Never be fooled into thinking cycling is only for the summer. Snow and rain may not sound so great, but riding in the winter doesn’t have to be any less enjoyable.
As with cycling at any time, keeping moisture away from your skin is important. In the winter, it’s particularly important in order to avoid getting too cold. A merino base layer will help to wick moisture away from the skin effectively, to help regulate body temperature. A decent pair of overshoes will keep the wind and rain out of your shoes — something which is particularly uncomfortable otherwise.
Long-fingered gloves are a god-send after October, with any loss of dexterity being potentially calamitous. It’s worth spending the money on a decent pair of cycling gloves which not only provide warmth but also retain your feeling of control, keeping you safe. Although it can be tempting to go purely down the path of warmth, you must also ensure you’re keeping safe and that the clothing you wear is suitable for cycling.
Your bike itself should be well prepared for winter. Ensure it has been serviced and kept in good working order, as any mishaps in cold weather can be more dangerous than in the summer. If you’re a serious rider, you might even want to consider having a specific winter bike. Some models, such as the Boardman CX (the CX, of course, stands for cyclocross), are particularly highly rated for their winter riding. Any bike with steady handling, chunky tyres and disc brakes will ensure you’re kept as safe as possible and that rim wear is reduced during adverse weather conditions.
Mudguard mounts, whilst not essential, will allow you to fit mudguards and keep yourself from having to get splattered with mud, keeping cycling far more enjoyable. In terms of your frame, you’ll want to opt for metal — perhaps heavier, but also cheaper (unless opting for titanium) and generally more hard-wearing than other materials. Modern advances in carbon technology are making it suitable for winter riding, too, so carbon fibre bodies are now a serious consideration. Long-drop brakes may be necessary if mudguards are used, so that’s worth bearing in mind too.
A tougher rim on your wheels will protect from exposure to the elements and be stronger, keeping your winter steed running much longer. Winter rubber is essential, as the amount of debris on the road will be greater and you’ll want increased grip, too. As with most elements of cycling, it’s a case of finding your own particular preferences and building a ride which best suits your style of cycling and personal desires.
And, as always, we return to safety. It’s much darker during the winter, particularly with the shorter daylight hours, so a high-powered light is essential on your winter steed. As a starting point, you’d probably want to look at 500 lumens and upwards for winter and night cycling. Even during the day, visibility can be poor and with many car drivers choosing to keep their headlights on throughout the day for increased safety, it’s best for you to be doing the same. If you’re not usually one to carry a saddlebag, winter’s a good time to consider doing so. Spare inner tubes, patches and tools are far more likely to be needed during the winter, so make sure you’re stocked up and prepared.
With the right preparation and equipment, cycling during the winter can be just as fun as during the summer. In fact, it can be even more enjoyable. A winter ride is not only a challenge for the keen cyclist but it can be a good seasonal diversion from those hot and sweaty summer rides. If you’ve set your trusty steed up for winter and invested in the right clothing and safety precautions, you’ll be in for a safe and enjoyable winter’s riding.