Essential winter riding guide: Tips from the pros

It's that time of year again when we brace ourselves for the onslaught of wet and cold weather, and look for ways to stay motivated to ride through it. Hopefully this selection of pro tips will help


Connor Swift (Arkéa-Samsic)

"I would say it's important to make sure you have a good set of lights on your bike to make sure you can be seen by other road users in the winter months!

Make your rides enjoyable to keep the motivation there - for me I normally ride in a group and sometimes throw in a good old cafe stop to break up the ride and enjoy some cake!"

Eddie Dunbar (Ineos Grenadiers)

"I would say not to rush into doing too much training in the winter as it can be easy to get carried away, and before you know it three or four months have gone by and the racing hasn't even started! Obviously, weather conditions can play a big part in training so any day where someone can see the weather is going to be good, do a small bit extra and focus on shorter quality sessions on the bad days, whether that's on the turbo or a short session outside."

Jess Roberts (Mitchelton-Scott)

"Winters in the UK can be pretty grim at times, with a lot of cold and wet weather. One of the main things I do to get me through is to get out with some company. It's always easier getting through the tough rides with friends.

"I usually take some nice snacks for morale I normally take something that's got chocolate involved to keep me going and perk me up.

"Lastly I always make sure I've got enough layers on and good quality kit! I normally find if I can keep my hands and feet warm and dry I'm usually OK."

Alice Lethbridge (Weston Homes Torelli Assure / Drag2Zero)

"Be flexible with your training. The main thing over winter is to keep motivation so, be willing to switch things around if the weather isn’t suitable for riding — don’t risk injury — or there’s an unexpectedly nice day when you planned a turbo session, and give yourself time off if you’re ill rather than push through. Also, it’s good, for some people, to set mini targets."

Oliver Naesen (Ag2r-Citroën)

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"Perhaps the best pro tip for November and December, especially for the Christmas champions out there — bike but don't train. Do as much or as little as you want, but never do a workout you're not psyched about."

Janneke Ensing (Mitchelton-Scott)

"It's so important to wear the right clothes during the cold training. For me it's Giordana — it's always good for the motivation to wear the new kit from January.

I don't stay all the time in the same place for my training. If it is possible I also go to Spain — Calpe — to train there with friends and have good weather.

"I also do some skating training and races — and change bikes between my mountain bike and road bike."

Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers)

"Preparation. Having the right kit on and making sure you have a good rain jacket with you. You need to balance it right so you don't overheat, sweat and get cold. But you don't want to get caught out without enough clothing."

Keeping it rubber-side down 

If you're going to push on through the notoriously tough British winter, your lightweight summer tyres probably aren't going to cut it. With frost and rain come debris-strewn roads and more potholes... mix in autumn's slippery dead leaves and the deal is sealed; if you're not already using rugged rubber, it's time to switch.

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There are plenty of options, including Continental's Grand Prix 4-Season, Vittoria's Corsa Control G2.0, Hutchinson's Fusion 5 All Season and — for a tubeless-only option, Schwalbe's One TLE.

Continental uses a synthetic 'Vectran' belt to ward off punctures, plus a proprietary 'Max Grip' compound for extra stickiness in cooler and damper conditions. Vittoria uses Kevlar threads - one every fourth thread - in its Corsa Control G2.0, which is a heavy-duty version of its popular Corsa G2.0.

Hutchinson's Fusion 5 uses a polyamide belt to keep the thorns and flints out, coupled with its own HDF>5.3 grip compound, while the Schwalbe hides a nylon RaceGuard layer under its Addix compound, and has the added bonus of being tubeless. In theory, used with sealant, this trumps everything else because you should be virtually immune to flats — while at the same time being able to run lower pressures for a little more grip.
If you think tubeless is for you, you're not limited to Schwalbe tyres of course; in fact, all of the tyres here except the Continentals come in tubeless versions. Remember though, you do need appropriate rims, you need to run them with sealant and they are tougher to mount on the rim.

Winterise your bike

(Dan Gould)

Beyond tyres (see 'Keeping it rubber-side down…"), there are a number of other basic bike-based tips we'd recommend to get you and your machine through the cold and wet months in the best shape possible.

As some of our experts have said, lights are a good place to start, even if it isn't night. Things can be pretty murky at any time of day in the winter, and unless you've got some bright kit on it becomes easy to blend into the background. A flashing rear (and front, if you like) light will help drivers see you that bit earlier.
Mudguards. They're never going to be fashionable but not even the haters will deny they make a big difference to a wet ride. There are a number of clip-on options for race bikes with no mudguard eyes; for group riding, choose a set with a rear mudflap.

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Clean your bike more often. Gone are the summer days when a quick wipe and lube of the chain was all you needed for weeks on end. Dirt and rain quickly form a gritty paste that will make mincemeat of your bike's most delicate parts without a regular clean and lube. For the same reason, you'll want to leave those expensive carbon wheels in the shed in favour of a sturdy low-cost option. This especially applies to those with rim brakes, which will be more than happy to grind away that lightweight carbon rim for you if you let it.

Sort your winter wardrobe

(Dan Gould)

Beyond the basic winter tights and jacket, there are a number of wardrobe items that are going to make getting through a winter on the bike that much more bearable. In fact, they're pretty much deal-breakers, so now is the time to get them sorted, if you haven't already.

First off, gloves. For much of the winter, you'll probably be OK with a middleweight pair, especially if they're windproof. But think about the longest, coldest rides you're likely to do and select your gloves accordingly. A four-hour ride in two degrees is a very different proposition to a 45-minute blast when it's five degrees.

On your head, as well as your helmet, you'll probably want a skullcap. This thin layer fits under your helmet and when it's sub-10 degrees or so, makes a big difference. On the coldest days, pair this with a buff or snood and you'll be warm as toast…

...providing you're also wearing overshoes. As well as keeping your feet warm and — unless it really rains hard — dry, these will stop your favourite shoes getting trashed by all the crud that fires up at them from the front wheel. Like much of the winter wardrobe, they won't win many prizes for sleekness, but they are worth every penny.

This feature originally appeared in the print edition of Cycling Weekly, on sale in newsagents and supermarkets, priced £3.25.

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