Now that the summer is coming to an end and the nights are drawing in, it doesn't mean that you have to stop cycling. It can be hard to sustain the motivation to cycle through the winter when it’s cold and wet, but cycling is one of the few sports that you really can do all year-round with the right preparation, equipment and clothing!
Firstly you need to ensure that you dress for the weather, there’s an old saying ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing’ and there is some truth in it. Feeling cold and and damp is not going to help motivate you to get out there so here is a few tips;
Head - Most helmets are designed to promote airflow with many vents to keep you cool in the summer, however in the winter you need to block these and the simplest way is to use a thin hat/cap. You can even get the balaclavas that keep the ears and neck warm when it really turns cold.
Eyes - Most of us have sunglasses, however its also a good to have a clear or fog type pair to protect your eyes from spray of other bikes etc.
Body - The secret to keeping warm in winter is to use layers, a good base layer should be highly breathable with good wicking qualities. It will remove moisture from the skin, keeping you dry, warm and comfortable. The better wicking jerseys tend to be close-fitting. Winter base layers also need to insulate from the cold. Then a mid layer, this is your most flexible layer. In warm weather it could be the only top you’ll wear. Or it can be worn as an outer layer with a base layer underneath. Or, as the name suggest, it can be the mid-layer between a base and a shell. It’ll be breathable and a reflective strip or two will be useful as it will probably serve as your outermost layer for at least some of the time. Your outer shell can be hard or soft, Only a hard shell jacket is likely to be totally waterproof. The best of these are also very breathable, but they can feel inflexible. Lightweight, windproof models are perfect for folding up small in a pocket or pack, in case of bad weather. Totally waterproof heavy-duty jackets are great for commuting and making shorter journeys where you won’t get too hot or sweaty. Soft shell jackets usually breathe better, but tend to be water resistant rather than waterproof. Soft shells with a membrane will stand up to everything but a downpour, they are ideal for intense riding in unpredictable conditions.
Hands - There is a massive choice of gloves out there and its finding what works for you, just make sure that they are a good fit. You also want a pair that you can still handle the bike with and avoid gloves with tastles or hoops that can catch the handlebars.
Legs - You can use conventional cycling shorts with leg warmers, however the dedicated thermal bib tights are a lot better. Ensure you get a good fitting pair to ensure limited creases which help catch the water rather than it run straight off.
Feet - Probably the most important part of the body to keep warm, because there is nothing worse than your feet feeling like ice while trying to pedal your final leg of a ride! Most people opt to continue to use their standard cycling shoes and invest in a good pair of overshoes that will keep your feet dry and warm.
Another good tip is to take a spare base layer in a plastic bag that you can change into mid ride if you have a cafe stop. There is nothing worse than your warm sweat cooling down and sapping your body heat.
Next time we will look at what you can do to prepare your bike for winter!