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Winter Cycling – Here Is What You Need to Know

With the temperatures dropping and Mumbaikar’s shivering, now seems like the perfect time to give you some tips on making the most of the winter. With most cyclists not liking the idea of riding in the intense heat or the rains, winter cycling can be fun and exciting but only if you are dressed for the occasion.

Winter

Read on for some Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind before you set out for a chilly Winter Cycling:

Pre-Ride Winter Cycling:

Well, before you get started, we would advise a little warm up to loosen those stiff muscles, tendons and ligaments and warm your body from within.

Don’t forget to have a light meal before you get on the bike.The metabolism process will help keep your core warm and provide your body with energy at the same time.

Checking your bike and lights are a must during winter cycling. Like you, your bike to is not immune to the cold and dry winter. If your chain, brake and gear cables need oiling or replacement, don’t wait for the season to get over, in fact, tend to them immediately.

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SUIT UP:

Winter cycling weather might not seem perfect and tempting when you look outside the window, but if you don’t suit up for the occasion, you’re bound to catch a cold.

Cyclists should prefer wearing a loose base layer over which, you should wear your cycling jersey.The base layer helps to keep your body dry while keeping the moisture away.

In addition, a good jersey will trap in the air acting as an insulator. This trapped air is warmed by your bodies heat. Ensure to opt for thermals or polypropylene, they work great as a base layer for winter cycling.

Do not forget to wear a jacket! Throughout winter cycling, it will help divert the wind.

It’s a good idea to wear full gloves as they help trap the heat during winter cycling. Half cut gloves are good but not great for the occasion. After a point, your fingers become numb and you don’t know how well you are braking, thus affecting your control on the bike. Wearing leather or wool for cycling is a big no-no. Instead, opt for neoprene (synthetic rubber). These neoprene gloves are also easier to wash.

Only wearing short cycling tights is not going to help during winter cycling. A long pair of socks, leg warmers and a pair of track pants will serve the purpose.

Don’t forget to cover your head and neck as a large amount of heat is lost. A head and a neck gaiter are the best to cover and trap in heat to prevent that excess loss.

Don’t forget to keep drinking plenty of water. A dash of electoral added to your normal water works great. If you have a hydration pack, it’s time you take it out and wear it in your jacket to prevent it from getting cold.Camel bak hydration system works best for winter cycling or any other riding and adventure.

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PIT STOP:

Drink water

Don’t pull the zip of your jacket down

Cutting chai( hot tea) can make you feel even better

A bowl of soup can keep you warm from inside

It is also advised that you cover your ears during winter cycling

POST RIDE:

Stretching is very important. Yes, we know it’s pretty boring after a tiring ride, you just don’t want to do anything, but make it a habit

When and How to deal with bad weather

bad weather Unless you live in someplace like Southern California you will have to cope with a variety of different conditions when cycling your bike throughout the year. In Ireland this winter has been particularly wet and windy and many have found themselves facing the conundrum of whether or not they should go training and then how should they approach the different conditions that they face. Hopefully this will help clarify much of those questions :

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Above all else you must know why you are going out in bad conditions. Will it improve your fitness. Will it improve your bike handling. Will you be a better cyclist at the end of that day. Is it safe to go out. If you do not answer yes to most of these questions, stay at home.
Heavy rain and strong winds

A1 and A2 racers who want to win races will need to be able to race in these conditions so they need to train in them too. Half the bunch in any domestic race have cracked as soon as the road gets damp so there is a better chance of getting that elusive victory on wet days if you have trained for it. A3 and A4 riders can make up their own minds on this. You do need a certain amount of experience and skill to ride in bad conditions.

Sportive riders aiming for the Wicklow 200 or the Sean Kelly Tour 160k need to be able to handle bad conditions as they may have to face them on the day of the event.

Riders who set different challenges for themselves must be prepared for any conditions. Last year when attempting to climb the height of Mt Everest in a day I had to face some of the worst wind and rain the Comeragh mountains had to offer. I had trained on the climb in a snow blizzard so knew that no matter how bad it got, I had trained in worse, and this was the difference between being able to finish the challenge and not.

Anyone aiming to just get around The Ring of Kerry or whose main aim is the local Sunday spin can roll over in bed and enjoy a guilt free lie in when the rain beats against the window.

The bike :

Deep section carbon rims look great but are like a sail in the wind. The shallower the rims the better if you are planning on training on very windy days. 25mm tyres such as Continental Grand Prix 4 Seasons or Schwalbe Durano Plus are hard wearing, have strong puncture resistance but importantly also have good grip in the wet.

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Many love Gatorskins but they are very slippy in the wet, as they have a harder rubber compound. Mudguards are good but can catch the wind on very blustery days.

Food and drinks :

It is important to remember to eat and drink on wet and windy days. With so much water engulfing you it is easy to forget to drink but you are still sweating and this fluid needs to be replaced. Open all energy bar wrappers beforehand and make it as easy as you can for yourself to eat. Don’t stop for coffee if you are wet as you will get cold and the chance of picking up a chill increases ten fold.

Mentality :

On Sunday morning when the rain is beating against the window don’t moan about it. The first person to hear that is yourself and you are already making life hard for yourself. Ignore the weather as much as possible. You are going training so that’s it. Know that 99.9% of the time it is not as bad as it sounds from inside.

When you are out remind yourself that the air is cleaner and you are able to breathe in pure filtered oxygen. You are also doing something that many who are confined to hospital beds would love to be able to do so thank your lucky stars.

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The Route :

Choose a sheltered route as much as possible. Stay away from main roads if you are alone. Quiet back roads with plenty of cover in the shadow of a mountain can offer great protection from strong winds. The back road from Clonmel to Carrick is a good example of this, although the surface is like the Gaza Strip.

Technique

Keep out 2 feet from the edge of the road to allow for gusts that may move you sideways. Always look up ahead for gates or openings in the ditch or wall. Spread your weight across the bike. Lean out on the hoods rather than up on top of the bars.

Keep your arms relaxed and if you do feel a gust don’t go rigid. Let the bike find it’s way. Keep pedalling at a slightly lower cadence than usual. You have much less control over the bike if you are freewheeling.

Snow and Ice

This is much more dangerous. Sticking to main roads that have been gritted is the only road option but many will choose to either go Mountain biking or hit the Turbo trainer, especially when there is a high risk of black ice. When snow is falling before it freezes it can be similar to training in rain but once it freezes it turns to ice which is a cyclists worst enemy.

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When you get home :

Rinse down your bike with a hose to remove as much dirt and grime as possible, especially from around the brakes and the rims. With a little practice you can also degrease the chain and cassette too, all in under 3 minutes so that you don’t get cold standing around in wet gear.

Spray on some light oil onto the moving parts to stop any rust forming.

I normally try to wash the bike properly at least once per week too.

On very wet and cold days I normally have a Lemsip when I get in the door to warm up and kill any bugs before they get a chance to cause a cold or sore throat.

Don’t hang around in wet gear. Get into a hot shower asap and the wrap up well afterwards.

Wash your gear straight away too. On really muddy days rinse off in a sink first. Close all zips and place anything with velcro into an old pillow case.

Safety is always a key factor. A heavy rider is less likely to get blown off the road whilst a 50kg climber will float away like a discarded Mars bar wrapper. Know your limits and abilities but also know that there is a great sense of satisfaction from going training on those bad days when you could have stayed in bed.