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Winter Cycling: 19 Useful Tips for Nailing your Routine (2019)

winter cycling header image


So you’re looking for winter cycling advice in the hopes of beating the weather this year… 

Luckily for you, you’re in the right place. We’ve put together 19 crucial tips for winter cycling so that you never have to worry about getting caught with a flat or ending up frozen in the middle of nowhere. 

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#1 - Bike maintenance 

Ever wondered how cyclists keep their bikes so pristine, especially when they’re cycling in winter? The answer may frustrate you as it does require setting aside some time after every ride, but bike maintenance is a must

bike maintenance

Not only is it the answer to keeping your bike in good physical condition, but it could be the difference between ending up stranded along a country road, or scrapping the bike frame you spent so much on…

We’re going to give you all the winter cycling tips you need to avoid either of those things. 

1) Get yourself a bike stand

This is definitely worth noting if you’re not able to work on your bike indoors (sometimes whoever your living with doesn’t appreciate a muddy bike taking up the kitchen table). 

Not only does it mean spending less time out in the ice and snow trying to fix your bike, but it also means that you’ll get things done much faster with your bike in a stable and easy-to-reach position. No more asking your friend to hold it for you! 

2) Keep an eye on everything that moves (chain, cables, gears, brackets, etc.) 

This should be a no brainer, but it’s easy to forget when everything seems to be working fine (especially if you have a new bike). 

 

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The question is if you had a new car would you never get it serviced? 

One of the best ways to prevent things from going wrong with your bike is to keep an eye on it and notice these things before they do go wrong. Think of it like servicing your car. 

Pay most of your attention to the parts that move. Replace and oil your chain regularly, check your cables, note any changes in your gears, be sure that your bottom bracket doesn’t move when you pull at it, etc. 

3) Give it a careful clean 

cleaning a bike graphic

Most bike mechanics will advise you against cleaning your bike, especially if you’re thinking about using a jet wash on it. 

This is a big no-no, as it could result in washing out the vital oil and grease that your bike needs in order to function correctly. Or it could destroy your bearings, which could cause some serious issues. 

However, you can certainly give your frame a careful wipe over to remove any dirt or grime that may have stuck to it. 

Having WD40 or de-icer to hand can be quite handy too, as you won’t be able to clean your bike or even use it if your bike lock is frozen, or if you have frozen components! 

#2 - Lights and Reflectors 

Reflectors are a no-brainer, as everyone knows they improve road users chances of seeing you when cycling in the dark. However, they should be used alongside a good set of lights, which aren’t just for helping you to see better on a night ride. 

Don’t trick yourself into thinking that everyone can see you; if you drive yourself, you’ll know how difficult it is to see pedestrians on foot, let alone those riding alongside you or crossing a road in the darkness. 

winter cycling bike seat graphic

It’s not too expensive to pick up a pair of bike lights, not to mention it’s actually against the law to ride without them (and reflectors) at night, or in early morning hours when it’s still dark. 

You could end up with a hefty fine, or much worse consequences if you end up in a traffic accident. Check out our list of the best bike lights and get a set on order before you head out! 

#3 - Tyres

If you’re riding through muddy or icy trails or roads with debris (the heavy winter rain is known for washing things onto the roads), the first thing you should think to keep an eye on is your tyres. 

Replacing or adjusting them could be the right option for you, and could make all the difference between buying a separate winter bike or not. You may not need one if you have the right winter tyres and a good maintenance routine! 

However, you should know that there are two main types of tyres that are useful in winter conditions. These are studded tyres and winter tyres. 

Studded tyres are the kind that has a thick tread, as you may expect. They have large bolt-shaped segments and usually come with metal spikes that provide extra grip on ice and thin layers of snow. 

studded tyre for cycling in winter

Is your commute along an icy and slippery road during the winter months? Studded tyres will work wonders for improving your grip and preventing any falls you’d have with standard road tyres. They’re also good for preventing punctures.  

However, they may not work well if there is a significant amount of snow on top of the ice, as this hinders their ability to create good friction on the icy layer below. 

They’re also heavier in weight than your usual winter tyre, so aren’t the best if there isn’t much ice on the road. They make a lot of noise in the absence of ice too! 

Winter cycling tyres are a different story. They’re a lot lighter than studded tyres and have a much lighter tread depth. For someone who doesn’t know much about bikes, they can often be mistaken for road tyres, however, they’re significantly wider and are usually sold as ‘4 season’ tyres.

winter cycling tyres

They’re mostly used for wet conditions in winter, and for roads that are scattered with debris. They’re the best in terms of puncture protection and have a much better grip in wet conditions than your average road tyre. 

