Skylark’s Winter Riding Tips

We’re often asked how to keep riding and training through the worst of the winter – well, here are a few of things we do in Skylark country to keep the wheels turning at this time of year.

Link – putting some of our tips into practice on a snowy MTB ride:

snow

If It’s Icy Ride off-road – if you have a mountain or cyclo-cross bike, head off-road onto the frozen trails, away from the traffic and other road hazards. You’re in control of your own destiny, you should be going slower, so that also means you are warmer, and you can brush up on your bike handling skills. Ironically, the absence of smooth surfaces (tarmac, concrete etc) means that there’s less likely to be sheet ice off-road and where it does occur it should be very obvious.If possible, ride with someone else and carry a phone and spares etc as normal.

If it’s cold, stay local, stay low and climb – depending on your local terrain, if it’s very cold keep your ride local by clover-leafing around you home. This way you are not faced with a long ride home in the cold. If you live in a hilly area, staying in the valley bottoms keeps you out of the worst of the rain/snow and wind if the weather is very inclement. Hilly terrain also allows you to build up a lot of heat at low speeds – climbing for a few minutes really warms you up, so plan in more climbs that usual.

Clothing – extra layers, not too tight, spares too: Riding in very cold conditions can be daunting. You’re never sure if you are going to be warm enough. So, take a leaf out of the mountain biker’s book and carry a small rucksack in which you can carry an extra layer or two, plus a spare base layer should you decide to stop for a coffee and don’t want to chill off too much in your sweaty top. Another good tip it to avoid tight clothing on your extremities. An extra pair of socks might sound like a good idea, but if they make your shoes too tight, your feet will freeze. Better to stick to the single layer and allow cushion of warm air to develop arund your foot in your shoe. Look to add overshoes or winter boots if you need to up the temperature. Similarly, don’t buy gloves that are too tight. A little loosness around the fingers in particular will really help keep your hands warm.

Lights and visibility – cold weather often leads to misted-up windscreens and so cyclists should take extra steps to remain visible. Wear bright colours and think about adding a second rear light, perhaps to the back of your helmet or your bag. If your ride is going to last more than an hour, it’s probably best to take your lights, even if it’s bright daylight when you start – conditions and light can change very suddenly at this time of year.

Keep it short and sweet – keep your morale up by riding shorter, sharper sessions. There’s nothing worse than a long grinding ride in the cold – exchange that three hour ride for a couple of really brisk one hour rides on successive days.

Keep on top of your bike maintenance – cleaning and lubing your bike is extra important at this time of year. Get yourself organised so the cleaning equipment is to hand when you come home and don’t forget to clean your chain and re-lube it. A 10 minute wash when you get back is better than half an hour chipping off dried mud the following day! Clean the bike before you clean yourself or the chances are you will skip it! Consider using a water dispersant spray straight after washing the bike to force the moisture out of the bearing seals etc. It’ll also make it easier to clean you bike before the next ride.

We hope that helps. Above all else, keep riding, but also stay safe!

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