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15 great tips for winter cycling

Written by Fiona

December 20 2017

My recent Sunday Mail column featured a wealth of great tip from TrailCoach founder Ramsay MacFarlane about how to keep on cycling through the winter. See the pdf or read the article below.

How to keep on riding through the winter

In Scotland, it can be all too easy to find excuses to leave your bike in the shed for the winter.

Wet and cold conditions put many people off road cycling and mountain biking.

But, with a few tips, you could be reaping the benefits of cycling through the chillier season, including improved mental and physical health.

I asked the founder of Trail Coach and expert mountain biker, Ramsay MacFarlane, for his advice on winter cycling.

1 Keep feet dry

Wet – and therefore, cold – feet is a major problem of winter cycling, both on the road and on trails.

You can buy waterproof socks but for a cheaper option use thin polythene shopping bags.

Wear the poly bags over a pair of socks and inside your cycling shoes.

2 Dry hands

On a rainy day, the water will quickly penetrate most cycling gloves and eventually wet-out gloves that claim to be waterproof.

It’s a difficult problem for many cycle clothing brands to solve because gloves need to be breathable and flexible as well waterproof.

Some cyclists swear by neoprene gloves, such as those used when kayaking while a cheaper solution is to wear disposable latex or nitrile gloves under your regular cycling gloves.

3 Rainproof your helmet

Most cycling helmets have holes and gaps to allow your head to breath.

To keep the rain and wind out in winter stretch a swimming cap over the top of the helmet.

4 Warm feet

Layer tin foil under the insole of your cycling shoes or wrap it around your feet between socks and shoes for warmer feet.

5 Handy solution

Wear winter specific gloves and look for lobster-style designs that allow some fingers to rest together to warm each other.

A hand warmer can be useful for when you stop for a food or coffee break.

6 Re-proof your kit

Rejuvenate waterproof outer layers, such as jackets with a wash-in waterproofing agent or with a waterproofing spray.

7 Keep sweat at bay

Just because it’s cold outside it doesn’t mean you won’t sweat while cycling. Wicking baselayers, especially those made of natural fabrics such as merino, will hep to control moisture even breathability is restricted by waterproof layers.

Another advantage of these baselayers is they will dry out quickly when you stop at a café for a refreshment break.

8 Use mudguards

Some cyclists think that mudguards look too ugly or they are fiddly to attach.

But they are essential in wet weather for keeping a lot of the wet from the road off your back.

Look for mudguards that you can easily affix to your seat post at the rear of your bike.

9 Good fuelling

It can be tempting to overlook basic needs, such as food and water, during winter bike ride because you don’t want to stop.

But you are more likely to feel the cold through loss of energy if you do not eat enough.

Carry snacks that are easy to eat while on the move or during a quick pit stop and sip frequently form a water bottle or hydration bladder.

10 Keep it clean

A problem with winter riding is that your bike will become dirtier than in drier summer conditions.

You make it easier to clean after a ride, use a wax or lubricant spray on your bike to prevent mud sticking.

Also use a good quality bike cleaner when washing the bike after a ride, and be sure to reapply lubricants to keep the working parts in good order.

11 Lights on

Make sure you always have lights fixed to your bike and ensure they are fully charged in case you get caught out after dark.

TrailCoach skills session.

12 The right route

In winter, unless you have the right skills and experience it’s best to stick to the trails and roads you know.

If you end up lost or out for too long and after dark, the ride may end up unsafe and/or miserable

13 Skills booster

Mountain biking in winter throws up new challenges, such as wet rocks and tree roots as well as muddy and water-sodden trails.

Why not learn from the experts at a caching session how to ride better?

14: Snow show

Snow on the trails, rather than the roads, can be great fun if you take care.

Make sure tyres are a little deflated for better traction or, better still, hire a fat bike with extra wide and grippy tyres.

The sounds and experience of riding on crunchy snow amid a beautiful white scenery is hard to beat.

15 Night riding

If you set out with the right lights and clothing, a short night-time ride can be an amazing experience.

There is more than enough darkness in a Scottish winter for many enjoyable night rides.

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