Want to learn more before you make a decision? Take a look at Wiggle’s buying guide for winter cycling tyres. 

#4 - Punctures

Learning how to repair punctures is a vital skill for anyone who wants to take up winter cycling. Not only do you need to know how to do this in the safety of your own house or garden, but you should learn how to deal with issues like this on the roadside. 

You’ll thank us later when you get your first puncture miles away from home! 

Your roadside repair kit when cycling in winter should include the following: 

  • A mini-pump
  • A patch kit 
  • Tyre levers (to make removing tyres much easier)
  • At least 1 spare inner tube (two to be safe)
  • A multi-tool

It sounds like a lot, but it takes up minimal space in a backpack and is fairly light too. It can make all the difference between being stranded on a cold winter night and getting home safely…

check out your tyres

The poorer the weather conditions, the more likely you are to end up with a puncture. Be prepared with your emergency kit, and clue up on how to fix punctures, and you should find no trouble at all if you’re unfortunate enough to get a flat tyre when winter cycling. 

#5 - Mudguards 

Looking to join a club when cycling in winter this year? 

The first thing on your list should be mudguards, especially seeing as though they’re compulsory in many cycling clubs when riding in poor weather conditions. 

For those who don’t know, mudguards are those long metal strips that you see fixed to sit just above a bike tyre. They may not look as though they do much in terms of guarding you against the wet and muddy winter spray, but they can make the world of difference. 

mudguards graphic

Anyone who asks whether or not they should use mudguards has probably never stumbled upon any real winter cycling tips before. Put it this way, if you ride without them you’re in for a shock (and not a nice one). 

You can buy a set surprisingly cheap on Amazon if you don’t want to spend a fortune. The product below is a steal at £10.95 with free delivery, and one customer writes:

As someone who changes once I get to work but who doesn’t want to get soaked with spray and other road muck, these are excellent, especially for the price.

ZEFAL Mudguard Set

#6 - Clothing

Want to wrap up for winter cycling, but not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered. 

You want to layer up to insulate your entire body, all the way out to your extremities with no area missed. The best way to do this is to start from the bottom, which is the base layer.

Don’t worry, it isn’t some sort of bodysuit. A base layer is an undershirt of sorts, and comes in either a long or short-sleeved style (which is usually better for summer or mild days). 

Here’s a reasonably priced example (and #1 Best Seller) from Amazon:

Under Armour Base Layer 

We’d recommend going for a base layer made from either merino wool or synthetic materials, such as polyester or polypropylene. They’re the best for wicking sweat away from the skin, and keeping you odour-free. 

After finding the perfect base layer, bib shorts or tights should be your second port of call. Which one you go with depends on the weather conditions. If it’s a mild day, you might want to opt for shorts over tights, but it’s all about personal preference (and a little bit of trial and error).

You can check out either men’s or women’s cycle tights and bibs on Amazon, and we’ll sample a few below so you know what to look for. 

FDX Men’s Cycling Bib Shorts

Didoo Men’s Cycling Bib Tights 

Sundried Women’s Cycle Bib Shorts 

Cycle bibs and tights are a great way of improving your comfort when cycling in winter, as well as keeping you warm. They usually come with padding inserts for this reason; no more nasty saddle soreness! 

Last but least on our inner layers for winter cycling section is a cycling jersey. If you already have one for summer cycling, you can definitely use it in winter too. 

However, you may want to pick up a long-sleeved jersey for really bitter conditions. 

In case you didn’t already know, you can get some pretty good deals on cycle bibs and jersey sets online. This could save you a small fortune, especially if you’re used to buying in your local sports shop! 

BXIO Cycling Jersey and Bib Set 


Armed with adequate inner layers, you’re already halfway there.

#7 - Headgear

skullcap for cycling graphic

It’s important to keep your head warm as well as your body when cycling in winter. After all, you lose 7-10% of your body heat from this area when it isn’t insulated! 

Helmets aren’t great for keeping your head warm on their own, as many of them nowadays are actually designed to cool the area. 

In terms of go-to insulating headgear for winter cycling, skull caps are a great place to start. They’re usually made from synthetic materials, which means they insulate your head whilst keeping the sweat out simultaneously, so you won’t get too warm with prolonged use. They also regulate your body temperature rather than heightening it. 

VeloChampion Thermo Tech Cycling Skull Cap 


This is an Amazon’s Choice product as well as having 94% positive reviews, so we’d definitely recommend taking a look if you haven’t already got one!

