling efficiency and agility. Cyclocross and mountain biking are also excellent ways to practice your bike-handling, even for the most dedicated roadies. As an added benefit, riding at slower speeds in the forest will keep you much warmer when it’s especially cold out.
It’s long group rides that truly make the winter special for cyclists though. A few hours out on the road with your mates at a relaxed pace with a stop or two for coffee and cake is about as good as it gets for a bike rider. You’ll only enjoy it if you’re warm and dry and your equipment is in order though.
Many riders opt to keep a second bike for the winter months. The sand and salt that gets put down on the roads can be harsh on components, so a more rugged rig is more suitable than a high-performance racer. In any case, you’ll want to mount wider, more durable tires on your wheels for better grip on slippery roads and to prevent punctures. Standing by the side of the road fixing a flat when it’s freezing is not fun and you should do what you can to avoid it.
Fenders will keep you much dryer in the wet, and are pretty-well obligatory if you are riding with others. You don’t want to be the jerk spraying dirty, cold water into the faces of the riders behind all day, and you don’t want anyone spraying cold, dirty water into your face either. After each winter ride, wash your bike right away. Hosing off the mud and salt and oiling your chain will make your machine last much longer.
As for clothing, you want to be able to maintain a stable body temperature, no matter the conditions or how hard you are riding. Overheating will hinder your efforts and soon make you a sweaty, soggy mess in danger of freezing as soon as you reduce your pace, the temperature drops, or the road goes downhill. If you’re too cold, your will limbs stop functioning properly and your reactions will become sluggish, which can be dangerous.
The ideal body temperature for cycling comfort and performance is 37°, according to research. That’s why Shimano developed it’s 37° technology, which uses insulating materials, wind and water blocking fabrics, layering, and strategically placed active and passive ventilation, so riders can control their body temperature and be at their best, no matter the weather. The technology has been incorporated into a complete range of kit, from bib-tights and booties to jackets, gloves, and jerseys, so there’s no good excuse for you not to enjoy the benefits of winter riding.