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So, at this time of year, it can be common for some people to stop or limit their outdoor cycling as it becomes darker, the weather is often less clement and generally, peoples motivation for cycling can dwindle a little bit.
Here I might be the opposite to most people. I genuinely love winter cycling, and I think with the right preparation, clothing, lights etc. then as long as conditions are safe (not full-on icy on the roads) cycling can be just as much fun through the winter as it is in the summer.
So how can we be more prepared for winter cycling?
Make some adjustments to your bike.
Are your current tyres suitable for all weathers? Some people may choose to switch tyres for the winter, either to a more durable tyre, a tyre with a little more grip, or even a wider tyre. Personally I ride 25cc all year round, but whereas I use Schwalbe One tyres for my events I would use Schwalbe Duranos or Continental Gatorskins through the winter as they are generally a more durable tyre.
Consider fitting some mudguards. This will not only stop you from getting soaked and covered in dirt on the rides where it's not raining but the roads are wet. It is also courteous to any riders behind you as it helps prevent them from getting covered road spray.
Is your current bike your pride and joy? It's becoming increasingly common for people to have a 'summer bike' and a 'winter bike' with many people choosing a less expensive bike as their winter bike, possibly one already equipped with disc brakes and wider tyres. But you don't necessarily need 2 bikes (although of course its natural to always want an extra bike). If you are worried about scratches or chips to the surface of your bike through the winter (when there is likely to be more grit or debris on the roads) then you may want to consider having your frame wrapped. This involves having a paint protection film applied to your frame which will help protect it. I do know people who have done this themselves, however there are lots of companies available who offer a wrapping service, helping you to protect your bike and feel less guilty about taking it out in all weathers.
Consider your riding kit choices carefully
We have all done it - looked outside and its freezing, only to set off fully wrapped up and get incredibly warm very quickly.
Layers are the answer here. Start with a good base layer, one that wicks the sweat away. Then a jersey of an appropriate weight (personally I will use the lightweight jerseys for days where the temperature stays above 5 degrees and a heavyweight jersey for temps below 5) your jersey can be paired with arm warmers and a good gilet or depending on the weather an outer jacket that is both waterproof and breathable this gives you great layering options, you can take the gilet or jacket off, keep the arm warmers on, take the arm warmers off and keep the jacket on, depending on how warm you get on the ride.
Good bib tights are also key, my choice for this winter are the Primal Asonic Pink Bib Tights which I haven't actually had the chance to try out yet but having worn the Primal Onyx Thermal Bib Tights in previous seasons I have high hopes for my new bib tights!
In addition to your layers add a buff (this can be worn around your neck, or over your ears to add additional warmth) and a good pair of gloves and some shoe covers. Then you are good to cope with all temperatures!
Be safe - Be Seen!
In winter visibility of cyclists is especially difficult as many rides will be done in the dark or in poor light.
Always ensure your bike has at least one good light on the rear that enables you to be seen. As for front lights, if you will be riding on unlit roads you need lights that enable you to see the road well, as well as ensuring you are seen by motorists and other road users. I use Cateye volt 300's all year round and find that I can see the road very well with these, but it really is personal preference and you need to find a light that works for you.
In addition to lights ensure you and/or your clothing has something reflective, many bib tights have reflective strips near the ankles. Jackets also often have reflective sections but you can never be too careful. I have a few fluorescent and reflective arm/leg bands with red LED's in them which are a great addition to my cycling kit in the dark hours.
Last year I also had some pink wheely lights on my bike, which not only helped with making me visible but also got great reactions from other road users, they were different and very visible and tended to make people smile. I now have a 'Monkey Light' that has multiple colour and pattern options and also really gets me noticed and gets people talking!
Important all year round but super important to highlight at this time of year. Roads are often slippery when damp, storms can bring more grit and debris into the road making surfaces more hazardous, and even sunny days can have patches of frost on cold sections of road. Riding in the dark also slows our reaction times, and can mess with your perception a little, so ride safely and carefully and always let someone know where you are going, or even better - persuade a buddy to join you on your winter riding adventures!
And if the roads aren't providing ideal cycling conditions or the idea of road riding in the winter isn't for you... Why not try a different form of cycling? Many cyclists swap to Cyclocross or Mountain biking for the winter, and both of these activities can be great fun and really help with your strength and handling skills ready for when you get back on the road.
And - personal preference but I find planning a good cafe stop to defrost with a coffee or hot chocolate always cheers up my rides..
I hope you've enjoyed my tips and keep riding all winter long with a bit of prep and the right kit.