A Few Tips for Successful Winter Riding

With Christmas upon us and many wrapping up last-minute work preparations, it’s important to stay motivated and keep on top of hard-earned fitness from the summer while we indulge in festive food and drink. As well as fitness, your equipment can play a vital role in keeping you on top form and having a bike to tackle the depths of winter is much needed. Here are five tips to keep you rolling this Christmas so, come next year, you’re on track for the challenges ahead.

#1 Prepare your bike, you’re going to get wet

There is no escaping the wet if you want to get out and ride over the winter, but you can prepare your bike to better cope with adverse conditions and help keep you (and your club mates!) relatively clean and dry. Mudguards are essential in preventing road grime and rain from soaking your behind and anyone behind you. The longer the better, as more coverage means more protection. It’s worth checking to see if your bike will accept full wrap around guards as these not only protect you more but attach more securely with less chance of rubbing and rattling. If not, a clip-on option will do but be sure to use extra zip ties in addition to the rubber band attachments to keep them steady when over rough roads or out of the saddle.

#2 Love your bike like your neighbour

Winter is a time where your bike needs more TLC than ever. Cleaning after every wet and dirty ride will help the smooth running of your drivetrain while also improving longevity. An oily, grimy chain will wear out at a frightening rate so should be degreased and re-oiled every 100-150 miles or so. To keep on top of cleaning and maintenance, it’s good to get into the habit of doing this every week. After your ride, fill a bucket with hot water and, using good old rubber gloves and a sponge, clean your bike, applying frame cleaner where necessary. The hot water will help remove dirt with ease while easing the pain of being out in the cold. To dry, give the bike a good bounce and use an old towel to dry the main areas. Once dry, some lubricating spray such as GT85 can be applied to the chain and derailleurs to prevent rust and corrosion. It’s worth removing excess spray with a rag so not to drip on the carpet! It’s best to re-oil the chain once it’s had a chance to dry and, while GT85 will prevent rusting, it won’t last long out on the roads so a wet lubricant is the best option. To apply, gently squeeze onto the chain while peddling backwards to get an even coverage. With your finger and thumb, press the oil into the rollers and pins by cycling the chain through. This is a vital step, as chain oil on the outer surfaces will only attract grime and cake the rest of your bike, and should be done for at least 30 seconds. Wipe off any excess and let the oil settle before riding if possible.

#3 Wrap up

Tan lines are fading, leg hair is likely making a comeback and its unlikely your skin will be out for at least a few months. Wrapping up is essential to stay out and get the miles in. Layering is a great approach if you’re not sure how cold it is or whether the temperatures will change. Marino thermals are great for insulation while working to keep you dry and a windproof gilet (which can be easily stuffed in a pocket) is perfect for keeping the biting wind off your chest. Your hands, feet and head should also be covered with kit to keep the chill off. Windproof overshoes are perfect and, combined with a good old pair of Woolie Boolies, will keep your feat toasty. If you specifically suffer from the cold, try putting gloves, hats and shoes on the radiator to warm through and put them on just before you head out.

#4 Phone a friend

Riding in the cold and dark is hard enough but going solo can be even harder. To help get the miles in and keep your strength building, find a friend or group to head out with. The company is great for chatting and taking your mind off the length of time you’re out, while knowing others are out suffering with you always spurs you on! Throw in some healthy competition with village sign sprints and KOMs and the miles will roll by without you considering the cold.

#5 Put in the work

Lance Armstrong famously used to tell everyone that he was out training on Christmas day while all his rivals were eating Christmas dinner. Although we’re not encouraging you to miss Christmas dinner, getting out on the bike when it seems hardest to do so will give you that edge come Spring. Sometimes it’s easier to get out knowing your friendly rivals are cosied up indoors having skipped rule #5.

Merry Christmas and happy riding!


Piers Riley