Cycling in Winter can be fun! Tips for Better Performance in the Cold
Winter is not a great time for cyclists. The daylight hours shorten, the weather gets colder, wetter, foggier, and icier, and as such maintaining fitness and keeping your cycling skills on point becomes difficult.
It is not impossible, however, and this brief guide will set you in the right direction to maintain your condition and keep the pedals turning during the colder months.
Cycling in Winter
Cycling in winter is about preparing your bike, preparing you, and having focused training sessions. So with this in mind, consider the following for better winter cycling.
Take on a Different Cycling Style
One approach you can take is to take on a different cycling style. The Legend Sean Kelly does. Here are his thoughts:
- Cyclocross – Very different challenges to road cycling but you are keeping fit, maintaining your condition, and there is a transfer of skills between cyclocross and road cycling.
- Mountain biking – The offroad challenges offered by mountain biking will bring a whole new side of cycling to life. One to consider for your winter cycling endeavours.
- Gravel Cycling - Gravel cycling takes you offroad and is a little like riding a road bike on a mountain bike course.
- Turbo trainer – We have two turbo trainer programmes designed to build strength and power and maintain fitness:
-Power meter based.
-Feeling of the gears.
Check them out.
- Spin class - Spin classes are sociable and if you find a good one is a good way of maintaining your condition.
- Floodlit track cycling – Floodlit track cycling is a good option. You can ride in the evenings and there is no traffic to worry about.
Depending on the winter cycling style you choose you may have to invest in different gear, but if you can implement one of the above cycling styles will help you maintain your fitness through the cold months. Going into spring, you’ll be in a much better starting place for your road cycling season especially when combined with a training camp in February or early March.
Preparing Your Bike for Cycling in Winter
It is very important to prepare your bike for the winter months. Road conditions can get icy, wetter, and more slippery. Your visibility and traffic visibility can be impaired, and the weather can easily unleash a downpour of some kind or another unexpectedly. As such, prepare your bike.
If you’re going to carry on using your road bike rather than adopt a different style of cycling, the following guidance will help.
Winter tyres give you more grip on the road and this is exactly what you need when cycling in the colder months. Quality tends to count, so read reviews and get the best you can afford.
Even if you only ride in daylight hours, ensure you fit lights to your bike together with reflectors to become more visible to traffic. Winter weather often impairs visibility but good lights and reflectors make you more noticeable to traffic.
Colder weather causes more wear and tear on your bike. Ensure you keep it clean, oiled, and maintained as much as possible, and it is a good idea to get your bike serviced by professionals before your first winter ride.
Winter Cycling Gear
As the weather gets colder, an investment in winter cycling gear is recommended. The better gear traps air so you keep warm but still allows sweat to evaporate. Winter road cycle clothing is a question of layers and judging what you need on the day of the ride. You don’t want to be too hot or too cold, and taking a layer approach allows you to regulate your temperature for optimal riding.
So what clothes allow for this?
Neck Tube / Neckwarmer
The neck tube or neck warmer fits over your face and is the ideal way to prevent cold wind from making your rides unpleasant. The good neck tube will allow you to breathe through the fabric, so your face is protected too.
The base layer is the one that covers your arms and torso. Merino wool is the best way forward as it traps air keeping you warm but is still breathable. Many athletes use base layers of this kind not just road cyclists.
A good mid-layer is always good to have to hand. When the winter months hit they take no prisoners and if you cycle regularly in Ireland or the UK, then the mid-layer will give you that added protection against wind and temperature.
Fleece Lined Bib Tights
It is a good idea to invest in a good pair of bib tights built to keep you warm. The better quality the longer they’ll last and the better protection they’ll provide. If you go for the conventional bib tight you may find you have very cold rides as these are easily penetrated by the wind.
Gloves for riding in winter should cover your whole hand and generally come in two types. Ones that keep out the wind and ones that are waterproof. When the weather turns your hands and feet feel it the most.
Ensure your gloves fit well and are especially not too tight. If you do wear a pair that is too small, you’ll cut off the blood flow to your hands.
The good thing about cycling caps is that they keep your head dry and rain out of your eyes. They also keep the cold from hurting your ears.
Your softshell jacket is that extra layer you use to keep out wind and light rain, but the weather isn’t so severe you don’t need a waterproof jacket.
When the weather really howls you’ll need a good waterproof jacket to keep you dry. Quality counts here as the poorer quality will leak at the zips and cuffs which kind of defeats the object.
Keeping your feet protected from wind and rain, the overshoe keeps cycling pleasurable rather than it being a grind in wet shoes. Arguably an unsung hero of winter cycling, the overshoe is a great winter cycling clothing choice.
Like your base layer merino wool is the way to go. They keep the warmth in and let the sweat out.
Winter is a curious season often featuring cold days that are clear and bright. Good eyewear will shield your eyes from glare, provide good visibility, and keep muck from obscuring your vision.
So now you’ve chosen your winter style of cycling and you have the right gear and equipment, how to train. There are some key elements to work into your training. They are:
- Set a Goal – Having a goal to work towards keeps you motivated and allows you to gauge progress. Common goals include competing in a sportive such as Marmotte Alps and the Mallorca 312, reaching a certain distance, or a personal best for a certain ride.
- Plan – Once you have your goal, you should create a schedule to identify available training hours. Once you have, you can then put together a training plan which should be a mix of intense and distance training sessions. Use this time to sure up your weak areas and make sure the training plan focuses on hitting your goal.
- Recovery – Ensure you factor in recovery as it is crucial to let your body recover following a session. You can learn all about recovery by reading 8 Pro Recovery Tips to Enhance your Cycling Career.
Early Season Cycling Camp
Once January is done and dusted, the chances are your goal in cycling is not too far away. If you want a stellar cycling season then kicking it off with an early season cycling camp in Mallorca is a must. You’ll improve your fitness, condition, base miles, and build strength and power. Once again the Legend shares his thoughts:
Choose a camp that has professional cycling coaches, and you simply can’t go wrong.
Keep cycling, whatever the weather.