Riding in the winter is key to maintaining a good level of fitness and setting you up for the next season. However, it can be dangerous as the nights draw in and the weather turns cold, wet and windy. Staying safe on the road is key, and the last thing you want is an incident or a bad experience to derail your season preparation!
Here are my top tips for riding safely in the winter and making the most of your time in the saddle!
- Lights – lights on the front (white) and back (red) of your bike are crucial to ensuring you are visible out on the road. Chances are if you’re commuting you will be doing so in the dark, as daylight hours are reduced. Similarly if you are on the club run at the weekend, foggy, misty, or overcast conditions are more likely in the winter months. Strong lights to show what’s ahead will make your rides safer, as well as making vehicles aware of you on the road.
- Training indoors – on the indoor trainer (turbo or rollers), wattbike or similar. If it is icy, pouring with rain, snowy, frosty or below 3C, you reduce the risk of illness and crashing by training indoors. Turbo trainers are a great tool for training – allowing you to do controlled efforts while staying warm, dry and comfortable. You can get as much benefit from a 50 minute ride with efforts indoors, as you can from a two hour road ride in the cold, where you will be taking risks. No dirty bike to wash too, bonus!
- Winter kit – You need to be prepared for all types of weather when riding in the winter. Warm gloves are key to ensuring you have feeling in your hands to brake and change gear. A warm, waterproof jacket is also a great bit of kit, as is a thermal baselayer to wear under your jersey. You could also take a rain cape for your back pocket, just in case of showers. It’s wise to wear a buff around your neck, to keep your neck and chest warm, especially for if you stop and don’t want your body temperature to drop too much. This can also be pulled up around the face to minimise the amount of cold air you are breathing in.
- Roads – Due to bad weather, the condition of roads may be compromised so extra care is needed. As I mention in my beginner 12-week plan, look out for potholes or cracks in the road, and identify them to the group you are riding with. Some potholes may be covered with water or leaves and simply look like a puddle, so try to maintain concentration and be aware. Signalling the road surface is even more important riding in groups, to ensure everyone stays upright. Roads may also be more slippery so cornering and stopping needs to be done with extra care. Don’t grab your brakes, and when cornering, go a little more slowly in and out of the bends.
- Winter Tyres! – During the winter months, with bad weather conditions and poor road surface, you have the option to change to a more durable tyre. Tyre brands will all have several winter options that are generally heavier, grippier and thicker, to reduce the likelihood of punctures or skidding.
- Fuelling on the bike – You will burn more calories on the bike when you are cold as your body works harder to stay warm. Therefore fuelling sufficiently on the bike is crucial to ensuring you can enjoy longer rides in the winter. Even though it is cold you still need to drink and make sure you eat a good mix of carbohydrate and protein every 30 minutes to keep your resources topped up.
Riding in the winter is tough and it’s hard to stay motivated when the weather is grim and there are less hours of light to ride in. However, you will be grateful for the winter miles next summer when the sun is shining and you’re feeling fit – so enjoy riding your bike, and with these tips you can stay safe out on the roads too!
Article by Jonny Bellis OLY – Former professional road cyclist with Team Saxo Bank, and elite private coach.
Jonny Bellis was one of Britain’s most promising, up and coming cyclists; a member of the GB squad with the likes of Mark Cavendish, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Sir Chris Hoy and part of the world’s number one professional road team, Team Saxo Bank. When Jonny won bronze in the Under 23 World Road Race in 2007, he became the first British male rider to medal in over 40 years and also represented Team GB in the 2008 Beijing Olympics at the age of just 19.
His burgeoning career took a monumental detour after a horror scooter accident in 2009. He spent 3 weeks in an induced coma, contracted repeat life-threatening infections, suffered a stroke and was told he’d be paralysed from the neck down. In just over a year after this tragedy and after a gruelling recovery process, he incredibly made it back to the start line at the top of his game at the Tour of Britain. He retired in 2015 and now inspires the next generation as a coach. He provides a true and unique depth of experience and we’re proud to have him on board as our cycling expert.
Download the Amplify Life app for free to follow Jonny’s expert plans and get stuck into your training journey! To speak to Jonny directly about 1-1 coaching you can contact him through his website below.