5 ways to keep riding all winter long

 

There are loads of excuses not to ride in winter: it’s cold, wet, windy, there’s no-one to ride with and you have a stinking cold. But whatever Michael Fish or your dripping nose say, there are ways to keep riding, whatever the weather...

 

Excuse 1: It’s frrrreeezing!

As a wise woman once said: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” And this sentiment is perfect for cycling. Get your garb right and you’ll enjoy a winter ride as much as a Spring roll-out.

So, what’s the secret to cycle clothing success? One word: layers. Layers make it easier to make small adjustments to your body temperature once the blood starts flowing and are much easier to stuff in a jersey pocket than one bulky garment – as well as being more practical to ride in.

Now for the science bit. The reason layers keep you warm is because air gets trapped between the fibres and heats up, which in turn keeps your body temperature up, while base layers worn against the skin wick moisture (basically drawing sweat away from your body so you don’t get wet with sweat and then cold).

For a winter ride, we wear a baselayer, a long-sleeved jersey as a mid-layer, a wind-proof jacket or shell, gloves, overshoes, woollen socks, full-length bib tights and a winter cap under our helmet, then carry a waterproof gilet or jacket. 

Over to Anne Brillet, layering guru at Specialized, who highlights why the devil is in the detail when it comes to your winter ride wardrobe.

 
Wind or waterproof jacket? "Unless you’re going be forced to ride in the pouring rain,” says Anne, "a windproof jacket is sufficient for your winter leisure and training rides and is a lot more breathable (read: not sweaty). You can then pack your light waterproof shell in your back pocket in case you get caught out.” Remember: not all waterproof fabrics are the same, so look out for a waterproof rating of 10,000mm and above. For reference, the minimum for a garment to be called waterproof is 1,500mm. The king of the waterproof materials, Gore-Tex, is 28,000mm, but it can be a bit extreme for riding.  Image: Element RBX Comp Wmn Jacket, £100

Wind or waterproof jacket?
"Unless you’re going be forced to ride in the pouring rain,” says Anne, "a windproof jacket is sufficient for your winter leisure and training rides and is a lot more breathable (read: not sweaty). You can then pack your light waterproof shell in your back pocket in case you get caught out.”

Remember: not all waterproof fabrics are the same, so look out for a waterproof rating of 10,000mm and above. For reference, the minimum for a garment to be called waterproof is 1,500mm. The king of the waterproof materials, Gore-Tex, is 28,000mm, but it can be a bit extreme for riding. 
Image: Element RBX Comp Wmn Jacket, £100

Gloves

“Wearing a merino glove liner definitely adds a layer of warmth,” says Anne, “but this only works if you ensure your gloves aren’t too tight. Get this wrong, your blood won’t flow properly and you’ll get cold. 

“Lobster mitts are amazing for those with particularly cold hands because they keep your fingers together, you’ll have more air trapped around them and they’ll keep each other warm. 
Image: Element 2.0 gloves, £45

Bib tights Full-length bib tights with a fleece lining are great for winter as the fleece keeps your warm, but you can also look out for bibs with windproof panels on the thighs, which will protect you against the wind and rain. Image: Therminal SL Expert Women's bib tights, £80

Bib tights

Full-length bib tights with a fleece lining are great for winter as the fleece keeps your warm, but you can also look out for bibs with windproof panels on the thighs, which will protect you against the wind and rain.
Image: Therminal SL Expert Women's bib tights, £80

Base layer “If you are wondering whether to go for a merino wool or a synthetic base layer, it’s simple. The merino will keep you warmer and the synthetic will dry quicker. So, if you tend to overheat and get sweaty, I’d recommend you go for synthetic. If you’re the one who never warms up, go for wool.” Image: Merino Long Sleeve Base Layer, £55

Base layer

“If you are wondering whether to go for a merino wool or a synthetic base layer, it’s simple. The merino will keep you warmer and the synthetic will dry quicker. So, if you tend to overheat and get sweaty, I’d recommend you go for synthetic. If you’re the one who never warms up, go for wool.”
Image: Merino Long Sleeve Base Layer, £55

Ear, nose and throat It’s important not to forget your neck and facial extremities, with your ears particularly susceptible the cold. A synthetic or wool neck warmer will protect your neck and face and avoid wind going inside your jacket and can also double up as a headband if you get caught out. A winter cap is another great bet for keeping your ears toasty and there are lots of cool options available. Image: Gore Windstopper Headwarmer, £20

Ear, nose and throat

It’s important not to forget your neck and facial extremities, with your ears particularly susceptible the cold. A synthetic or wool neck warmer will protect your neck and face and avoid wind going inside your jacket and can also double up as a headband if you get caught out. A winter cap is another great bet for keeping your ears toasty and there are lots of cool options available.
Image: Gore Windstopper Headwarmer, £20

Feet “It’s a similar layering story with your feet,” says Anne. “Overshoes are essential for trapping the warm air around your foot and protecting you against the cold wind. Merino socks will keep you warmer and drier than the cotton alternative, but always keep it to one pair: an extra pair of socks will create friction, give you less control and risk making your footwear too tight, which in turn restricts bloodflow. “If you really, really suffer, another great tip is innersoles with either wool lining or foil lining, which reflects your body heat.” There’s a lot to consider but it’s worth making the effort to get it right. If you feel good, you’ll enjoy yourself and you’ll also be more inclined to keep heading out. Image: Deflect Pro Shoe Covers, £35 

Feet

“It’s a similar layering story with your feet,” says Anne. “Overshoes are essential for trapping the warm air around your foot and protecting you against the cold wind. Merino socks will keep you warmer and drier than the cotton alternative, but always keep it to one pair: an extra pair of socks will create friction, give you less control and risk making your footwear too tight, which in turn restricts bloodflow.

