Winter road cycling can be an amazing time to ride your bike if you’re fully prepared. From stunning sunrises to crisp fresh mornings, quiet misty roads to cool breezes, if you have the right kit and equipment winter riding can be a fun and joyous experience.
In this how-to guide, we’ve come up with our top tips for ensuring you are ready for whatever this winter has to throw at you.
Keeping your bike in tiptop shape is important all year round but no more so than in the winter months. Added road salt, ice, frost and rain will increase the wear on your bike and the components, leading to pricey replacements and repairs.
Prepping your bike to ensure it is in its best running order will save you from getting cold, wet and miserable whilst standing at the side of the road. Winterproofing your bike can be fairly straightforward and a relatively inexpensive task.
The first thing you need to think about is being visible on the roads. As the nights start to draw in the window for riding during daylight gets shorter and shorter; a good set of lights can help other road users see you and illuminate the road ahead.
It’s important to have lights on the front and rear of your bike. Brands like Knog and Lezyne offers light sets that are affordable and reliable. They typically offer a high-powered beam at the front and a small but effective rear light meaning you’ll see the road ahead much clearer.
During the day you can set your front light to the flashing setting to warn oncoming traffic and other road users but when at night you can then switch it to the solid setting so you can see exactly where you’re going.
It’s important when setting your lights up that you mount them in the correct position. Too low and you’ll be illuminating your front wheel or too high and you’ll be lighting up the night sky. Aiming above the front wheel about 5-10 metres will help you guide your way along dark winter roads.
Winter doesn’t just mean cold weather, it’s also the wettest season to ride. As a result, riding on skinny, smooth, summer tyres will lead to less grip and an increased likelihood of a puncture. Upgrading to a pair of wider, grippier and tougher winter tyres is a must for any winter roadie.
A tyre with thicker more robust threads, reinforced sidewalls and an interior puncture proof system allows you to bounce off unwanted sharp road debris. Often wider than normal road tyres winter models will start at 25mm but the one thing to remember is the thicker the tyre the more rolling resistance you will feel. Brands like Schwalbe and Pirelli offer a range of winter and all-weather tyres to suit your needs.
An important tip to remember is to run a lower tyre pressure during winter, this will not only help with grip but will also make those winter miles a bit more comfortable.
One alternative you can do to your road setup is going tubeless – which will instantly seal the likes of thorn punctures. You can also run tubeless at a lower pressure than an equivalent clincher which provides a more comfortable roll.
Most modern road bikes have mudguard mounts as standard and manufacturers have even produced a handier clip-on mudguard for ease of use.
Whether you’re commuting into work or out on your Sunday club run a pair of mudguards will protect you from unwanted road spray leaving you drier, comfier and without a water-soaked back. A full set of mudguards will keep your bike clean and your maintenance a little more hassle-free, especially around the drivetrain and headset.
Lighter and more versatile than a proper mudguard; clip-on mudguards save the hassle of having to dismantle your bike if you don’t want the heavier full set. Going for a clip-on mudguard, however, won’t fully protect you from road spray.
There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad kit, right? It’s vital before you set off to make sure you have the right kit on. Feeling cold and wet will not only leave you feeling miserable but will also expose you to chills which can bring on common colds faster.
An important tip to remember is it’s always good to have one too many layers on than not enough as you can always take a layer or two off. Checking the weather before you set off for your ride will help in your preparation. Look ahead for a few hours to see if you will require any waterproofs, whilst the weather can be unpredictable ensure you travel ready for it.
Forming the foundation of your cycling outfit if even on a limited budget, a relatively inexpensive purchase but an effective one is a good base layer. Unlike an everyday cotton t-shirt which rapidly absorbs sweat, synthetic fibres and natural merino wool will help to remove sweat reducing the risk of you ever feeling too hot or catching a chill.
Comfortable, warm and versatile a good quality base layer will trap a layer of air to keep you warm when it’s chilly outside. Short or long sleeve options are available and having one of each is useful to suit the temperature.
The range of cycling jackets available on the market today is massive. Packable, windproof, waterproof, softshell the options are all designed to suit your needs. During winter you will need to think and look ahead at the conditions. If your ride starts dry bring a packable waterproof jacket that can simply slide into your back pocket.
If the weather is poor to start with think about putting on a heavier, more durable and more waterproof softshell jacket that will keep the rain out and ensure you are nice and warm.
For those unpredictable days, a lighter and water-resistant foldable jacket can easily slide into your pocket, it might not provide the same level of warmth as a softshell jacket so ensure you have the appropriate layers on before setting off.
Check out our waterproof jackets guide for a more comprehensive look:
Keeping your feet warm and dry in winter is one of cyclists’ biggest complaints. For novice riders, it’s a phrase we are sure you will hear far too often. With wind chill being enemy number one, added with spray from the front wheel all of a sudden you can’t feel your poor soaking wet cold feet.
The solution is a relatively cheap and effective one – overshoes. Made from thick neoprene or wind and water-resistant fabric, overshoes simply slide over your shoes with a cut out for your cleats helping to instantly get feeling back into your feet and keep them staying drier too.
Nothing creates quite as much pain on the bike as wet and cold hands. Ensuring your extremities are protected is important, swapping fingerless mitts for a full-finger silicone grip will provide the protection you require; keeping your fingers functioning so you can still operate the brake levers and gears.
The range of gloves varies depending on your needs from thicker, fleece-lined winter options to waterproof, silicone-enhanced gloves to ensure in the wettest of conditions you can still have full control of the bike.
Maintaining your bike during the winter will help keep you riding on the roads for longer. Wet conditions, road debris and even the salt on the roads can all get into the drivetrain, hubs and brakes causing damage. Regular maintenance checks are critical to safe riding and avoiding costly bike repairs down the line.
Wash and Lube Your Bike
During the summer months, you may get away without having to wash your bike after every ride, but during winter it’s a must. Remember – the longer you leave it the worse it’s going to be, so as soon as you finish your ride get the hose out and give your bike a well-deserved bath.
Leaving your bike to sit overnight will allow a chance for dirt to dry in making your life of cleaning your bike a lot harder. Letting salt sit on the frame and components can cause corrosion and eventually expensive upgrades. Bike protector sprays can help to repel water and keep your frame components cleaner for longer.
Using a wet chain lube for winter riding will typically last longer than dry lube due to its water repellent ability however it will attract more dirt so a good chain cleaning regime is important. Keeping your headset, bottom bracket and hubs well lubricated will ensure you keep riding for longer this winter.