Winter Training: What to wear on the bike
Getting ready to train outdoors in unpredictably cold, rainy or blustery conditions can be a dilemma. Too many layers and you sweat yourself cold. Not enough layers and you are cold throughout. Then there is the misery of numb hands and feet!
Yes, you can train inside all winter but it is good to get some fresh air and keep those bike handling skills fresh. After all, as the Scandinavians say, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing …” In this spirit of practical optimism, we’ve put together some guidelines to help keep you warm and dry until it is time to bare the legs again.
Invest in keeping your hands and feet warm first and foremost. It’s always a bit of a compromise between warmth and dexterity but starting with a good pair of gloves is the path to happiness.
Slipping a ‘Little Hottie’ into the back of your gloves (or in jersey pocket if needed!) will take the sting out of a frosty morning. Full cycling shoe covers really do help, even if they take forever to put on.
The key is to experiment. Some people swear by thin socks to stop their feet sweating. Others swear by thick, almost hiking socks to keep them toasty. Use some short winter training rides to test things out and find your perfect combo.
Everyone is different. You’ll know if you tend to run warm or cold, and how much heat you put out on the bike. With weather forecasts unpredictable, wearing thin layers gives you options on the move.
Start with long bibs to keep your legs warm and layer from there. You can roll rain jackets and arm warmers up to put in your back pockets. A neck buff is also thin enough to roll up if not needed but provides much-need warmth when the temperatures drop. Similarly, a hat will keep you warm and keep the rain out of your eyes – but is easy to throw into your pocket if it warms up.
One way of staying warm is simply to ride harder and plan your route to avoid long descents.
Saving it for a rainy day
The Rapha Guide to Staying Dry recommends a waterproof jacket, if nothing else. Look for a technical jacket with air vents for the best chance of staying dry.
If the heavens really do open, you will just get wet. But you get lots of kudos and that hot shower, warm tea and sweet cake will feel all the more satisfying!
More importantly, rain reduces visibility and makes the road slippery terrain. Kit aside, take care to avoid wet leaves, drain covers, rainbow patches of oil in puddles and painted lines. Try to be relaxed when descending and pepper your brakes to scrub off a little speed. Your braking distances are increased so stay alert and brake early.
Moisturiser and lip balm
Exposure to the elements can be unkind to your skin. Just as a good chamois butter can keep you happy where the sun doesn’t shine, a good moisturiser and lip balm can provide a protective layer and save you from the perils of chapped, chafed skin.
New to sport?
Make the most of what you have and build your kit as you go. Pull on a running rain jacket on the bike if needs be. The perfect combo of base layers and a proper technical jacket made for cycling will undoubtedly help but don’t let not having these things keep you off the bike.
Let’s face it, whether cycling in a downpour or on a frosty winter’s morning, it’s tricky to maintain a perfect temperature throughout. Your commitment and discipline to logging the miles in all weathers will be rewarded when the fairer weather rolls in and you toe the start line of Dragon Ride or L’Etape UK.