9 Jan 2017 11:34
In weather like this, it's tempting to stay indoors, but riding during winter months can bring unexpected pleasure, says Sigma author and guest blogger Dave Hancock.
Dedicated commuters and cycle couriers continue pedalling through all the seasons. For leisure cyclists, it's all too easy to hang up the helmet when the days get shorter and the temperature drops. Think again is my advice. With the correct preparation and precautions, winter cycle rides can be enjoyable. Winter landscapes have a particular beauty and a cup of tea mid-journey is never more refreshing than on a chilly January day!
What to wear:
There's no need to spend a lot of cash on special winter clothing. Essentially, you want extra layers on top of your summer kit. Arm warmers and a warm jacket, leg warmers or tights are the essentials. Then you'll need a pair of gloves, overshoes and a balaclava. An ordinary woollen scarf (not too long) has a variety of uses. Clear or prescription spectacles will help keep cold wind out of your eyes. Buy a cape – water drains off it while air circulates underneath! It packs up small and can also be used to sit on at refreshments stops. To carry this gear, you'll need a decent size saddlebag or bar bag.
Food and drink:
Even if you plan to stop at a cafe on route, take food and drink with you. Hunger pangs seem to come earlier in cold weather and there's always a chance you'll have to wait around for a lift if something on your bike breaks.
Assuming you carry tyre levers and a spare inner tube anyway, it's as well to pack an additional tube – muddy lanes can disguise hazards such as thorns, flints and broken glass. If you get a puncture, remember you may get cold replacing the inner tube so look for a sheltered spot, a bus shelter or the forecourt of a filling station. So-called 'rigid' tyres can be hard to remove and re-fit with cold fingers compared to 'folding' tyres. You'll need a torch (e.g. a head torch) and don't forget your mobile phone. Carry spare batteries for the lights.
Three wheels better!
After falling off on black ice on one early morning December ride, I invested in a tricycle for use in the winter. The extra stability is reassuring on frosty roads; rear wheel inner tube changes are easier than on a cycle and having three frame-mounted rear lights is good for being visible. In days gone (when winters were probably more severe and cyclists perhaps a little keener) tricycles and tricycle conversion kits were very popular. The Tricycle Association is an excellent source of information and Longstaff Cycles offers both tricycle conversions and complete tricycles.
Whether you ride with a group or solo, winter cycling can be fun. Go on, try it!
Dave Hancock is a keen cyclist and author of Cycle Rides in Shropshire and More Cycle Rides in Shropshire, both available from Sigma Press.