Time not miles
Measure your rides in time taken rather than distance travelled. An hour of pushing into a cold head wind will feel more challenging on your body than an hour of happily rolling along in the sunshine – even if you’re going faster or further. If you measure the success of your ride by miles or speed, then occasionally try leaving your bike computer at home or cover up speed and distance. Strong winds, cold weather and the need to be more cautious on slippery wet road surfaces means it is impossible to keep up your average summer speeds, trying to do so is just demoralising.
Plan in a reward stop
Winter cycling can be hard so treat yourself and celebrate that you’ve made the effort to get outside by enjoying some of your favourite snacks while you cycle. Forget dry tasteless sports snacks and fuel your ride with tasty chocolate, flapjacks, dried fruit or cake. Pick a café for a hot chocolate and use it as a chance to thaw out and fuel up for the rest of your ride.
Use apps to your advantage
Plan your ride for the best time of the day to avoid getting unnecessarily wet. With so many apps at your fingertips you can make educated decisions about when you ride, so there is no reason to dash out first thing in the rain if it will be clear by lunchtime. Use a tool called Epic Ride Weather to plan exactly when to start your ride and even decide where to go. Input a gpx file of your route and provide your average speed for the app to show you the conditions at every stage of your ride. You could even plan your route so you have a tail wind on the way home when you’re feeling most tired.
Another important tip is navigation – if the weather is bad or darkness is falling you need to know exactly where you are and have bail-out routes in place to cut your ride short if needed. We use Komoot or Strava for planning our routes but when riding somewhere new in winter we also carry a paper map. You don’t want to leave anything to chance if conditions get bad.
Dress for the weather
Tackling tough conditions is much easier if you feel warm and dry. Winter cycling kit can be expensive but investing in good quality kit will increase the number of days you ride and the amount of fun you have when out on your bike. Layers are critical in the winter to help you maintain a good core body temperature and enable you to adjust your clothing as conditions change. Read more on our tips for dressing for winter here.
Fuel your ride
Eating well is especially important in winter as you need extra fuel to maintain your body temperature. If you’re feeling cold then digesting food will help to warm your body up – so always carry more snacks than you would in the summer months.
Even though it is cold and you don’t feel like drinking you will still be dehydrating as you ride. The mist you see when you breathe out on a cold day is moisture leaving your body and with all your warm layers on you will still be sweating, even in cold temperatures. To make drinking more palatable use an insulated bike bottle like these, so you can drink warm fluids all the way through your ride.
Find a friend
Finally, as with so many things in life, winter cycling is more fun with friends. Even the worst rides of winter can be enjoyable if you have someone to laugh with and share the misery! The hardest days are often the ones you remember the longest. Once you’re home and warm you will be glad you did it together.
In our experience if you are warm and well-fed throughout your ride even the worst of British weather is fun to cycle in!