If your prone to feeling a little too warm with a full hat on, you can opt for a cycling headband keeps your ears and forehead warm. You can also find these on Amazon for a good price, like this product below which is only £5.99:

Tagvo Winter Headband - Amazon’s Choice


#8 - Extremities

cycling in winter clothes graphic

When you think about it honestly, the extremities are where the cold hits first. You may be all nice and warm inside your bib and jersey, but your fingers and toes are frostbitten.

This is where a good set of cycling gloves comes in. Our next bit of winter cycling advice is as follows; you probably want to put those fingerless gloves to one side in favour of something a little more insulating. It doesn’t have to cost you a fortune either, as you can pick a decent pair up from Amazon for under £20. 

Kutook Gel Padded Full Finger Cycling Gloves


You can’t go winter cycling without protecting your feet from the cold either, especially if they’re going to get wet. 

Below is a solid pair made from polypropylene, which is great for getting rid of moisture and sweat during a long bike ride. They’re also a #1 Best Seller on the platform, which says something about their quality!

DANISH ENDURANCE Cycling Socks 


NOTE: When searching for products to keep you warm when cycling in winter, you should look out for those made of synthetic materials that will wick away sweat as well as keeping you warm. Merino wool is also a good shout! 

#9 - Coat

winter cycling jacket graphic

Once you’ve got your inner layers and extremities sorted out, it’s time to think about that final element to your winter wardrobe that makes all the difference.

Some cycling newbies seem to think that they don’t need a coat when cycling in winter, as the exercise will warm them up enough... 

This can be true in some cases when it’s a mild day. However, other than that we’d highly recommend taking our winter cycling advice and finding a jacket that you can store easily in your backpack, just incase the wind hits you and hinders your ride. 

Trespass Qikpac Waterproof Jacket

winter cycling jacket

This is a good example of an inexpensive yet fully functional cycle jacket, which is highly praised on the platform for it’s insulation as well as breathability. It’s also an Amazon’s Choice product! 

One customer writes: 

If you’re after a budget waterproof jacket/shell layer then you can’t go wrong with this. I’ve worn it on 2 long hikes and its stood up to the elements. It’s kept me dry and shielded from the wind at the top of an 1800ft high hill… definitely not bad for the price.

When looking for a cycling jacket to create the perfect amount of layers for winter cycling, you should:

  • Ensure that it’s waterproof
  • Check its insulating properties
  • Check how portable it is 
  • Ensure that it’s ventilated
  • Order an accurate size

#10 - Shoes

overshoes for cycling in winter

It may be easy to grab the first pair of trainers that you can find and use them for winter cycling, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be comfortable or even safe to have this approach.

Don’t worry, we’re not saying that you have to spend a fortune on specialist shoes (unless you want to!), as there are easier solutions to keeping the moisture and cold at bay. 

One option is to purchase some winter-specific trainers (if you don’t already have some), that are designed for use in poor weather conditions and aren’t produced by a top brand.

You can find these on many online retailers, as well as in your local outlet sports store.

If you already have some suitable trainers and you want to go even cheaper, you can use a pair of overshoes. They’re incredibly popular with professional cyclists all over the globe, and so it’s easy to get a hold of a pair for a decent price!

Take this pair of winter cycling overshoes from Amazon. 

They’re made from 100% polyester, which is great for extracting sweat and moisture from your skin, as well as windproof thermal fabric. They’re zip up and also have a strap fitted, meaning they’ll easily stay in place. 

Altura Men’s Airstream II Overshoe Socks 


#11 - Food and Drinks 

One of the most important winter cycling tips to pay attention to is to ensure that you’re getting enough energy to fuel your rides, as well as enough to refuel once you’ve completed them. 

Many cyclists choose to fuel themselves with energy bars or gels, as they can be consumed on the go and provide a healthy yet effective snack. 

They’re a great substitute for getting home and reaching straight for the biscuit tin, and in most cases are nutritious and work to replenish energy, hydration and electrolyte stores. 

eat and drink enough graphic

As well as seeking additional energy, you should ensure that your pre-ride meal is suitable for your needs (and good for optimal performance). This meal should boost your glycogen stores as well as being easy on your stomach, and should include slow-release carbs as well as healthy protein sources. 

For example, you may want to go with scrambled egg on a bagel, with a side of low-fat granola, nuts and yoghurt. 

REMEMBER: don’t just plan your food, but be sure to get enough fluid before, during and after your ride. Dehydration isn’t something you want to suffer from! 

