Keep your wheels spinning
Stay safe and motivated cycling through Winter
Sticking with the cycling can be a challenge when the big chill sets in. Cold, dank weather and short days can sap your will to ride, plus the potential hazards seem to double. Here are a few things you can do to get you in the saddle and keep you there through Winter.
Yes, it’s possible to leave the couch and the heater and still stay warm. Make the investment in the right gear – it will last you for years, plus if you buy clothing that can be layered, then it can be used at other times of year when it’s just plain cool, rather than brass-monkeys freezing. You lose about 30% of your body heat through your head, so start with a thin, fine-knit beanie or a breathable cycling beanie that will cover your ears. Working down, check out thermal neck-warmers that will tuck into your top. For your torso, think layers – base, mid and outer, depending on how cold it is. It’s crucial to keep the body dry with a thin, moisture-wicking base layer, such as a 2XU Thermal Compression Top. If you’re worried about overheating and want to wear your favourite jersey, you might like to wear arm sleeves such as the 2XU Compression Flex Arm Sleeve, which has a flexible, articulated panel through the elbow for ease of movement, and it can be quickly tugged off if needed. A mid-layer helps trap in the warmth, but it should still breathe enough to let sweat vapour out. A good option is the highly breathable and reflective 2XU Hyoptik Long Sleeve Top.
Wrap it up with a shell layer – a softshell or waterproof jacket to cut the wind chill. The 2XU Hyoptik Jacket gives you 360° reflective protection so cars coming up behind will see you a mile off, while the THERMO-RESPIRE technology of the construction provides both warmth and lets sweat vapour out.
Protect the legs with 2XU Thermal Leg Warmers, which start under your bike shorts and extend to ankles, or wear the Hyoptik Thermal Tights if you want a bit more warmth around your butt. Your feet and hands take the brunt of the wind chill, so don’t skimp on them! Use cycle booties or toe covers, and get yourself some super-thin, thermal and waterproof gloves that cover your full fingers without losing too much dexterity.
Fit some mudguards
Protect yourself (and riders behind you!) from water, mud and other freezing muck spraying up off the roads in Winter.
Get good lights
Don’t let short days and gloomy weather be an excuse to hold you back. Modern LED lights are small, weight next to nothing, they’re usually easily rechargeable, and they turn night into day. Make sure your lights are ﬁtted are positioned where drivers will see them best – check that your rear light is pointing in the right direction and isn’t obscured by your jacket. Carry lights with you every time you take the bike out in Winter, and always make sure that your lights are charged (or you have spare batteries).
Dew, frost and rain can make any road markings, drainage grate or manhole covers a slip-fest – dodge them for your life, especially on bends and turns. Watch out for carpets or banks of wet, slippery leaves on the road. If you’re riding early mornings, take care going past motorists who might be too busy trying de-fog their windscreen to look out for you. If there’s any water or ice on the allow for greater braking distance, taking care to pump 50 per cent on the front, 50 percent on the back.
In Winter, it seems everyone on public transport is hacking, sneezing and blowing their nose about 10cm from your face, so a little bracing cool air in the morning and evening seems a good alternative. You also don’t have to worry as much about arriving at work drenched in sweat.
Try new training techniques
With fewer races and organized runs on offer, gee yourself up by playing mad scientist with your training. See if you get more improvement or hold your fitness better by doing less volume and focusing on some more intense sessions. What do you have to lose? (except time on the couch!).
Buckle up for hill and tempo sessions
Keep sessions short and your body warm with tempo rides and hill-climbing sessions. For tempo rides, ease into it with a warm-up ride, then put your aerobic system under the pump by riding for 20 minutes at just below your max for that time, then slow to a cooldown ride. Keep it interesting with a weekly hill session that has four to eight bursts of two to three minutes at max effort on an uphill slope.
Use the wind
Don’t see Winter wind as an evil force trying to turn you into a block of ice. They call it ‘the invisible hill’, a stiff wind that’s strong enough to make a dead-flat road a relentless climb up Mont Ventoux. The wind resistance makes it harder to pedal, which will increase your heart rate, power output and leg strength – everything you need for steep hills. Dress for the wind chill and reduce your frontal area by rounding your shoulders and bending closer to the handlebars. Head into the wind on the first half of the ride, then riding home with the wind gives you the feel of the higher speeds you can get with riding in a pack.