The recent cold snap is the perfect time to remind yourself of how to stay safe on the road when cycling in winter conditions. Ensuring you are using the right kit, you’re warm enough and have enough water and food with you is vital to getting you home in one piece.
While you can’t do much about the weather, Life of Tri offers you 5 tips you should be considering before you head out.
- Prep your bike
Making sure your bike is ready for winter conditions is critical to a safe ride. Like preparing your body for exercise, it is important your bike is in the best condition before you set out, including all the relevant equipment. The day light is drawn in so dark mornings and evenings become the norm, ensure you have lights and they have enough battery life for your journey. Even in daytime, fog can make you invisible without them.
Inclement weather, including wet, icy or gritty road surfaces are all hazards that can be minimised by having the correct set up on your bike. Winter tyres and mudguards are a must. Winter is not a time for lightweight racing tyres; you will need grip and puncture resistance properties.
Try to think from a driver’s perspective, if you are struggling to see then they will definitely they’ll struggle to see or avoid you. Also, skinny race tyres and icy roads are a deadly combination, so keep an eye on the thermometer and if in doubt, err on the side of caution and hit the turbo.
- Build up the fitness slowly
Winter is about building up a foundation of base fitness but it is too easy to go too far too soon. Concentrate on quality rides rather than long endurance rides that increase the risk of encouraging bad conditions. Indoor training often comes with a stigma of not being as effective as an outdoor ride, but in a structured approach it can be highly effective.
- Fuel properly
On long, cold, winder rides the temptation is to put your head down and finish the ride as soon as possible. However this approach runs the risk forgetting or missing your fuelling strategy. No winter ride is enjoyable with a huge energy bonk in the middle of it, followed by a difficult ride home. Ensure you have adequate supplies of gels, bars and energy drinks, it is important to ensure you are getting enough fuel. Setting an alarm to periodically go off as a reminder to eat/drink them is an excellent strategy if you have a tendency to forget.
- A little fat is good
Winter is not the time to be maintaining race weight. You need fat for insulation and having too low a body fat percentage will mean you chill easier when out. You’ll be more susceptible to illness if you immune system is lowered due to being too cold. Carrying a few extra pounds during the colder months is no bad thing and the excess will drop off as training intensity increases in the spring. Be sensible, your body will crave more hearty food so bulk out your place with plenty of natural food.
- Plan your recovery
Having a routine when you get home is vital to protecting your body and your bike, ensuring you have enough recovery. Either have a recovery drink made up and ready to go in the fridge or take it out with you and start sipping during the ﬁnal 10-20 minutes of your ride.
Getting warm is vital as you will have stopped moving so your will get cold quickly. Have a quick shower rather than a long soak, followed by warm dry comfortable clothes, then try and stretch. We are all guilty of forgetting the cool down routine but it will benefit you rather than collapsing on the sofa.
Once fuelled, clean, warm and stretched, turn your attention to your bike. At the very least give it an all-over rinse to clean off the worst of the muck and salt and then run your chain through a rag and re-lube.