#12 - Pace Yourself

You may feel the need to go speeding off in the summer months, especially since it can be easier to feel energised (when it’s not too hot). However, when you’re cycling in winter you want to keep an eye on your pacing. 

Winter cycling is a great time to focus on your endurance. 

While this doesn’t mean travelling painfully slow (as you should definitely still be pushing yourself when it is safe to do so), you should use the conditions to your advantage and work on long, steady-paced winter rides that build on your base fitness.

stopwatch graphic

One way to do this is to select an appropriate route that allows you to travel at a steady pace, rather than one that challenges other areas of your fitness. Avoid hilly or difficult terrain, and if you’re cycling in winter with others, don’t be tempted to race them! 

In terms of timing, a 90-minute ride is good for newbies, but experienced riders should aim to reach 4-hour rides over winter. 

#13 - Ice 

It would be pretty risky to set out on a bike ride in winter without being prepared for ice. That’s why we’re giving you some of our expert advice on how to prepare for it, as well as what to do when you encounter it. 

NOTE: it’s probably best to avoid cycling on ice altogether if you’re new to cycling, or to try and maneuver around it if you’re already out on a ride. 

To prepare for an encounter with ice, you should ensure that you have the correct tyres. Depending on the weather conditions where you live, you should either use winter tyres or studded tyres, that we talk more about in the section on tyres.

ice graphic

After you’ve done everything you can to prepare for cycling in such weather, you should clue up on what to do when you come across ice during a ride. Here’s a few tips to follow if you find yourself in a panic:

  • Stay calm. The only way you’re going to make it through this situation safely is if you keep your head and try not to panic. 
  • Try not to break, definitely don’t break harshly. This will only make things worse. You should try the back break gently if necessary, but stay clear of the front break. Losing traction from your front wheel is a big no-no, and will make you lose control. 
  • Choose a path. If you see a thinner line though the ice where it’s started to melt, perhaps from being run through by heavier vehicles, take this path to avoid cycling through the heart of it. 
  • Keep pedalling. You should try to stay pedalling slowly and smoothly, as this will keep the traction working in your front tyre and hopefully keep you upright. However, be sure you’re ready to touch your toes to the ground if it becomes necessary.
  • Stay smooth. Turn off your natural instinct to change direction quickly and focus on maintaining a smooth pedalling pace. Don’t have your gear too low to avoid wheel-spin, but have the right balance between low and high. 

#14 - Snow 

If you’re determined to take things to the extreme by hitting the snow, you should err on the side of caution. Snow isn’t necessarily the biggest risk with cycling in winter, and black ice is what you should keep an eye out for if you are venturing into the winter wonderland. 

cycling in the snow

The problem with black ice is that it can blend in pretty well with pavements and road surfaces, due to its highly transparent nature. Your best bet of avoiding it is to listen to our tips for winter cycling and stick to busier roads rather than those in the country. Be sure to keep as close to the centre of the road as possible!

This is because most of the ice will be melted by larger road vehicles, and thus make it safer for you to navigate the road without the worry of losing control. Avoid riding too close to the pavement and near gutters, as these are the prime areas for black ice formation. 

Seeking the thrill of off-roading in the snow, and taking cycling in winter to the extreme? 

In that case, you should hook yourself up with a mountain bike, or a winter bike suitable for off-roading. We’ll talk about this in the next section, so keep reading to find out more! 

#15 - Winter Bike

Owning a winter bike can have two different meanings, so we’ll clear that up for you no problem. 

The first kind of winter bike that we’ll run through is a bike that is specially equipped for winter, but not too different from the bike that you use for the summer months. However, the second is a mountain bike, which is used for extreme winter cycling in snowy terrain. 

A generic winter bike is one that you substitute for the main bike that you use during the summer. You may opt to stock it with cheaper parts, as winter can take its toll on expensive bike gear. 

Aside from this optional aspect, a bike, especially for winter cycling, should be equipped with:

  • Winter cycling tyres (as we mentioned earlier)
  • Mudguards 
  • Lower gears (to allow for a slower, more controlled pace) 
  • Strong front and rear lights
  • Reflectors

You should keep it in good condition through a regular maintenance routine, paying particular attention to everything that moves.

In terms of acquiring an extreme winter cycling bike, it should look something like this:

winter bike image

A fatbike or mountain bike will send you soaring through snowy off-road terrain like lightning when compared to a generic winter bike. However, to qualify as a ‘proper’ winter cycling bike, it should have all of the above plus:

  • Wider tyres
  • Less inflation
  • Stronger suspension 
  • A heavier frame

A fatbike or mountain bike is a great option for those wanting to venture into deeper snow than that you find on the roads, but we wouldn’t recommend using one for your commute. 

