Getting Winter Cycling Ready

So, you’ve just finished your last cycle sportive, triathlon or cycle race for the season. You don’t want to be riding your best bicycle over the winter so one last clean of your race bicycle and it can be moth-balled until next year. Summer gear has started to feel light and you’re looking for better protection against the elements. As it’s still autumn and the weather hasn’t yet taken a wintry turn, it’s a good opportunity for getting winter cycling ready.

So, what’s my routine for getting winter cycling ready ? First my bicycle. I make a point of giving my winter bicycle a full MOT in advance of the winter. Anyone who has been cycling for a while knows how winter weather has a habit of finding out any faults / issues with your bicycle so don’t wait until the real cold and wet weather arrives and your bicycle breaks down on a spin and you end up with no option but to call out the team car aka your partner, family member or friend. You’ll pay dearly for that !

For the bicycle, I always fit a new chain and cassette and assuming I do my normal winter cycle training schedule I will change these again early in the new year due to wear and tear. Fixing a broken chain with power links and cold hands can be very challenging even for the best of roadside mechanics. I always fit a new rear tyre with a good all-season compound for grip and durability. Don’t use your best bicycle wheel set during the winter. There’s plenty of good, durable winter bicycle wheel sets on sale which will see you safely through.  Make sure every moving part is oiled and greased. Any frayed cables should be changed. Check for wear on your brake pads or discs and replace as required.

Proper, full mudguards are a must to prevent you getting destroyed by the muck and dirt that gets thrown up from wet rural roads. Forget the flimsy clip on variety. This is particularly important if you’re planning to cycle with your bike or triathlon club. The rider behind you certainly won’t thank you for hours of mucky spray and you’ll find yourself being asked to sit at the back of the group which impacts your performance training and the important social element of group rides.

When you’re heading out, I recommend that you carry at least 2 spare inner tubes or the necessary sealants if your riding tubeless. You should carry a good quality multi-tool for on road repairs, tyre levers, a decent pump, a set of latex gloves (keep your hands clean during repairs) and a piece of flexible synthetic material such as an old cycle race number which can be used as a temporary ‘get you home’ patch where the side wall of a tyre blows.

From a safety perspective, always have front and rear lights with you and on dull winter days you should cycle with these on a daylight setting. At night, research has shown that using a combination of 2 front lights, one pulsing and the other in ‘always on’ mode increases your visibility to other road users.

What’s my routine for getting myself winter cycling ready ?. Having ridden for many years during the winter, my main piece of advice is never take the weather for granted.  There is always at least one day every winter where the weather takes a nasty turn and your ability to function and get home is very much dependent on the quality of the cycling gear that you are wearing.  

Always know from the weather forecast what type of weather you are facing into and gear up appropriately. You’ll need good quality winter base layers, bib tights, jerseys and a breathable, wind and water repellent cycling jacket. All the main cycling gear manufacturers have plenty to offer at the various price points. Don’t forget your extremities. You’ll need a beanie for under your helmet and buy the best quality gloves and overshoes that you can afford. Once your extremities start to freeze cycling a bicycle becomes increasingly difficult and there’s certainly no enjoyment to be had. A tip is to carry a spare pair of gloves. On really wet days when gloves get sodden, they start to lose their insulation properties. There is nothing better when this happens than reaching for your back pocket and pulling out a dry pair which will see you safely home.

It’s certainly a classic case of ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. If you prep well and wear the right gear, winter cycle training in the countryside can be a very enjoyable experience. Cycle training outdoors beats static cycle turbo training hands down and is great for building cycling stamina and endurance. This is something which you’ll call on early next year as the quality and intensity of your training picks up for the new season. Enjoy !