As a road cyclist, there isn't much that can deter you from getting in those miles but let's be honest. Sometime you'll look outside, see it's cold and /or damp, and think to yourself, "sod that!"
I'm a massive believer of 'winter miles = summer smiles' so as the temperatures drop, and you want to continue cycling during the off-season, it's important to take some extra precautions to ensure that you stay warm, visible, and safe on the road.
First and foremost, let's talk about staying warm. Layering is key when it comes to cycling in the cold, as it allows you to adjust /remove your clothing as needed to maintain a comfortable body temperature. Start with a base layer made of moisture-wicking fabric to keep your skin dry, and add a mid-layer for insulation. On top, opt for a windproof outer layer to protect against the elements. This can either be a long sleeved top or a light weight gilet. And don't forget about your extremities. Invest in some warm gloves and a cozy pair of winter cycling socks to keep your hands and feet toasty. If you're cycling in especially cold conditions, consider adding a balaclava or a neck warmer for extra heat. If you're still having trouble staying warm on the bike, consider using chemical warmer pouches that can be placed in your gloves, socks, or shoes to provide some extra heat. These can be especially helpful on longer rides in cold weather.
Now, let's talk about staying visible. As the days are shorter, it's even more important to make sure that you're visible to other road users. Make sure that your bike is equipped with lights front and rear set to an irregular flashing mode so you're more noticeable, and consider adding reflective tape or clothing to increase your visibility in low light conditions. In addition to being reflective, it's also a good idea to wear clothing that is brightly-coloured in the first place, as it can be more easily seen by other road users. And if you're cycling in the dark, it's especially important to pay attention to your surroundings and to ride defensively. This is where you're even more proactive in your safety and make greater assumptions that other road users may not see you or may not be paying attention. This means being extra vigilant and taking steps to avoid potential conflicts or accidents. For example, you might ride in a more predictable manner, and use bigger than normal gestures / hand signals to indicate your turns.
But it's not just about staying warm and visible - it's also about staying safe. Cold weather can lead to slippery roads, so make sure to check the forecast before heading out and to take extra caution when cycling on wet or icy roads. Aim to go slower and stay more upright when going around bends. It's also a good idea to adjust your tyre pressure to account for the colder temperatures, as lower pressure can improve traction on slippery surfaces. Speaking of tyres, you might want to invest in ones made for winter. These tend to use more durable compounds and be less prone to punctures. If you're brave enough to ride on particularly icy roads (remembering the thin line between bravery and stupidity!) then you will want to invest in tyres with nobles or studs on them for extra grip. The trade-off with winter tyres - with or without nobles /studs - is that they're heavier so you might not go as fast but for me, winter cycling is about keeping the legs spinning and maintaining fitness as opposed to hammering every ride and trying to beat personal bests. Having said all this though, I really wouldn't recommend riding in conditions where there is a lot of snow and ice on the ground. You're just asking for trouble. In these conditions you might be better off training inside if you have the equipment, or having a rest day.
And don't forget about maintaining your bike. Cold weather can be tough on your machine, so make sure to regularly lubricate your chain and to keep an eye on your tyres for signs of wear. It's also a good idea to keep your bike clean, as road grime can lead to rust and other issues. Run a hose over it after particularly mucky rides and consider using a bike cover to protect your bike from the elements when it's not in use. Prevention can be better than cure so consider using mud guards (aka 'fenders') to protect yourself and your bike from the elements in more slushy conditions. Mud guards will help to keep water and road grime off of you and your bike, making for a more comfortable and enjoyable ride.
Finally, make sure to take care of yourself. Stay hydrated and nourished, even in lower temperatures, and pay attention to any signs that you're getting too cold. It can be tough to drink cold water so think about using insulated water bottles to keep your water warm and more palatable on frostier rides. Colder rides are a great excuse for adding some additional coffee stops on your route, also. Nothing beats a cup of caffeine and slab of cake to refill the internal coal burner. And if the weather is just too extreme, it's okay to sit it out and wait for more favourable conditions.
With these tips in mind, you'll be well prepared to tackle the roads, no matter how cold and damp it gets. Just remember to dress appropriately, stay visible, and take care of yourself and your bike, and you'll be ready to conquer any cold weather cycling challenge.
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