Were you watching the latest Tour de France? If you’re anything like us, you probably spent your nights perched on the edge of your couch, vicariously living every gruelling, yet exhilarating moment of it.
Very few sporting events rival the drama and the romance of le Grand Tour, but there are plenty of ways to get your fix of cycling pleasure, even in bleak mid-winter.
The roads and trails may have gone from smooth asphalt and grippy hardpack to loose grit and slippery mud, but cycling in winter presents a heap of benefits that can help you raise your bike handling game.
If your inclination is to ditch the streets and head for the trail, Mountain Biking during winter is not for the feint-hearted. What typically thrills the senses during the summer, can feel like a white-knuckle ride into the unknown when it's cold. It’s a pretty stern test of nerve and skill, but with the right preparation it can be a really enjoyable experience.
That’s why we’re going to give you some of our best tips for prepping for winter cycling. Don’t avoid it. Embrace it and all its possibilities.
Get on your bike
Our first tip is a bit of a no-brainer. If you’re fairly new to cycling, and you want to get better at it, you need to ride as often as possible. Keep it simple to start with. Don’t focus too much energy on details, like routes, distances, or even fitness. Build up a bit of experience, get a feel for the different surfaces and you’ll be well on your way toward joining the Peloton.
Set some goals
Almost everybody wants to improve at something. However, the biggest obstacle to improvement is the gap between what you want to achieve and effort you’re prepared to make to achieve it. The best way to bridge this gap is to set goals.
Start by being honest with yourself. Be realistic about what you want to do (in terms of distance/time goals, etc.) and the timeframe within which you plan to get it done. Once you’ve done that, make a plan and stick to it. If you need some extra motivation, share your goals on social media. Once a plan leaves your head it becomes a committment, not a secret.
Hit the trail
You may still be basking in the afterglow of Le Grand Tour, but going off-road and hitting the trails is a great way to improve your bike handling, base ﬁtness and pedalling style. Take it slowly, and don’t embark on anything too advanced too soon. However, navigating uneven surfaces through rain and mud will help to sharpen your skills, improve your balance and elevate your cycling to a whole new level.
Prep your bike
It’s always important to check your bike regularly for wear and tear, but especially at this time of year.
Be sure to check your tyres for debris and shards of glass that can cause punctures. Also, check the sidewalls to ensure your tyres stay inﬂated to the appropriate pressure. Examine your brake pads too, and make sure your brake cables aren’t damaged. If in doubt, before you hit the road or the trail, grab some tools and give your bike a once over to make sure the wheels don’t fall of your cycling adventure.
For some newbies, cold, wet and uncomfortable conditions can be a good enough reason to leave the bike in the shed and retreat to the snug of the couch. However, with the proper thermal gear, you'll be prepared for almost everything that winter can throw at you. When you’re layering up for the winter, consider the following:
- Base-layer: an moisture-wicking, next-to-skin, base layer will help keep your body dry. This will help you feel warmer and more comfortable.
- Mid-layer: an insulating mid-layer provides warmth and transports moisture from the base-layer.
- Outer-layer: Soft shell and waterproof jackets made from fabrics like GORE-TEX® and NGX® will protect you from the elements including rain, wind and snow.
Also consider protection for your extremities. A ﬂeece beanie and windproof gloves will protect your ears and hands from the conditions, allowing you to focus on your riding.
Stay safe and be seen
In these days of late sunrise and early nightfall, it’s even more important to be seen; and we’re not talking about Instagram! If you’re planning to do a spot of road cycling, it's a good idea to get yourself some good cycle lights and reflective gear to make sure other road users know you’re there.
We all know how important it is to stay hydrated during the summer months. Well, it’s equally important to keep your hydration levels up in the winter too. Dehydration or under-hydration can cause a multitude of uncomfortable and inconvenient issues; including increased mental and physical fatigue.
Keep a bottle or hydration pack on your cycling kit list, and you’ll have one less very important thing to worry about.
Enjoy the ride
Winter cycling can be a truly transcendent outdoor experience. You get to appreciate beautiful landscapes, traverse quiet misty roads, and enjoy the sanctity of nature with barely another soul in sight. Don’t wait for summer, get out there and enjoy the low winter sun before it fades away.