The frames are typically a lot heavier than road or hybrid bikes, so you’ll struggle if you’re using them on the road. 

#16 - Be Prepared 

If you’re cycling in winter for your commute, you want to make sure you’re prepared before you set out in the morning. Not only for your own safety but so that you’re likely to stick to your new routine and get to work on time!

Just like cooking a healthy meal and taking it to work the next day, preparing for your winter ride the night before is important. If you’re unprepared, you’ll either take the bus instead or face setbacks you’d otherwise be ready for. 

checklist graphic

Like we mentioned earlier, having a roadside repair kit is paramount, as is learning how to repair a puncture. This could make all the difference between making it to your job in time or having to walk the rest of the way, or getting stranded on a long evening ride. 

Preparing your food, fluids, repair kit, a fully-charged phone, some spare cash, the correct tyres, biking gear and your bike itself is something you should make a habit of. You should also take care to check the weather forecast before you set out. 

If everything is planned out and you’re ready to go as soon as you reach the door, you’re a lot less likely to have any nasty surprises! 

Being prepared can also mean outlining a winter cycling plan for yourself. Everyone has goals when embarking on a new fitness routine, so set yourself some weekly distance goals and try your best to stick to them. 

#17 - Turbo Trainers

Want a low-risk, cosy alternative to winter cycling? You should give turbo training a try. 

turbo trainer for cycling

If you’re not sure what turbo trainers are, we’ll give you a quick introduction and explain how they can help you if you’re looking to start cycling in winter. 

First things first, turbo trainers happen to be devices that allow you to cycle from the comfort of your own living room. They allow you to attach the back wheel of your bike to them, and ride statically but with added resistance. 

They’re a great way to maintain fitness during the winter, especially when obstacles like black ice and mounts of snow stand in your way. You won’t get wet or cold, and by opting for a turbo trainer you could technically spend all of your money in one place rather than kitting up with winter cycling gear! 

Like the sound of this? Check out the following turbo trainer on Amazon to kick-start your alternative cycling in winter plan. 

Velo Pro Magnetic Turbo Trainer 

#18 - Bike With a Friend or Local Club

If you’re a little anxious about setting out on a winter bike ride alone, you should consider asking a friend to come along with you (preferably someone more experienced if you haven’t tried it before). 

This can work wonders for your confidence and is technically better for safety too. You can split supplies between you, and be extra prepared for that long and tedious journey. If one of you gets a flat, you’ll be able to repair it in twice the time with an extra pair of hands. 

Joining a local cycling club can also be a great idea for those wanting to get into winter cycling. If you want to stick to the bus for your commute and train in your spare time, this is a great option. 

cycle as a group graphic

Most cycling clubs organise weekly rides, which can help you to stay on track with your routine. Not only will you have the opportunity to meet others with similar interests and goals, but you’ll also thrive on the motivation that the club shares as a while. 

Ever given up on a ride when the weather gets uncomfortable, or when you run out of steam? Riding with a friend or a club will encourage you to keep going when you need it the most.

#19 - Use the Track 

If you’re an experienced cyclist and you thrive on travelling fast, why not take a trip to the velodrome this winter rather than slaving away in the snow? 

It’s a great alternative if endurance training isn’t your thing, as cycling on the track is a high-intensity exercise that still focuses on technique. 

cycling track

Want to practice your handling skills as well as gaining fitness, travelling up to 50mph and avoiding poor weather conditions? The velodrome is the place for you. 

Similarly to joining a cycling club, heading to the track will give you the opportunity to meet like-minded riders, and also gain a better understanding of the sport. Most places also hold classes for beginners so you don’t need to be an expert to give it a try. 

If you’re thinking of joining a club in the summer but want to get used to riding in a group and work on your technique first, head to the track this winter and push yourself further.

Conclusion

We hope you’ve enjoyed our top tips for winter cycling, and that you’re ready to get out on the road (or on the turbo trainer!). 


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More exercises to try

Looking for some new exercises to try out that will compliment your cycling routine? Take a look at these!

 

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Written by Chloe Twist

Qualified Personal Trainer & Blogger

Chloe is a qualified Personal Trainer with a passion for blogging, gaming, and playing the guitar. When she's not in the gym, she can be found in her room either swinging kettlebells or binging on Netflix.