Winter-Proof Your Steed

Winter really will take a toll on your bike, so it’s a good idea to either have your bike ready or get it ready now as the weather takes a turn for the worst. Here are my tips on how to winter-proof your beloved steed:

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Image from Dolan Bicycles

Winter Bike

If finances allow, invest in a Winter bike. This will prove economical in the long run and there’s no better feeling than jumping on the nicer bike in the Spring and having a morale boost. Opt for aluminium in a winter bike rather than carbon and go for a lower down groupset such as Shimano Tiagra / 105, Campagnolo Veloce or SRAM Apex / Rival. Put the carbon Cosmic’s away and have some reliable, steady Winter wheels such as Mavic Aksium’s or Fulcrum Racing 5’s. Websites such as Ribble (www.ribblecycles.co.uk) or Dolan (www.dolan-bikes.com) offer Winter builds with full-length mudguards fitted as standard. A cyclocross bike would do the job well too.

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Mudguards

This will keep not only your bike cleaner, but also yourself and fellow riders. Full-length mudguards work best but are a pain to fit, but even a set of clip-ons will suffice.

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Image from Mantel.com

Tyres

Stick some wider, more puncture resistant tyres during Winter for added comfort and less likelihood of having to fix punctures. Opt for a 700x25c or 700x28c tyre for more comfort. Unlike a winter bike where you go for a cheaper build, winter tyres are an aspect where you should get them right. I really like the Continental Grand Prix 4 Seasons as they have the perfect balance between speed / puncture resistance and comfort. If you look around, you’ll quite often pay much less than the full RRP.

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Image from Exposure

Lights

The days are shorter in Winter, so have a good pair of lights permanently mounted onto the bike just in case you get caught out. I like to have 2 on the front, 1 flashing and 1 static so I am better seen.

Saddlebag

It’s a good idea to free up some space in your jersey pockets for other Winter essentials so stick your tools in a saddlebag. Winter’s not a weight contest, so the extra weight here is worth it. Never use a frame bag!

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Image from TheHub

Bar Tape 

Not an essential but it’s a good idea to wrap some thicker bar tape to reduce vibrations from the road and improve comfort. I really like the Lizard Skins DSP 3.2mmm Bar Tape

Image from Park Tool

Servicing 

It’s a good idea to either service your bike or get a bike shop to service your bike before the Winter season and after to ensure your bike is in the best condition it can be. There’s nothing worse than having a mechanical during the pouring rain and freezing temperatures. Also, make sure you clean your bike regularly (I clean mine every ride in the Winter) to get rid of road spray and grit on the icy roads. This will also prolong the life of your drivetrain components, particularly your chain and cassette.

Your bike now should be ready for Winter!

Buyers Guide To Winter Clothing

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There’s been quite a few guides published recently on bike websites such as Bike Radar, Road.cc and Cycling Weekly to name a few. This guide will detail my experiences of what to wear for Winter. Whilst it will undoubtedly draw parallels to other website’s guides, I hope you can take something away from my guide.

The key thing to recognise is that if you are a novice to road cycling and it is your first Winter, Winter clothing is an expensive outlay but remember, it should last you for years and that outlay will pay dividends in the long run. From experience of working in a bike shop, many customers skimp on winter clothing. Remember – buy cheap, buy twice! The saying couldn’t be more true here.

Helmet

Your normal helmet is fine, but if you own an aerodynamic helmet, Winter’s a great time to wear it as it will keep your head even warmer due to a lack of ventilation!

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Cap / Skullcap

These are two brilliant, cheap investments and will really keep your head warm. You don’t need to spend masses here – just something nice and simple and your head will thank you for it. Wear a skullcap when it gets below 5 degrees.

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Buff

Another good, cheap investment – this will cover the opening between your jersey and your neck and stops the cold from getting in.  A buff can be substituted in transitional weather (as Autumn changes to Winter) as a bandana for your head and can also be used in the Summer as a replacement for a cap.

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Eyewear

I personally do not currently use any eyewear when cycling as I find it distracting, but I can understand the reasons why you should. It stops your eyes from watering up and improves vision, so these are important. Swap your Summer lenses for a clear lens if you can.

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Base Layer

A very important component of winter clothing, a good base layer will help wick away moisture. You don’t need to spend masses here, although the more you spend the better the base layer is at wicking away moisture.

TIP – Base Layers from Decathlon (an all sports shop) are fantastic value and cost £2.99 per base layer. I have a mountain of them as they’re so good! (https://www.decathlon.co.uk/300-longsleeve-cycling-baselayer-black-id_8217439.html)

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Jersey / Jacket

Definitely wear a long-sleeved jersey, ideally one made of merino wool to help keep you warmer. When it gets really cold, try experimenting with wearing another base layer or maybe wear your thinner, more breathable Summer jersey underneath your Winter one.

A jacket is not essential, but is a very worthy piece of clothing. For transitional weather, something like an Endura Packajak (http://road.cc/content/review/46972-endura-pakajak) will do the job and you can just pull it out when it starts to chuck it down. You can also buy Winter jackets that could be used as jerseys as well which are extremely good, but you will pay a premium for them. It’s very hard to buy a cheap winter jacket that is windproof, waterproof and breathable – the Castelli Gabba for example (http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/reviews/jerseys-tops/castelli-gabba-2-jacket) is designed to do all three at a premium but does the job excellently.

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Gloves

Gloves are an essential piece of clothing as they keep your hands and fingers warm. Gloves are a pain because they take a bit of experimenting to get right (you may find you’ll buy three pairs before you find the right one) but gloves should be used all year round anyway. Perhaps experiment with a thin layer and then a thicker glove over the top in very cold conditions.

Image by Henry Robertshaw, Cycling Weekly article – https://www.cyclingweekly.com/reviews/gloves/castelli-diluvio-gloves

Bib Tights

An extremely important piece of clothing – DO NOT skimp here. In conjunction with the correct saddle, a quality pair of bib tights will improve comfort massively. Definitely buy ones that are padded. In transitional weather, you could buy some 3/4 length ones (I don’t) or use arm / leg / knee warmers. Articles such as the Castelli Nanoflex Bib Tights even protect you from rain to a degree as they trap particles in the middle of the garment – but it’s not fully waterproof. It’s a good idea to have a couple of pairs so that you don’t end up washing your kit all the time.

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Image from Scott-Sports

Arm / Knee / Leg Warmers 

An alternative to 3/4 length bib tights are knee or leg warmers. These are great for transitional weather and in the height of Winter, you could even use these as an extra layer under bib tights. A very worthwhile purchase.

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Image from Moose.Eu

Overshoes 

Wear these over your shoes to keep your feet and toes warm. You could even buy a dedicated pair of Winter cycling shoes, but these are probably a more cost-effective option. If possible, buy multiple sets of overshoes for different weathers – I find mountain bike overshoes better as they’re thicker and thus warmer. Some brands, such as Castelli have introduced a “Toe Thingy” which is essentially half an overshoe – a good idea for transitional weather. (http://road.cc/content/review/69980-castelli-toe-thingy)

TIP – Try wrapping silver foil around your feet before putting your shoes in. Your feet have the effect of a baked potato and this is a simple, inexpensive way of keeping your feet even warmer from the elements.

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Image from Road.cc

Summary 

So you should now be on your way to a warm, comfortable Winter period on the bike with the right clothing. Yes, it will cost you if this is your first time but remember, this should all last you a long time.

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