While the daytime hours are longer and longer, the winter is still very much here and riding in bad weather can still be tricky. Here, at Evans Cycles many of our colleagues ride to work on a daily basis. The distances differ, sometimes it’s just 3-4 mile each way but some of them ride 30-40 miles every day. I have asked them to share winter riding tips, here is what they said.
My daily commute is a 10 mile each way trip to and from the Evans Cycles head office at Gatwick which I do rain, shine or snow! 10 miles is a great distance for a commute – long enough to get a work out and short enough to put up with the cold and foul weather that winter can throw at you.
Riding throughout the winter is easy, as long as you’ve got the right kit, and Balint has asked me to share some of my kit advise. I’m going to start with my top recommendation for winter commuting, it’s going to seem quite extravagant, but if you are commuting year round and it’s your main form of transport the best investment you can make is on a winter commuting bike.
A winter commuter is not a specific type of bike like a mountain bike, road bike or cyclo cross bike (it could be any of those), it’s simply a bike that you’ve relegated to winter commuting duties. It doesn’t have to be flash, light, fancy or fast, it’s sole purpose in life is to get you from A to B. Winter commuters are workhorses, designed to be ridden into the ground, to be neglected from maintenance duties, apart from a weekly pump up of the tyres and lube of the chain, and if they’re lucky a semi-regular service.
Of course the benefit of a dedicated winter machine is your good bike (in my case a much loved Colnago road bike) stays wrapped up snug in the shed over the cold and icy months, not having to be exposed to the damaging winter conditions which eat away at chains, cassettes and cables. And when the seasons turn and the sun and warmth come out of hibernation so can your good bike, swapping places with the winter commuter who takes their place until next winter.
In terms of essential kit for a winter workhorse a set of full length mudguards with stays is a must – these make riding in rainy days enjoyable, safe in the knowledge that nasty puddles have little effect in damping you down. For full length mudguards you’ll need to make sure your frame has eyelets for mounting the guards, otherwise you can install some P clips to attach them to the frame. My other essential bit of kit for the commuter is a good set of lights. My commute takes me on unlit roads with a reasonable amount of traffic so I need to see and be seen. my combo is an exposure front light linked to an exposure red eye rear light – all powered from the front light unit. these lights are hassle free and if you use them mainly on the flashing mode will last all week without a charge.
In the clothing department the items I can’t live without are my under helmet hat (to keep my balding head nice n toasty on cold mornings. A buff around my neck which can easily be pulled up over my face for chillier mornings. And last but not least a set of winter cycling boots – waterproof shoes that keep your feet dry and warm. In my opinion these are much better than standard overshoes, they don’t disintigrate which overshoes do after a winter of commuting.
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All in all, its been a mild winter, well it has been here in the South East. My 40 mile commute hasn`t been interupted at all which is a first for me. The only change I`ve had to make is the bike. I don`t have a winter bike as such and prefer to use my mountain bike rather than my Cervelo. Both bikes are pretty well specced so my maintenance schedule tends to be pretty high as I do like to keep them clean.
Being selective with the cleaning though does make life a lot easier though. Of course, the bike will get a proper wash when it needs it but there are certain areas that require more attention than usual. Taking into account that the bike has had its service for winter, a good cable set will keep the crud out and keep everything functioning as normal, I keep a close eye on the condition of the tyres for cuts and debris but also their pressures. Running them at a decent pressure helps to prevent punctures as you roll over obstacles rather than into them. Think of that comedy sketch where the comedian stands on the business end of the garden rake and gets a wallop from the handle. Its the same with tyres. That nail that punctured your tyre WAS lying down. Lower tyre pressures will “pick up” obstacles, so if you have to adjust your pressures for grip, 10psi is enough.
Anyone using rim brakes will need to keep the braking surface clean along with the brake pads as you`ll wear them out a lot quicker during the darker months. One area which always attracts attention though is the transmission. There are plenty of cleaners on the market which will do the job perfectly. I will always dislocate the transmission from the bike though. As well as looking at the parts for closer inspection, I give them a clean in White Spirit. This will help to loosen that thick wet lube we all use in the winter. One good scrub and rinse, they come up like new. Using spirit on your bike can loosen the finish of your paint work so ensure you`ve removed any parts first. When fitted back to the bike check the chain for wear. If you don`t have a chain checker try pulling the chain away from the chainring. This is the tightest point of the chain around the transmission so if you can pass a pencil through here your chain is worn and you may need to replace your cassette and chainrings. When dry, lube the chain on the inside not the out side. The chain only touches the rings and cassette on one side so this will keep your chain cleaner, last longer and prevent your gunky chain collecting any debris which will only wear it out quicker.
With the bike taken care of, its worth checking all the other bits attached to it. Pannier bags for holes and waterproofing, fresh batteries for lights and their fittings etc. Otherwise a good set of waterproof gloves, winter boots or overshoes and a helmet hat will help to keep your ends warm!
Winter riding always seems to be the hardest thing when the weather is bad! I push myself to do this so that it can benefit my summer riding and keep my fitness levels up.
Key things I check daily when riding is the condition of my tyres including pressure and the general surface area and also how clean my chain is. A dirty chain can make changing difficult and having the correct pressures alleviates the chances of getting a puncture.
On these rides key things I would not ride without is a decent set of lights (if riding in the dark), my Seal Skinz All Weather Gloves and my Endura Overshoes.
And if you want to see how the pros prepare for the season, enter our competition where you can win a trip to Majorca to ride with Team Raleigh – the sunny Spain will be a nice break for one lucky winner from the gloomy British winter!