Winter is officially upon us! The days have become shorter engulfing evening rides in darkness and frozen noses as we roll out onto yet another frozen single track or road. Personally, I love winter rides there is nothing better than the feeling of warmth that comes from within on a good outdoor training session when its close to freezing and your face is cold yet the rest of your body is toasty!
I have come up with my top tips for enjoying your winter riding whether you just doing your usual stomp to the cafe for some cake with your friends or out training ready for the new season like I am, I hope these tips will allow you to embrace winter on your bike!
Getting the layer balance right is crucial in the winter, to allow your sweat to be wicked away from your body leaving you feeling warm you need to invest in a good base layer, but this doesnt have to cost the earth, look out for deals in Aldi for great Crane base layers. If pennies are jingling in your pockets Under Armour also make a great base layer but it will cost you three times as much to do the same job!
Invest in a Buff or neck warmer of some kind, this multi use bit of kit is great for keeping the draft from sneaking into your jacket and can be pulled up around your mouth and nose if you have to stop for any pesky punctures. Also one for the girls, and maybe some guys it doubles as a great way to keep your ears warm and keep your hair out of your eyes bonus!
Warm feet + warm hands = comfortable, enjoyable riding. This is an area I wouldn’t skimp on buying el’cheapo products, a good pair of gloves and socks will save you from numbing as your body draws the blood away from your fingers and toes to keep you vital organs warm you need to protect these from getting too cold or it will become miserable very quickly. I would suggest Seal Skinz gloves and socks they are water proof, durable and very warm. Its very important to keep your hands warm as they are a main point of contact with your bike, cold fingers don’t work brakes as well as they some times need to when you hit that frosty corner too hard!
Do it with friends! From a racing perspective I do a lot of my training on my own as its difficult to do heart rate sessions with others. However, in the winter getting out with friends whether its on or off road for a bash is key to keeping up the motivation. There is also nothing better than a cold winters evening crashing through the forest getting terribly lost with a group of mates in an area you thought you new like the bCk of your hand, until the lights went out! If your friends are all imps, whimps or banjo players, then try find a local club or British Cycling coaching session to join.
Lights that allow you to see. It has to be said there are a lot of choices when it comes to buying bike lights but a lot of the low/middle of the range lights are no good for off road or riding where there are no street lights because they are designed for you to be seen not to see! This may sound odd, but once you spend a reasonable sum of money £40/£50 on a decent front light it will change your night riding for ever! I brought a Cree 1300lm light off eBay for £40 it is rechargeable and the battery lasts ages well worth the money.
Stay hydrated, in the winter it is just as important to drink as it is in the summer you may not feel like you need to drink but on cold rides it is key to keep your fluid intake up, if your going out on especially cold days and can take a flask of something hot to drink half way round this is ideal if not I tend to add a bit of squash or electrolyte supplement such as High 5 to my drinks as for some bizzar reason this seems to feel warmer than just drinking water.
Bike maintenance is as important if not more important in the winter. Grit and dirt teamed with bad weather dont exactly make you feel like getting home from a good ride and standing out side to hose your bike down! So to make this process as pain free as possible, get a good dirt removing solution like Muc-Off, old towels, t-towels and even leggings make great chain and bike rags so save them cut them up and reuse them once there filthy chuck them away. Keep a separate one for cleaning your disk brakes and invest in some Muc Off disk brake cleaner this is great stuff and works wonders. Give your chain a decent coat of wet lube but remember to remove as much of the excess as possible with a rag, I try and re wipe my chain before setting out on the next ride as well this stops dirt sticking too it.
Post ride nutrition, getting out for a blast after work is a great stress reliever but once your home, have lovingly washed and dried your bike, cooking a gourmet nutritionally rich dinner is probably not high on the priority list, this is the time when if your like me you will go for bad foods because they tend to be quick and easy. Stop. Prepare salads, pastas and protein and become a tuppa ware king or queen by having these in containers in the fridge. Another great option if your home too late to eat a whole meal is a recovery shake, I really like Science in Sport REGO as it is a combination of carbohydrates and protein so aids recovery as well as muscle growth and replenishes my glycogen stores. I also find it easy to drink and not bloating which is a bonus,
These are my top eight tips for staying motivated and having fun on your bikes over the winter I hope you have enjoyed my article and please comment if you have another top tip I may have missed.