My phone tells me it's barely 2°C outside, the ground is frozen solid and young Mr Frost has clearly been busy at work. You’ll therefore empathise with my reaction of confusion and sheer disbelief when I caught my twelve year old son about to ride to school wearing summer ankle socks!
Changing conditions require a shift in our approach to riding even the short daily commute. So here’s our top tips for surviving these cold winter conditions.
While there might be a significant temptation to reach for your down jacket don’t! Once we begin cycling our core quickly begins to generate heat. Layering up is hugely advantageous. You need to wick perspiration away, trap heat in, hold heat in and block the cold out. Of critical importance is our base layer (the layer immediately next to your skin) and our outer layer (the one enearest the elements). Make sure your base layer is made from a good quality breathable fabric; we’re big fans of Merino’s wholly organic origins and endless technical capabilities. Holding the heat in is then made possible by trapping warming air between different layers.
On crisp cold morning’s the air temperature can be near to, or below freezing, keeping air that cold well away from your chest is the priority function of your outer layer. If it can keep cold air out it should be equally capable of holding warm air in.
As well as keeping us warm layering also gives us the option of shedding some layers without shedding everything.
Attend To the Extremities
Our head, hands and feet are not only well accomplished in loosing more than their fair share of body heat (the head looses an estimated 30 - 50%) they are also areas of our body which when cold can both feel extremely painful and loose critical functionality. If cold numb hands mean we can’t brake properly then there’s clearly something amiss, if a freezing head is impairing our thinking, judgement and decision making responses then it’s time to seek a solution and fast.
As with layering, good winter gloves should trap the heat in and the wind out.
Merino socks will keep our feet snug while a good quality headcover should fit between your head and your helmet combining both inner and outer functionality (heat in/wind out) while fitting snug under your helmet.
Check Your Brakes
With ice building on the road surface this is no time of year to be entertaining poor brakes. Check your pads for excessive wear and your cables for excessive stretch, further check that cables are sufficiently lubricated. Brakes should be sharp and efficient.
Practice Your Braking Method
The inescapable reality of the next few months is that we are all likely to hit the occasional patch of either ice or yet worse, black ice. Remaining in control of your bike is paramount to your safety. For general cold and possibly wet conditions practice regulating your braking method, applying, releasing and then reapplying. If ice seems likely always apply your rear brake first. While this method may result in our skidding it is much easier to control a rear end skid than a front end skid which will invariably result in our loosing control.
Practice when you don’t need to and it’ll pay off when you do.
If the temperature is low then odds are the skies are clear with the sun lying low on the horizon this can all too often lead to difficult if not blinding visibility. While the high-rise city sky line of the city protects us from a certain degree of glare we’ll all encounter situations where this is not the case. Wearing shades might look a tad potentious but can offer some very real protection.
If riding for longer than a few minutes then sensible measures to regulate your core temperature will lead to significantly increased comfort. I find that leaving home feeling just a little nippy means that when my core warms up I’m not overheating.
The Daily Mail Has A Use!
If the wind chill on your chest is still bothering you reach for the method favored by pros and amateurs alike. Grab a tabloid newspaper, fold it in half and shove it down your top. It works wonders.
Now tell us your tips for riding through the ong cold winter. Oh and. . . . remember. . . . summer's coming!