6 Steps To Winterproof Your Riding
As the days are becoming shorter, the rain is becoming more frequent, and the temperature is slowly dropping - now is the time to bulletproof your riding for winter.
Follow these steps to make your riding over the next few months a little more enjoyable:
Overshoes and gloves
Now this one may seem very obvious but I am going to give you some tips here on which ones to avoid and perhaps options which would be more suited.
Even if it isn't raining the ground water can cause you to become wet and cold, doing what you can to reduce this is key.
There are 100's of mudguards to chose from and they can be categorised into how they attach onto the bike and the amount of coverage they offer. On one end of the spectrum you have universal plastic clip on mudguards which are reasonably priced and generally fit most bikes. However because of the way they fit they generally don't offer the best spray protection. On the other end of the spectrum you have metal fitted mudguards which have a few attachments and allow for a more snug fit meaning better protection. These are generally more expensive and you have to be careful of the specific fit to your bike.
Sitting nicely in the middle is a range of mudguards that easily fit on/off your bike with a simple clip system, they offer decent coverage, which may be what you need.
Final thing to remember is that if you are riding with your buddy, if your rear mudguard doesn't cover enough of your rear wheel, you will be spraying them constantly with water when they are behind you.
And before you ask, no, an 'ass saver' will not be appropriate for the proper winter months....
Either end of the mudguard spectrum
Overshoes and Gloves
A few years ago when I bought my overshoes was a real gamechanger. You can pick up a pair of decent overshoes for around £35 which can keep your shoes dry and feet warm. Like all products you can go much higher in price, which offer more superior quality and depending on the riding you intend to do may be appropriate. But the ones I bought were still appropriate for a 600km cycle I did across 2 days in winter so I'm not convinced that the majority of time you need anything more. Don't make a simple error by getting ones that are too thin or designed to improve aero performance though.
Similarly some good quality gloves will go a long way. Spend money here to get quality because as soon as your hands get cold it becomes really miserable, and you also run the risk of not being able to control the bike as well.
Nail these two items and you will find you're much happier in the cold and wet.
Not all cycling overshoes need to be capable for snowy rides
Again not a particularly ground-breaking suggestion but the important thing to note here is the power of the lights you get, and the key metric here is the lumen.
Unsurprisingly people get very focused on a really powerful front light with lumens of anything over 600 doing the job, and this is important. But do not forget about your rear light. Too often I see people riding with some cheap light they got for £5 which is hardly visible. Make sure the rear light has decent lumen rating also, something around the 500 mark will do. This will make you nicely visible for cars approaching you and be able to see you from 100's of meters away.
How many lumens for cycling in your area
One here that will not be popular and requires you do to some work. In the winter months the amount of dirt your bike will pick up (even with the mudguards on!) will be much higher than in the summer months. Neglecting basic cleaning of your bike, especially the drive train and brakes, will wear your components down quicker and also make for a ride that is not as smooth.
Make the effort here with some basic cleaning kit, including a degreaser, to clean off your bike more regularly than you would in the summer months. Don't forget as well to use a simple water repellent on certain components especially if you can't store it somewhere dry, along with maintaining a lubed chain once it is clean.
Now if you get some decent mudguards this one will be a little easier for you as well.
The geekiest suggestion of them all but one that is so important. Now an obvious suggestion would be waterproof and warm jackets, trousers and gillets. So whilst you should address this I am going to put in something for you to consider when you buy your next warm and dry kit.
So often I see people riding their bikes in low light conditions dressed in all black, looking ready to be a burglar. Perhaps they are, who knows. But selecting the overshoes and gloves with some reflective trim, or even better in bright orange or yellow can be an easy way to incorporate more visibility to you. Picking a Gillet to wear over the top of your jacket/jersey offers some protection from the elements to keep you dry, and again if it's yellow with some reflective trim even better.
Using the old-school reflective ankle bands along with basic reflectors attached to the bike will again make you shine bright for those cars going past.
A friend introduced me to some reflective tape you can put on your bike, which again is a cheap way to make your bike more visible. Be cautious here not to put it directly on your frame as the adhesive can leave a mark. I found things like the seat tube, stem and handlebars a good option. And ideally putting it moving parts such as the crank arm and wheels has more of a benefit.
Bright colours with reflective parts make all the difference
In winter you are unlikely to break any records. So swap your slick thin tyres for something a little wider with better grip. Now how wide you can go will depend on the frame but making things a little wider here will give you better control in those less than ideal conditions. Bonus points here if you manage to find a tyre which has greater puncture protection and a reflective band on the outside. Getting a puncture sucks at the best of the times, but standing on the side of the road trying to fix it when it is raining is pure miserable. And because you aren't too worried about keeping things light for winter, the extra weight these tyres need to offer that protection won't be any concern.
An option here is the Schwalbe Marathon Plus, who only downside is the hassle to get it on/off which can be a pain.
Reflective sidewalls on a bike tyre
If you work through these six suggestions you will find winter riding is a lot safer and enjoyable over the next few months.
Anything else not on the list that you would want added?
P.S: These suggestions won't reduce the chance of it raining....