Hints and Tips: Cold Weather Riding

In the last few days we have been subjected to a textbook level winter high pressure system: clear blue skies, sub-zero temperatures, starry nights and breathless wind conditions.

For many, this description sends literal, as well as physical shivers down the spine; the thought of icy roads, frozen extremities and potential tumbles; persuades many to stay indoors, or at best do a turbo session in the garage.

But this shouldn't have to be the case; these conditions can provide some of the most stunning scenery, and some of the most enjoyable riding that you will do all year. This post aims to give a few hints and tips of what you can do; firstly to get out riding in the cold conditions, and secondly to stay safe when you are out there.

Use the main roads - Sticking to the main-roads is an obvious tactic when there is ice about. The routes will almost certainly have been gritted and therefore ice is less of a risk. I often find that the icy conditions deter many car drivers from going on the roads as well, so even the B-roads are quieter than usual, making for more enjoyable riding.

Avoiding hills - Avoiding hills is a good move, especially if they take you down shaded or minor-road descents. It is often in the dips of valleys and shaded corners (where the temperature is slightly lower), that ice remains on the roads and accidents happen.

Off-road options - Going off-road is often safer in icy conditions, frosty grass compacts down and still provides grip, unlike black ice on tarmac. If you have the option of getting out on the mountain bike then consider it; the trails will be less muddy because of the hard-frosted ground, and if the worst does happen and you slip-up, I still reckon frozen mud is softer than asphalt!

Watch-out around Farmyards - Most of my sketchy moments on a bike have involved farmyards or field exits in some way. The small clumps of mud that get spun off the wheels of tractors as they leave fields and yards are worse than oil; flattened into the tarmac and frozen over, they will almost certainly cause a loss of traction when they are ridden over. As a result it pays dividends to pay extra caution around these areas and try and do a bit of gentle slalom riding around the mud-splats.

Slowing down - The brakes on my winter bike are a fair bit less responsive than on my summer bike; partly because I don't tune them with such precision, but also because it seems to make it safer. Allowing the brakes a longer time before them fully "grab" the rim means that there is less chance of the wheel locking up and skidding in winter conditions; it also encourages you to slow down more gently because you need to start applying the brakes sooner as you approach a stopping point.

Protect your extremities - Everyone knows that their head, hands and feet are important things to keep warm. Check out the following review pages:
Socks, Shoes and Overshoes
Long Sleeve Jerseys
Waterproof Jackets

Windproof - I recently got my team winter training jacket, and I have to say, it is fantastic in the cold weather. When it was minus 5 degrees on Saturday and Sunday morning I wore it with just a long-sleeve base-layer underneath and I was the perfect temperature. The outer material is water repellent, completely wind resistant and very breathable; and the pit zips mean you can easily regulate temperature by letting in a few sharp intakes of cool air.
Check out the review of the Primal Paradigm Jacket HERE

I hope you've found the above hints and tips helpful; either as new information or just as a reminder to keep safe out there. There is no reason why cold weather should be an excuse for not getting out on the road or trails. Embrace the sub-zero temperatures and make the most of those frosty mornings; getting one-up on those that are still lying in bed feeling slightly guilty.


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