While often considered a sport for the spring and summer months, cycling can be enjoyed all year around on and off-road if you are heading out with the right equipment. In warm weather when the ground is hard it is relatively easy to travel long distances by bike, especially downhill. However, during winter the ground is often muddy and soft, which can make it difficult for your bike to gain traction and go fast.
Cycling in harsher weather conditions takes experience, so it is important for you to build up your stamina on shorter and less steep routes before attempting a longer and more difficult one. When out cycling, make sure that you know your bike and have a little repair kit so you can do a patch job of repairing your kit if anything is damaged. This is especially important on longer trips, as walking your bike home from a 10-mile cycle ride is not a great feeling. If you are new to cycling and feel unsure, then joining a cycling club to follow them on their route can be a good way to get a feel for the sport with support available.
Clothes made specifically for cycling are often designed to be as skin tight as possible so that you will be aerodynamic and will be able to travel faster. However, these clothes are often fairly cold to wear especially if they are designed for summer wear. Layering is a great way to keep warm without feeling too bulky, for instance:
- A tight fitted under layer to provide extra insulation,
- A normal cycling top and long trousers to go over the top,
- A close fitted jacket with waterproofing to keep off rain and wind,
- Good gloves to keep your hands warm,
- Thermal socks for your feet,
- And a hat to keep your ears warm.
Having a backpack on while cycling – for your water, a snack and to fold away your layers if you get too hot – is a great way to compromise. The weather often turns quite quickly, and a day that seemed quite cold can clear up leaving you with too much on, and vice versa. A lot of the clothes needed will be multi-purpose and can also be used when hiking, running or engaging in other outdoor activities.
When cycling during the winter it is important to maintain your equipment well; if your bike stays damp or muddy for too long it can become rusty and deteriorate. Having to bring your bike to the repair shop often is never good, and keeping your bike in top condition is also crucial for your performance on rough terrain.
If you take good care of your kit it should last longer and give you quite a few years of use.
- Maintenance – When maintaining your bike pay particular attention to the moving parts such as the pedal mechanism and the chain. If these are broken or in poor condition they could break down during a ride. These mechanical mishaps are a pain to deal with, so it is often worth giving your bike a look over before heading out on the road.
- Washing – Mud and accumulated grime are not good for your bike in the long term, and can lead to rust damage as well as clogging up your gears. If you have returned from a muddy cycle ride it is very important to then take the time to wash down your bike and mudguards, to keep your bike in tip top condition for your next trip.
- Repairs – Knowing how to make minor repairs on your bike while out and about is crucial if you are going to be travelling long distances by bike. Having your bicycle incur damage during a ride is unfortunately a common occurrence, especially during winter when you are on off-road tracks.
- Mud guards – While not usually needed during the summer, mudguards can go a long way to ensure that you stay warm and dry during the winter. Getting wet will leech the heat from your gear and make cycling during colder weather much harder.
- Tyres – Winter tyres for your bike are a must if you are going to be cycling off-road during the winter. These tyres offer far better puncture resistance and better grip for ice and frost.
With the evenings getting darker earlier it is crucial to make sure that you are visible if you are going to be cycling along roads, with high visibility jackets a must, it is also important to invest in lights on the front and back of your bike to signal to any passing vehicles that you are there.
In order to enjoy the scenery, cycling during the day when there is far more light to see by as well as much warmer temperatures would be far more comfortable. But sometimes routes take longer than expected or you can get caught out by how quickly you lose the light on your evening cycling trip. By keeping a high visibility jacket in your rucksack on every trip you take can make sure you stay safe and visible, whether you are alone or as part of a group.
In order to enjoy cycling during the winter safely and (mostly) warm, it is important to be prepared. Whether it is inclement weather, a tree fallen across your usual route or a darkening evening, make sure to keep your phone fully charged and in a waterproof bag, a drink, an extra layer for if the weather takes a cold turn, a snack to boost your energy and – most importantly – the tools to ensure you will be visible to those travelling at night.
If you are unsure about starting out, make sure you discuss what you will need with a more experienced winter cyclist, or look into cycling clubs in your local area. Having a lot of other people with you to help out if you get into any trouble can be great help for the first few times you attempt a winter ride.
If you are interested in learning more about cycling around Bewl Water, then make sure you contact us here. Our staff will be delighted to discuss the cycling conditions around the reservoir and what you might need to bring.