Winter riding can be unpleasant at the best of times, so the last thing you want to be doing is making it even worse by not kitting yourself and your bike up properly. Here are our worst kit mistakes to avoid at all costs
1. Don’t underdress
In case you haven’t noticed, it’s getting cold outside. But the thing is that you’re going to be building up a sweat as you pull on 25 different pieces of winter clothing in the warmth of your bedroom and then overheat even more as you tuck into a steaming coffee and a piping hot bowl of porridge while you get ready to head out of the front door.
The natural temptation is to take off a layer or switch to a lighter outer layer. Don’t do it!
If you do succumb to the urge to cool down by taking off that heavy winter jacket then you can be sure that as soon as you head out of the door, the temperature will drop by an extra five degrees and you’ll be shivering through your whole ride.
You forked out for that expensive super-warm jacket, so you might as well keep it on.
2. Don’t overdress
But hang on, that doesn’t mean that you need to wear every single item in your cycling wardrobe on every single ride between November and March.
Towards the end of this period you’re probably going to ramp up the intensity of your rides as you look to get into the best shape possible for the start of the season, which means you’re going to be working a lot harder and generating a lot more body heat in the process.
The problem is that all those insulating layers that keep the cold out also keep warmth in, so you’ll quickly find yourself quickly overheating during extended efforts.
The best solution is to dress in a greater number of thinner layers. This means that you’ll be able to take off an outer windshell, for example, while you’re doing your intervals, and then put it back on when you’re finished
3. Don’t double puncture
Ok, so getting two punctures on a single ride can hardly be classed as a mistake (unless you weren’t using a decent pair of winter tyres), but what is a mistake is if you end up stranded miles from anywhere because of it.
On all rides, particularly during winter, it’s wise to take two inner tubes so you can still get home even if you suffer the misfortune of a double punture.
Of course, you may well get a third puncture, in which case make sure you’ve got a taxi fare or the phone number of an understanding family member.
4. Don’t neglect your extremities
There are a few less pleasant experiences in cycling than losing feeling in your fingers and toes half way through a long ride.
Once this happens, because they’re not moving, there’s almost nothing you can do to regain feeling while you’re out on the road.
To make sure you don’t lose too many digits to frostbite it’s worth investing in a good pair of overshoes and a good pair of winter gloves, and, if it’s really cold, to wear multiple layers underneath too.
That means a pair of inner gloves (which can even be neoprene for seriously chilly conditions) and a pair of thermal socks (or two).
5. Don’t get a wet bum
Riding on wet roads is unpleasant enough as it is, but can be made even worse if all that water and mud is flicked up into a brown line running up the middle of your back, leaving you with a stain on your kit and a wet and cold backside.
The solution is to fit a pair of mudguards. They might not look too great, particularly if you’re trying to ride a flash race bike through the depths of winter, but they’ll keep you dry over rubbish wet lanes and will also go some way to keeping your mate sat on your wheel happy too.
6. Don’t forget your waterproof
You see that black cloud on your weather app? You see how there are no raindrops coming down from it? Don’t be fooled. If you think that’s a good enough reason to head out of the front door without a waterproof then you’re all but guaranteed to be caught in torrential rain within 15 minutes of leaving the house.
The solution, clearly, is to take a waterproof with you on every winter ride. It doesn’t have to be anything special, just a pretty basic waterpoof jacket that stuffs down fairly small into your rear pocket to be pulled out when the storm clouds begin to muster above your head.
7. Don’t crash
So this might not be something you can always avoid, but there are number of steps you can take to make sure you keep things rubber side down over the winter.
In terms of kit you can switch to wider tyres and run them at lower pressure which will help to give better grip over wet roads.
However the best way to avoid crashing is to alter the way you ride. Take your foot of the gas and don’t go steaming into corners with reckless abandon and if the weather looks really bad with ice and snow on the roads, then the turbo trainer might be a wiser option for a day or two.
8. Don’t take your glasses off
Sunglasses are surprisingly useful in winter, particularly if you have a pair with removable lenses, allowing you to switch in either clear lenses or yellow ones that will brighten up even the gloomiest of January days.
However they’re especially useful if it starts to rain, helping to keep the rain out of your eyes.
But whatever you do, don’t take them off! While you keep your glasses on, the water will only be on the outside of the lenses, and will be blown off the sides of the lenses as you ride along (providing you’re riding fast enough, of course).
Take them off and the water will get on the inside of the lenses, rendering them completely useless for the rest of the ride.
9. Don’t forget your lights
While it might be tempting to head out for the weekend club run without attaching lights, this is one mistake that can have some pretty dire consequences.
It’s easy to forget how short the days are in December and January, and even a four hour club run can mean getting home at dusk once you’ve factored in a cafe stop along the way.
The best thing to do is to attach a basic pair of lights to your bike in October and then leave them there until April.
Your rear light is particularly important, as it will help you be seen as cars approach from behind in gloomy conditions, and can be left one throughout the day if needed.
10. Don’t wreck your best bike
If you’ve spent a lot of money on a nice new bike during the summer, the temptation is to ride it through the winter in order to get the most out of your money.
The problem is that all that mud, grit, and salt that builds up on the roads over winter will work its way into bearings, drastically reducing their life.
Assuming you don’t want to be buying another new bike next summer, either ride a dedicated winter bike over the colder months, or protect your bike from the worst of the elements using mudguards and remember to clean it regularly.