Cycling essentials in cold weather
Winter is coming… no, this isn’t a Game of Thrones prequel, it’s Reid’s essential tips to prepare your bike and yourself for cycling in cold weather.
Take care of your bike during bad, cold weather days
Just as you need some TLC after spending a little bit too long outside in the cold, so does your bike. Fortunately, just as easy as warming yourself up with a hot chocolate, maybe a bath or a blanket, there are some easy and quick wins that you can do at home to show your bike some wintery love.
First things first, remember to give your bike a good scrub and clean after riding in less than favourable conditions. If you cycle in the snow, it’s crucial to wipe off all that frost from your bike in order to prevent the melting ice from forming rust and wearing down your components. Next, it’s on to any mud or muck: clinging there permanently for the whole world to see if not rubbed off in time. You’ll have to combat this by cleaning your bike of muck after every ride. Failure to do so may cause mechanical defects in the long run, in addition to you looking a little worse for wear.
If you really want to get your teeth stuck into it (not literally, bikes aren’t generally for eating), there are some DIY, fundamental maintenance work that can keep you and your bike riding for longer in the winter. You can check the bearings, chain and cassette for signs of wear; test the brakes and gear cables for efficiency. Notably, you might want to lube the chain with thicker lubricant than the usual lighter one. Then, your chain will last longer in rubbish conditions. For more details and instructions, check out our previous blog on ‘Basic bike maintenance tips’.
Equip your bike with winter essentials
1. Get a good set of lights
The must have accessory when cycling in cold, dark weather (and early mornings and late nights the rest of the year) are undoubtedly a good set of lights. Both front and rear lights are necessary (and legality in most countries when riding in the dark). The front light helps you see the road clearly ahead of you and makes you visible to oncoming drivers. The rear light makes you aware to the road users behind you. If you like to be extra careful, you can always carry spares, in case the other runs out of battery or gets nicked if you leave them on whilst your bikes locked up.
On gloomy winter days, it’s sad to say but you may need the lights on even during the daytime. On these days, it’s hard for cyclists to be spotted, especially if you’re riding against the low sun. Therefore, both a set of steady and flashing lights are helpful for both cyclists and other commuters on the road.
2. Fit mudguards
On wet days, you may notice that without mudguards, you’ll head into work or shops covered in dark road sludge. Therefore, it may be worth equipping them if you haven’t got. If you’ve got a dedicated winter bike, it should already have mudguard eyelets to fit heavier duty mudguards. If not, there are loads of clip-on mudguards out there for you to fit them to your bike. Just beware to leave enough clearance for the tyres to roll smoothly. Nothing worse than a tyre slowly rubbing away on your mudguard.
In addition to a mudguard, there’s also a nifty attachment called a mud flap! A mud flap is a little extension that goes onto the bottom of your mudguard to stop the sludge from spitting up on to other cyclist or cars behind you. When you fit a rear mud flap, it shows that you also care about others commuting on two wheels. To add the mud flap, drill a hole in the bottom of your mudguard, then attach an extra strip of material. This will substantially extend the mudguard downwards that can save the rider behind you from getting covered in sludge or whatever the road can throw at.
3. Upgrade your handlebar
To prepare yourself for rough roads ahead, you might want the extra cushion on the handlebar. It’s as easy to do as double wrap your handlebar tape. If you could find a gel tape, it’s even better with the bonus layer of padding. If you want to go to the next level of handlebar cosiness, you can even get some gloves that clip on to your handlebars! These are oversized gloves that your gloved hands can go into for that extra layer of warmth.
4. Fit winter tyres
When the weather turns, you may consider going for a set of winter tyres. These tyres offer extra layers of puncture resistance, as you never know what could be laying under the snow or ice. More significantly, the wider tyres such as the 25mm or 28mm types are recommended. Since they can run at a lower pressure, riders will have more comfort and better grip in wet, slippery conditions.
Now, your bike is ready. It’s time to prepare yourself for cyling in cold weather!
1. Wear warm clothes
Regarding cycling in cold weather, we recommend cyclists wearing many layers to maintain your body heat on the ride. First, wear a base layer for an extra layer of insulation. Then, put on a sweater/jumper/hoodie or any of your preference for another warm layer. Lastly, finish with a waterproof, wind-resistant jacket. If it’s not extremely cold on that day, you can opt for a cycling gilet, which is against the chilly wind without causing overheat. Besides, a light waterproof windcheater is all you need sometimes, which can be put in the backpack conveniently. You may want to consider the breathability of the clothes if you tend to throw some intensity on the cycling day. Wearing a base layer with wicking properties helps to evaporate sweat from the skin. Consequently, you’ll experience a more comfortable journey and arriving non-sweaty at your destination.
2. Equip yourself with necessary accessories
There are plenty of cycling accessories now for cyclists to protect themselves from the harsh weather. One of the crucial protectors must be a good pair of gloves, as your hands are the first body part to be exposed to the freezing air when steering the bike. Cotton inner gloves are a good choice as they are well-insulated and offer extra warmth in the winter. To go through wet conditions, you can consider the windproof and waterproof gloves. However, be cautious that waterproof property may not be breathable, which means the heat is kept in your hands and can cause sweat. So, as long as you can bear with sweaty hands, those gloves are helpful.
The second body part that is easy to get cold is your feet. Thicker winter socks are a great option, but bulky socks are not always ideal. Socks that are too thick reduce blood supply when your feet are squeezed inside your shoes, which leads to numbness. Therefore, it would be better to have medium thick but well-insulated socks. Furthermore, you can wear overshoes, which pulled over your normal pair, to keep your feet warmer. Go for the waterproof overshoes in wet days. You’ll be thankful later that your shoes are still dry after the rainy ride.
The accessories that are widely popular amongst cyclists now are arm and leg warmers. If you go for a cycling gilet over a jacket, arm warmers are definitely useful. The new model has silicon grippers around the upper hem, so that the arm warmers won’t slip down when you make movements. Moreover, cyclists can have added protection to their arm warmers such as water resistance and UV protection.
Regarding warm accessories for the legs, there are bib tights, leg warmers and knee warmers for you to choose. Bib tights provide more protection from the elements than shorts with the properties of wind resistance and water resistance. You can choose either the ones with or without a pad, depending on your budget. Regarding leg warmers, they are supposed to be worn underneath your shorts and have the same size as the shorts. Running from the mid-point of the thigh to the ankle, leg warmers are made from lycra with silicone grippers to hold them in place.
On the other hand, knee warmers, as you can tell by the name, is the shorter version of leg warms and covers the knee joint. So, there are different choices for you depending on how cold the weather is that day. One significant feature of leg/knee warmers is that you can always have them to set out cycling in cold weather, then easily peel them off later and stuff in your jersey pocket.
Apart from those aforementioned accessories, a helmet and a cap are also necessary. With the aero helmet that helps the ventilation, you will need a cotton cap underneath it in the winter. Also, the cap’s peak can protect your eyes from the rain. Another small accessory that can come in very handy in cold weather is a pair of glasses to prevent the wind. More remarkably, glasses with clear or yellow lenses even help to brighten up gloomy conditions. On crisp clear days, the sun can be as bright as in the summer and much lower in the sky, so you may need darker lenses to avoid being blind. Ideally, photochromatic lenses are a top choice. They turn darker in the sun but remain clear as normal glasses in the low lights of winter.
Having all these tips in mind? Now, we reckon nothing can stop you from cycling outdoors and enjoy the freshness of crispy weather! As at Reid, we believe that when life is experienced on two wheels, we become healthier, more mindful and more focused people.
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