“If you really, really suffer, another great tip is innersoles with either wool lining or foil lining, which reflects your body heat.”

There’s a lot to consider but it’s worth making the effort to get it right. If you feel good, you’ll enjoy yourself and you’ll also be more inclined to keep heading out.
Image: Deflect Pro Shoe Covers, £35 

 

 
 

Excuse 2: I have a cold

If you already have a cold, as long as it’s above the neck, then that shouldn’t stop you riding. In fact, if you’re feeling bunged up, getting out in the fresh air often makes you feel better.

But if you have proper full-on flu – fever, chills, sweats, aches – then training is a definite no-no. You won’t be any good and you risk making yourself even more unwell.

Another common cold-weather health danger is neglecting hydration. While your needs aren’t as high as they would be in hot weather, you can still get dehydrated in winter if you don’t drink enough.

Taking regular swigs from your bidon isn’t that appealing when the water in it is as ice cold as the temperature you’re riding in. So, in your second cage, take an insulated bottle filled with your favourite hot, milky brown stuff for a more warming alternative. Beth Hodge, Casquette consulting editor, recommends warm apple juice with a little salt.

The risk of muscle strains and tears is also increased in low temperatures, so make sure you warm up and down pre- and post-ride too. 

 
 

 
 

Excuse 3: It’s raining, it’s raining

The key to staying warm in the wet is to get a good waterproof jacket. We recommend getting the best one you can afford and preferably one that meets that elusive specification of being both waterproof and breathable.

That way you won’t sweat like a packet of boil-in-the-bag rice after five minutes on the hob at full whack and end up just as wet as if you weren’t wearing one.

Your pre-rainy-ride wardrobe prep should also take into consideration whether it’s windy as well as wet. Riding in low temperatures on a blowy, rainy day means you need to layer up a lot more as the windchill factor will cool you a lot faster than the rain on its own.

 
 

 
 
Jasmijn Muller aka Duracell Bunny and wind machine

Jasmijn Muller aka Duracell Bunny and wind machine

 
 

Excuse 4: It’s windy

If there’s one element we can’t abide at Casquette Towers, it’s wind. The evil blustery force can turn a flat road into a relentless climb, and the mildest gradient into a mountain.

But, unless it’s reaching gale force, that’s all the more reason to get out in it. Just think of those physiological benefits.

According to Jasmijn Muller, who is gearing up to break the solo women’s Land’s End to John o’Groats record in 2017, “the increased wind resistance makes it harder to pedal, which will increase your leg strength and help you mimic riding uphill – particularly handy if you live in a flat area. Like riding in the rain, it will increase your resilience to tough conditions and get you ready for riding in sportives when it’s windy.

“I love riding in the wind because it reminds me of riding my bike while growing up in the Netherlands,” says Jasmijn. “We may not have proper hills, but those exposed flatlands make for great training. There is something about riding solo into the wind that also makes me feel part of the elements. That said, next September I will be hoping for a nice tail wind to help me break the LEJOG record."

For the very best way to beat the wind, ride in a group and you can benefit from each other. Riding behind someone else will provide shelter and save you a good chunk of energy in the process. However, you might find your cycling mates stop answering your calls if you use this as your sole tactic and don’t take your turn on the front. No one likes a wheelsucker.

It’s also not an option if you’re riding on your own. So, what then? You could try to stay out of the worst of the wind by avoiding wide open spaces –  think lanes with hedges instead of exposed moorland, for example.

And for when there’s really no escape, reduce your profile by tucking down closer to the bar, rounding your shoulders and maybe even riding on the drops. If it’s gusty, choose an easier gear, move slightly further into the middle of the road and hold onto the bar a little more tightly so you’re ready to control the bike quickly.

It’s also best to head into the wind on the first half of the ride, so once you’re tired you can then turn around and get blown back home. This gives you encouragement to keep battling, while also having the additional advantage of simulating the speed of riding in a bunch, which is useful to get familiar with.

 
 

 
 
 
 

Excuse 5: No-one to ride with

If you find you ride better with a goal in mind or people to ride with, Rapha’s Braver Than The Elements campaign ticks both boxes. Designed to help women keep riding over the winter, it kicks off with a global ride for women on 17th December, then one to welcome in Spring on the 18th March. Throughout the campaign they will also host Braver Than The Elements evenings with how-tos and inspirational advice.

#JFDI

Whatever the excuse, there’s a clever solution to braving the elements on your bike, which means you really can “Leave Winter in Your Wake.”

Follow Rapha’s #BraverThanTheElements campaign here

Main image: Rapha, Emily Maye

 
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