As the daylight hours are getting shorter, the thermometer lower and the rain a little more persistent, there are a few strategies you can adopt to keep riding, remain safe and stay fit.
Riding through winter will have you in much better shape come the warmer months and ahead of the game in preparing for your next challenge, like the 2017 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race People’s Ride.
1. Dress in warm layers
“There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing” is an old cycling expression I’ve heard many times over the years. It’s not entirely true but it does have some merit. The right clothing is crucial.
A key to dressing well for the cold is to wear layers. One super warm thermal jacket isn’t the answer. A good quality undershirt, a long sleeve mid-weight thermal jersey, a wind vest, rain jacket, leg warmers, long finger gloves and thermal shoe covers are must-haves to enjoy riding in the depths of winter.
A cap under your helmet is an easy way to trap in extra warmth as well. And a neck warmer does a great job of stopping the cold going down your chest and into your core, opening up the possibilities of chest and other infections.
If you’re still a little cold you can always add one of your summer jerseys to your base layer. Wearing layers is a more effective way of staying warm. It also allows you to strip back a layer or two if you’re riding hard and starting to heat up.
"A key to dressing well for the cold is to wear layers – a good quality undershirt, a long sleeve mid-weight thermal jersey, a wind vest, rain jacket, leg warmers, long finger gloves and thermal shoe covers."
2. Use mudguards
For the avid commuters, mudguards are a good addition to your bike when it’s wet. This can be a simple as the small ‘butt protectors’ that attach to the back of your seat. On a wet day, or when the roads are wet, these stop the water spraying up off your rear wheel and onto your back. This will help keep you a little drier and make for a much more comfortable commute to and from work.
It also reduces the amount of water spraying in the face of your riding buddies behind you. Safety is not always just about you, but also those around you.
3. Make sure you're visible
I also recommend a flashing headlight and rear light, even for riding during the day. On those dark, miserable winter days we want to make sure motorists can see us at all times. If you’re riding in the dark before and/or after work, a good quality headlight and bright rear flashing light is essential.
Wearing items with a reflective strip – jacket, backpack, ankle straps – is also something you should consider to ensure your visibility remains as high as possible.
"If you do have to ride in the rain commuting to work, choose the safest option, even if it’s a little longer than your preferred direct route."
4. Be careful riding in the rain
Be smart and just be a little more cautious with when and where you choose to ride. If it’s bucketing down and you don’t need to go out on the road, don’t.
If you do have to ride in the rain commuting to work, choose the safest option, even if it’s a little longer than your preferred direct route. Slippery roads combined with peak hour traffic can provide some anxious moments, so bike paths can be a great alternative in bad weather.
Whatever you do, don’t go trying to be a hero on the road in the rain – it’s simply not worth it. Take it a little easier around the corners, give yourself extra braking time and be very attentive and cautious around traffic.
5. Keep up your training on a stationary bike
Wet days are a good time to make the most of the home trainer. Riding on a stationary bike can be a little boring, but it’s a super efficient way of improving your fitness and keeping active in the wetter months. There are no rolling down hills and no stopping at traffic lights. You don’t waste any time and spend the whole session on the pedals, so it’s a proper workout with no shortcuts.
The home trainer also allows you to do some very specific training – five minute intervals, 20 second sprints or longer efforts. There are so many options.
Stay safe, stay warm, stay dry (if possible) and keep riding. Believe me, the coffee afterwards tastes even better in winter!