How to Get More from Your Winter Riding
Hello winter, we are about to be reacquainted. Each year, as we are about to meet, I’m always stuck in two minds. Should I leap forward to embrace you, or retreat and hide under the blankets until you have gone.
One of the great things about living in a place like Albury is the seasons. A spring that delivers on expectations, a summer that has you ducking for cover in the middle of the day, an autumn that delights with colourful reflection and of course, a rideable winter.
We are very fortunate living where we live down under, ours is a mild winter. Some of us get days that have us retreating to the indoor trainer, but we could neck a can of harden up and get out there, the postie rode through it. Europe produces some pretty handy athlete's, coming from countries that have summer days that would not be noticed as our winter days. Seriously, 90% of the world would trade our weather in a flash (except of course for yours Melbourne). And Queensland, no you don’t have winters, so stop pretending.
We are too cool for winter bikes with full mudguards, (try doing a winter club run in the UK without them) or winter shoes with high ankles and fluffy lining. You can leave the house with full euro winter kit, one piece bib thermal leggings and sub zero jacket with attached hoodie, but prepare for heat exhaustion 30 minutes in. We just don’t need that stuff. In a down under winter, we don’t even need to move inside at the café. But to us, because our summers are so good, we need to pay winter some respect.
And of course, I buy into that, there are things I love about winter. The lagers turn to dark ales, the Sav Blanc’s turn to Cab Sav’s, the salads turn to roast vegetables, sitting out on the patio is replaced with nights by the fire, and we get to dress like a normal person with clothes, rather than shorts and bare feet. Then there are things I don't like. Finding matching arm and leg warmers, getting the glove selection right, over-boots or no over-boots, snood or ear warmers, two or three layers, if I wear these hiking socks will anyone notice? Within a single cold snap, I go from a simple selection of which jersey, shorts and socks, to 30 plus alternatives, that once decided on, I must find. It’s not the cold weather I fear, it’s my poor logistics.
I also have a confession to make, I love dramatic weather. If cycling wasn’t my thing, I could quickly replace it with storm chasing. There is something epic about confronting weather that sends others cowering for their indoor trainers. The ultimate feeling, is knowing every rider is checking Strava constantly, to ensure everyone else had chosen to ride around London on Zwift... and bam.. you load the impossible ride, a ride that would raise the eyebrows of even the hardiest Flemish cyclist. As you sip your hot soup, you revel on every comment of your ride craziness. You can’t buy that stuff on the Rapha website, it’s earned.
So, make friends with winter, and follow some simple rules.
- Crap weather doesn’t equal rest day. If I choose to move my ride to the indoor trainer I have simply done so as it’s a harder session, not because I got soft. If by chance winter, you lay down three crap days in a row… I will harden the up and kick my logistics nightmare into action.
- It’s never as bad as you think. Continual rain from the couch is intermittent when you out there, cold soon warms up, and the challenge of taking winters best head on lifts the spirits. The outdoors is just as good in winter.
- Cycling kit has pockets for a reason. Think layers. Only put on what you can take off. Start with a light wind jacket and as soon as you warm, before you sweat, roll up and put in your pocket. When you run out of room from your ride strip tease, stuff items up your jersey. Unsure of how many top layers? Try a newspaper up the jersey as throw away vest.
- A 10-degree day in spring feels warmer than a 10-degree day in Autumn. Yes, as winter rolls on it gets easier, we acclimatise, so don't make compromises early. You just delaying the inevitable, embrace it.
- Wet days use a hard chamois cream and a clip-on spray protector. Chafing is a killer in the wet. You may need to put a layer on the inside thigh of the elastic of your leg-warmers too.
- Keep your bike clean and lubed. Damp roads store and flick road muck, don't wreck your gear. Come spring you will want to show off your hard-earned form on a bike that’s not trashed.
- Stay safe. Lights and reflective gear are cool. Day and night.
- When winters nasties are really throwing it at you, bring out the old kit. These are not the days for summer finery. It does feel like wearing track pants to the supermarket, you will know where you stand with that.
So, here we go again. I have chosen to embrace you winter.