August 12, 2019 | 3months | GENERAL
CYCLONE TIPS: WINTER RIDING
We’re often asked how to keep riding and training through the worst of the winter – well, here are a few of things we do to keep the wheels turning at this time of year.
Let's start with the most obvious tip - get yourself entered into the Cyclone Challenge Rides and give yourself a long-term goal of getting really fit and enjoying a great ride in beautiful Northumberland. Enter Cyclone Challenge Rides
If it’s Icy, ride off-road
If you have a mountain or cyclo-cross bike, head off-road onto the frozen trails, away from the traffic and other road hazards. You’re in control of your own destiny, with no vehicles to dodge, you should be going slower, so that also means you are warmer, and you can brush up on your bike handling skills. Ironically, the absence of smooth surfaces (tarmac, concrete etc) means that there’s less likely to be sheet ice off-road and where it does occur it should be very obvious. If possible, ride with someone else and carry a phone and spares etc as normal.
If it’s cold, stay local, stay low and climb
Depending on your local terrain, if it’s very cold keep your ride local by clover-leafing around you home. This way you are not faced with a long ride home in the cold. If you live in a hilly area, staying in the valley bottoms keeps you out of the worst of the rain/snow and wind if the weather is very inclement. Hilly terrain also allows you to build up a lot of heat at low speeds – climbing for a few minutes really warms you up, so plan in more climbs that usual.
Many riders identify a local “circuit” of perhaps 3 to 10 miles, usually on quiet roads and simply do repeat laps. It sounds boring, but you can keep things fresh by alternating fast and “steady’” laps, reversing direction or riding with others.
If you are lucky enough to live close to one of the growing number of cycle circuits dotted around the country, you’ll probably find local clubs run regular sessions throughout winter. Again, you are away from traffic and the circuit surface will probably be better maintained than your local roads.
Keep it short and sweet – keep your morale up by riding shorter, sharper sessions. There’s nothing worse than a long grinding ride in the cold – exchange that three hour ride for a couple of really brisk one hour rides on successive days. As we’ve already mentioned, identifying safe routes and circuits near home makes it easier to plan your rides.
Keep on top of your bike maintenance
Cleaning and lubing your bike is extra important at this time of year. Get yourself organised so the cleaning equipment is to hand when you come home and don’t forget to clean your chain and re-lube it. A 10 minute wash when you get back is better than half an hour chipping off dried mud the following day! Clean the bike before you clean yourself or the chances are you will skip it!
Consider using a water dispersing spray straight after washing the bike to force the moisture out of the bearing seals etc. It’ll also make it easier to clean you bike after the next ride. Give your tyres a regular once-over and remove glass and other debris that might be stuck into the tread.
Mudguards will keep you and your bike a lot cleaner during a ride and make it more pleasant for others to ride with you.
Riding in very cold conditions can be daunting. You’re never sure if you are going to be warm enough. So, take a leaf out of the mountain biker’s book and carry a small rucksack in which you can carry an extra layer or two, plus a spare base layer to change into should you decide to stop for a coffee.
Another good tip it to avoid tight clothing on your extremities. An extra pair of socks might sound like a good idea, but if they make your shoes too tight, your feet will freeze. Better to stick to the single layer and allow cushion of warm air to develop around your foot in your shoe.
Look to add overshoes or winter boots if you need to up the temperature. Thermal in-soles are quite effective, as long as they don’t leave your shoes feeling tight. Similarly, don’t buy gloves that are too tight. A little looseness around the fingers in particular will really help keep your hands warm.
Lights and visibility
Winter weather often leads to misted-up or frozen windscreens and darkness can creep up on you in the afternoon. Cyclists should take extra steps to remain visible. Wear bright colours and think about adding a second rear light, perhaps to the back of your helmet or your bag.
If your ride is going to last more than an hour, it’s probably best to take your lights, even if it’s bright daylight when you start – conditions and light can change very suddenly at this time of year. And don’t be afraid to use your lights in daylight - many riders now use lights regardless of the time of day during winter.
Indoor training used to be a last resort for many cyclists, but the advent of the Zwift “virtual reality” cycling system has changed that forever. Zwift is an online application that allows you to hook up your indoor trainer to the internet and race with and against other people. It includes graphics that bring your online cycling to life. Thousands of cyclists have made the investment in the last couple of years and although the initial outlay is akin to buying another bike, the benefits of a reliable and, most importantly, interesting, inspiring and engaging experience make it all worthwhile.In days gone by, indoor training was viewed as a painful chore that tested the mind as much as the body, but Zwift has successfully circumvented the boredom and created one of the biggest culture changes in cycling for decades. Most larger cycle dealers can now demonstrate the system for you and provide you with all the kit to make Zwift happen for you!
For those looking for a budget indoor cycling option, a classic turbo trainer or set of rollers can still provide a good workout. And you can get round the boredom by splitting your sessions, morning and evening.
We hope that helps. Above all else, keep riding, but also stay safe!