If you have jumped ahead and missed Part 1 then make sure you click that link and check it out first.
What About My Bike?
So we might be wrapped up against the elements and feel like we can handle whatever the winter throws at us. However, what about the effect the elements will have on our bike?
Having commuted all of last winter I learned quite a few things and I learned them quickly. As beautiful as that crisp frosty morning may look it has a dark side. That dark side is that if you can see frost it means it’s slippy out there! Front wheels and cold dark frosty roads / cycle paths are not a good combination. You are one slip away from ending up in a cold mess on the ground. If you are riding in the cold consider the basics – no matter what size of tyres / tread you may have on your bike tyres the icy floor does not care. Be careful!
If you road ride in the winter then consider the salt and grit that is spread to dissolve the ice. As great as non icy roads are all of that salt will get flicked up into your chain, your cassette, onto your frame etc. Try and hose / wipe your bike off fairly regularly through the winter. It might be a miserable job to do after a ride but it will extend the life of your bike and your bike parts.
The winter, at least where I live in Scotland, is dark. Dark mornings, short days, and early dark evenings. With all that in mind make sure you can see and that people can see you. Safety first people! I’ll not go on for ages about this point but I’ll pop a link in later on that will direct you to a recent post I did all about riding at night.
The majority of us carry ‘spares’ these days. By ‘spares’ I am referring to inner tubes, a multitool, puncture repair kit etc. However, if you ride with a backpack or panniers then why not use some of that storage space to consider different spares…? A dry base layer, a fresh pair of socks, a small towel. You might never use them but you will be grateful of them if you get caught in some terrible weather and find yourself freezing out on the road somewhere.
Those of you that have been Bikepacking will know how great that feeling of slipping into some dry clean clothes is!
A Positive Approach to Winter!
As cold, dark, and wet as it might get out there in the winter there are still upsides to riding your two wheel machines.
Riding in the dark gives you the opportunity to see your usual bike riding routes in a completely different light – literally! Night riding is great fun and when you can only see as far ahead as your bike light allows the experience changes quite a bit. If you tend to ride mainly in the daytime then click here for a look at my post on night riding. There are plenty of tips to get you going in the dark!
If you are like the old version of me and are quite competitive and like to keep a high level of fitness then riding your bike through the winter is work that will have you in prime shape for the summer.
Lots of people take a break through winter but if you can keep putting in the work when it is cold and miserable then you will be steps ahead of your competition when it comes to race day.
Winter Work = Summer Success!
I have a friend who is a very good cyclist and a couple of years ago he dropped a great bit of advice into a casual conversation. He said:
“You can’t beat time on the bike. It’s that simple.”
When I asked him what he meant he said that no matter what kind of riding you are doing, no matter if it is specific training or riding to work or the shop, simply riding your bike regularly will really improve your overall fitness and strength on the bike.
He was 100% right and let me tell you how I know!
Last year I commuted daily. I did a 7 mile loop to and from work. Some days I would be quick, some days I would be slow. There was no training plan or ‘efforts’ I was just riding my bike to get to work and then head home.
However, when the summer came around and I started riding my beautiful road bike my power numbers were higher, my sustained efforts went on for longer, and my hill climbing was significantly better. The Strava segments I set my eyes on quickly became mine and the legs felt great.
The only riding I had been doing was to and from work. I had done the occasional Zwift session but nothing structured. These commutes had put strength and fitness into my body and I had barely realised I was doing it.
If you are reading this and think that I might be embellishing this story then just try it. Commute daily for 3 months whether it’s rain, wind, or sunshine and then come and tell me you’re not a stronger cyclist for it. You’ll soon see it works.
Mix It Up!
If you are lucky enough to own a few bikes then use this time of year to mix up the type of cycling you are doing.
I love going out on my hardtail mountain bike and visiting the local trails and fire roads. Getting ready to head out in the cold can be a bit demoralising but as soon as I am out there flying down a mud covered hill nothing seems to bother me anymore. The mud can cover my clothes, the rain can hit me in the face, my bike can be unrecognisable due to how much dirt it has on it, but I’ll still be there under my helmet smiling away.
All of that muddy chaos is part of the fun. If you go out expecting, or trying, to stay dry and clean then you will be extremely miserable when you get home. Go out there with a positive attitude that says ‘I am going to ride my bike through whatever is in front of me no matter the weather’.
Your bike handling will improve and you will have far more fun. I tend to forget that when I am on my mountain bike I am still improving my fitness. I might not be cycling very far but I am climbing up big hills on rocky surfaces, I am working my legs and lungs hard, and it is all so I can get to the top and head back down as fast as I can along a narrow trail through the woodland.
To some this would not be appealing in the slightest. To me and my friends we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Life is what you make of it after all.
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