Cycling in the Winter Season

Summer time is now over here in the UK and it is time to start thinking about those cold commutes and winter rides. Most of us will be saying goodbye to many cycling accessories such as skinny tyres, lightweight clothing and dry weather chain lube. Tweaking different areas of your bike and cycle clothing can make for a much more enjoyable ride and longer lasting components.

Your Bike

It doesn’t matter if you’re on the road or out on the trails, your bike will benefit from a number of changes over the cold rainy season. So here is a quick overview of what we think the basic upgrades should be and their benefits.

Tyres:

As the grimey wet roads and soggy trails start to take over, the best thing you can change on your bike to keep the handling in check are the tyres. Heavier tyres with more grip will give you more confidence, which makes for a much more enjoyable ride. Whether you want to keep up the training or simply keep riding to work safely, choosing a good tyre will benefit you. This being said, you should bear in mind that thicker tyres with more grip will make a dramatic difference in rolling performance, so you do not want to buy the biggest tyres you can find! Depending on your current routes you will need to judge how much of an upgrade you will need from the tyres you have. Good tyre brands include: Maxxis Tyres + Halo Tyres

Mudguards:

Many people I know dislike putting mudguards on their bike, whether this be cost, inconvenience of fitting the damn things or simply because it makes their precious bike look a little less attractive. All valid points, but none out way the discomfort of having wet pants or being covered in mud. Also protecting your bike from day to day grime can also make for ease of cleaning and longer lasting components. Without mudguards it is easier for salt grit from roads and small stones to work their way into all your nooks and crannies, meaning more re-greasing and servicing. Some popular brands of mud guards include: SKS + Crud Catcher

Lights:

When our lovely winter does kick in, a good set of bike lights is a must when riding in the dark. Even on well lit roads, good lighting can avoid nasty accidents. For simply commuting there are a number of good lights out there that will do the job, but we recommend not going for the cheapest set just to keep your bike legal.

There are many lights with different purposes, buying from a proper bike shop can certainly help you with the correct decision. Until then, I will break it down into 4 simply categories:

Basic commuting light set: This includes a respected brand, with a light at the front and rear of the bike, simply to be seen by traffic. Blackburn lights offer a great quality set for a great price!

Extra safe commuting light set: This set will not only be bright enough to be seen by traffic, but will also allow you to see where you are going. For example, light up the unlit country roads that you may travel through on your way home.

Off road light set: Buying off road lights can be an expensive purchase, but if you have ever ridden through the woods at night, you will understand that you need a powerful light.

Enthusiast off road light set: Riding at night can be a beautiful experience, and like any sport, if you like to take things to the next level, you want the best gear. The best off road light sets can go up to anything over £500. The Exposure Six Pack for example is a 2000 lumin beast!

Lube:

Having the correct lube on your chain can eliminate extra servicing and replacing components before their time. Using a ‘wet’ specific chain lubricant will mean that your chain stays lubricated for longer, resulting in a smoother ride and less maintenance. Winner! Finish Line and Juice Lubes both offer outstanding performance when it comes to lubricants.

Your clothing:

Everyone can understand that being cold is not fun, this is why many cyclists are put off riding in the winter. But with a couple of changes to your gear you will find that it can be just as comfortable! Having the correct clothing will offer warmth and breathability without sacrificing on performance.

Jacket:

For the basic outer layer you should be looking at a waterproof/breathable cycling jacket, cycle specific clothing will be a much better fit, for example, allowing for the stretch of your arms when in the riding position. A good jacket will also come with reflective strips that will be seen when on the road at night. Endura do a good range of jackets that come with many features including subtle reflective strips.

Shorts and trousers:

Many riders prefer shorts, even in the depths of winter, simply because they are much more comfortable to ride in. Shorts and trousers are both available in breathable/waterproof options that can also come with reflective strips on some versions. Like all riding specific clothing the trousers come with many features that add to the comfort, for example velcro around the ankles for less chainring on trouser action. Endura clothing is highly recommended here for its great performance and price points.

Base Layer:

Base layers for the top and bottom are a great way to keep warm over the winter, they are quite hidden being worn under your clothing to simply add an extra layer. Good base layers are lower priced than most winter clothing upgrades but add a lot of warmth to your ride. A great investment!

Gloves:

As I am sure every single rider that has ridden in the winter will know, gloves are a must! There are many types of gloves to choose from depending on your needs. Windproof only gloves, windproof/waterproof (much thicker), thermal gloves or standard gloves. For winter cycling it is advised to go for at least a windproof set. For longer rides you may want to think about a thicker pair to battle off the frost!

Accessories:

Of course there are many small accessories you can add to your clothing set up to add extra comfort and safety. Without going through every single one here are a few that we think off the best ‘bang for buck’.

Overshoes are a popular choice to keep them toes warm and dry on your journey. Over shoes are a low-cost way to add a lot of comfort on a rainy day. They easily slip on over your regular shoe (with slots for your clip less shoes), some overshoes also come with reflective strips for extra visibility.

Along the same lines as the overshoes, many riders like to use waterproof socks. Well worth a try if you have not done so before. Popular brands such as Sealskinz offer an outstanding range of high quality all weather socks.

Arm warmers and leg warmers are a great add on to keep you warm without disturbing your regular clothing. These are also available in thermal versions.

Skull caps, like the warmers, fit discreetly, under your helmet. Adding a warm layer to your head and ears.

Hi Viz accessories come in many shapes and sizes. Including waist/shoulder straps, bag covers (which can also double up as a waterproof cover), gilets, jackets, stickers and so on…

Maintenance:

Summertime is a lot kinder to our bikes, punishing it throughout the winter can take its toll when not properly maintained. As previously mentioned, lubricating the chain is a must, if you decide to skimp on everything else, you should also keep the chain lubricated with the correct lube.

After a few road rides or even one off road ride, your bike can be covered in horrible gunk which should be cleaned off and the essential parts lubricated. This can be done simply with some warm water, a bucket, some degreaser/cleaner such as Muc-Off and an old rag or sponge. The degreaser should be used for the oily parts to remove the worn out grease. Once the bike is nice and clean it should be rinsed down with water and towel dried.

For a quick general lubrication you should cover the basic moving parts, these include the chain and gears around the chain, brake pivots, adjustment bolts etc. More involved re-greasing on components such as the headset, hubs, bottom bracket, pedals etc should be done during a proper service, and is not really necessary for every clean.

Cleaning the bike from time to time also allows for checking any loose spokes, screws, damaged cables and tyres. Keeping on top of the little things avoid bigger problems out on the ride.

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