Winter is here and the fair-weather cyclists have disappeared from the roads. Those of us that remain are pulling our gear out of the cupboards and wondering why we put ourselves through this ordeal every year. A nasty ride that leaves you soaked through and shivering is enough to kill the spirits of even the hardiest cyclist. Here are some cycling ‘hacks’ to make your winter rides even slightly more enjoyable.
- Invest in some good gear and actually wear it
The best thing a cyclist can do to get ready for the winter weather is to invest in some decent quality cycling gear. If you are planning on riding in the rain, a rain jacket and a pair of rain pants if you plan on commuting, are always a good idea. Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is always a good place to find good quality cycling gear, but be prepared to drop upwards of a 100 dollars for a cycling jacket and anywhere from 70 to 250 for a pair of rain pants. MEC’s drencher pants are a good choice as they are effective but not too pricy. The Pearl Izumi Barrier Jacket is slightly more expensive but just as effective. Shoe covers are essentials for any winter cyclist as they protect your shoes from the rain and the puddles. The MEC website has plenty of options, for all budgets. If you want these to work, you do actually have to wear it. If you’re a commuter, you might also want to invest in a backpack cover so that you don’t arrive at school with paper mache in your backpack.
- Be prepared
Always make sure to dress for the weather. Remember it’s always better to overdress than underdress as you can always take a layer off. Winter gloves and socks are essentials for any cyclist. DeFeet Woolie Boolie Socks are ideal for winter cycling and are great for keeping your feet warm. As most cyclists, riding in the winter will freeze your hands. In order to prevent this, SealSkinz all-weather cycling gloves are perfect to keep your hands warm. If you are planning on riding in the absolute extremes, then there are a few more precautions you can take. GCN has a video on their channel detailing some hacks for riding in the cold. One of their hacks is to wrap your feet in heavy tin foil before putting on your shoes. While this seems like a good idea, it ends with shiny tin foil confetti all over your floor.
- See and be seen
Lights are always very important for when you are riding in the winter. Because it gets dark early in the winter, investing in some heavy duty bike lights is a wise choice. A headlamp that can be strapped to your helmet, can be useful for seeing your way in the dark. A rear light is important when riding on the roads so that cars coming up behind you can see you. Headlights are especially important when riding on the trails, not only for being seen but also for seeing your surroundings. The last thing you want is to wind up on the dykes without any lights and risk falling off the path. True story.
4. Take it slow
It’s very important to ride slowly when the roads are icy, especially when going around corners. You don’t want to be going 25+km/h and hit a patch of black ice. This is also very important when the roads are wet and slippery as wet tires on a wet road make for little to no traction. Take it slowly, even on the long straight stretches of road. You never know if there may be black ice lurking on the roads.
5. Know when not to ride
Even the most experienced riders have been known to take a rest day. There’s no shame in admitting that it is not wise or safe to ride that day. Know your limits. Don’t push yourself too hard. Always check the weather before leaving. Even the hardiest of cyclists have looked outside at the pouring rain and said “not today.”
6. Forget everything you ever learnt about cornering
There is nothing worse than taking a sharp corner at speed and feeling your bike wobble out from under you. When you’re riding in the cold and wet, especially when the roads are icy, taking corners is a tricky business. In order to not end up in a pile in the road, there are a few things you need to remember. The first is to stay upright. The further you lean your bike over, the more likely you are to slip. The second is to take it slowly. Racing around corners is a recipe for disaster. The slower and more upright you are, the safer you’ll be.
Overall, stay safe out there during the winter months and remember to have fun.