As we make our way through winter, we have the usual variety of seasonal weather, including plummeting temperatures, frost and even snow. Despite inclement conditions, winter can actually be a wonderful time to cycle.
It’s crisp and cool, it’s quiet and, without jumping on your bike twice a day, you might miss the season altogether, staying inside or on public transport until March. But cycle and you will see more of the season and catch some vital vitamin D whilst you’re at it.
But to fully enjoy the season in the saddle you need to cycle clever. Catherine Ellis from cycling bag manufacturer Hill & Ellis outlines six things you need to know to cycle happily and safely in the winter.
1. Protect your hands
Have you ever forgotten your gloves and cycled for longer than 15 minutes in the winter? Then you know exactly how important gloves are to enjoy cold-weather cycling. That searing pain in your fingertips as the warmth at home tries to resuscitate your hands back to life virtually guarantees that you won’t forget your gloves ever again. So, get some good gloves; they should be water-resistant or windproof. Don’t go mad and buy ski gloves – you will get too hot. You simply need a windproof layer to keep your hands happy and dry. It’s also worth having a back-up pair stowed safely in the bottom of your pannier bag, which you can gleefully whip out when you have forgotten your first pair!
2. Take care of your back
In the winter, you will definitely end up wearing more so if you are not careful you won’t escape the back sweats. You warm up quickly, and with a windproof jacket on and even a rucksack you’re on the fast lane to back sweat alley. So, don’t overdress. Invest in a pannier bag – not only will it keep everything dry, but as you can attach the bag to your bike (instead of carrying it like a donkey) you will avoid that sweaty back feeling.
3. Don’t wrap up too much
OK, so there might be frost on the ground and your breath is condensing in front of you, but as soon as you start cycling you will get hot. So, don’t overdress from the outset or you will get sweaty and the rest of the day you will be drying off (and warming up)! A lightweight but windproof jacket is perfect to keep you snug and trust me – take off that extra jumper, you won’t need it on the bike. Pop it in your pannier bag until you get to work – that’s exactly what they’re for. You just need to brace yourself for the first 10 minutes, but it will fly by and it’s good for the immune system.
4. Slippery business
There are still some leaves left on the road and, although they might look innocent, they are not. In the winter months the remaining leaves get slippery and icy. Ice is also more likely to congregate at the side of the road, so cycle carefully near the gutter. If you are on the backstreets it might be quiet enough for you to cycle closer to the middle of the road which in the early morning is worth it, as any ice will have melted away at the centre. If it is icy or there are lots of leaves on the road, cycle in a lower gear for better traction.
5. Be prepared for rain
Of course, with the good old British weather, it’s not just cold that you need to be watching out for. As with any season, there’s always a good chance of rain! The best option for cycling in the rain is a Poncho. One’s thighs are at the mercy of the rain and always get drenched in a downpour but as the poncho covers your upper body and your legs (like a mini tent), it saves your legs from a complete soaking and you don’t need to worry about faffing with waterproof trousers. Again, a poncho can be stashed away in your pannier bag, so you are fully prepared when the heavens (inevitably) open!
6. Get yourself noticed
It’s easy to forget how hard it is to see cyclists until you are in the driving seat of a car with headlights from oncoming traffic shining in your eyes. Get some strong lights and get yourself a back-up that stays in your pannier just case you forget to take them and are caught cycling home after sunset. Reflective is also great. Get a reflective jacket, or add a band or gilet over your jacket, and it is worth considering permanently attaching some reflective details to your bike.
So, by investing in the right gear and not wrapping up too warmly before you start, you’ll find that winter cycling can be a great way to get outside, see the season, soak up some vitamin D, and keep fit. All things that can be a little more challenging in the grey winter months.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Catherine Ellis is from Hill & Ellis, which produces a range of high quality, stylish cycle bags. Web: www.hillandellis.com, Instagram: @hillandellis