Cycling through winter can seen like a daunting idea, even for those who have ridden in the colder months many times before.
Although we’d admit that it’s hard to beat cruising around in the summer, with short-sleeves and sunglasses, there’s still a lot of enjoyment to be had from winter riding – let alone the benefits of keeping your legs turning, and a bit of (very) fresh air.
The most obvious and arguably important factor in winter weather riding is, of course, clothing. The right windproof, thermal and waterproof gear can keep you dry and warm on rides so that you barely notice how cold it is.
A full set of winter clothing can at first seem like a large expense, but choosing carefully and layering up can give you a range of clothing to suit a range of temperatures.
There’s a temptation to throw on thick fleeces and waterproofs to stave off the cold, but you also have to consider that they will make you sweat, even when the temperature is nudging zero. Sweat can accumulate under your clothes to make you feel wet, cold and clammy.
Use cycle-specific clothing as that for other sports may not have the correct fit for your position when riding, or the correct properties to keep you moisture-free.
Teetering around damp, mucky lanes on your 23mm racing rubber is not the best idea for a number of reasons, not least the lack of grip and risk of slicing up expensive rubber.
We’d opt for tyres that offer a degree of puncture protection and are harder wearing. Continental Gatorskins are a perennial favourite for winter riding, but many other tyre manufacturers offer similar models. They don’t stop all punctures, but every little helps.
Tubeless tyres and solid tyres are also an option, those these are currently slightly more expensive and more fiddly to install than regular tyres and tubes.
As winter can be harsh on bikes, some people keep a specific bike just for winter. Usually, they are equipped with cheaper parts, mudguards, wider tyres and lights, and perhaps have lower gears to cope with a slower winter pace.
Many keep hold of an old bike when they buy a new one, and turn it into a winter machine. Others will go out and specifically buy a bike for the purpose: cyclocross bikes are popular as winter bikes, as are cheaper aluminium-framed road bikes, hybrids and mountain bikes with slicks.
Your winter bike may be heavy, and you can reasonably expect to see your average speed drop, but you’ll be flying when you switch back to your ‘best’ bike in the spring.
If you can afford a winter bike, we’d say go for it. Otherwise, ‘winterise’ your regular bike.