5 motivators to keep riding in the winter

As cyclists, we’ve been lucky, with temperatures hovering in the teens for way longer than is seasonably expected. However, winter has suddenly arrived. It’s finally that time of year again when getting out on the bike requires a little more willpower. Cold, rainy and often dark, commutes through the winter present different challenges. That said, there are some significant advantages to riding year round.

Hopefully we can provide some inspiration to keep those pedals moving and keep you on the bike through the Dark Months.

The threat of tube strikes

Talks of a triple tube strike this year have already begun. On the bike you’ll have no concerns. You can arrive to work on time, leave on time and your schedule and routine is unaffected.

I can think of little worse than standing at a bus stop desperate to get home to spend time with housemates, kids, a significant other and you keep watching packed buses stream past, not even stopping to pickup passengers.

Beat the strike

Sustrans Traffic Free Cycle Rides

If you fancy a change, then a countryside jaunt can be a really fun way to experience some traffic free cycling. Sustrans maintain routes all around the country, many of them traffic free countryside day rides. They produce a great book with all these rides broken down by area of the country. Many of these routes are accessible by train from London.

Traffic free routes Sustrans

There are routes within London itself as well: you could head to Richmond Park, the Lea Valley or the Thames path. Even riding at the weekend during the winter is going to maintain a good level of fitness.

A little forward thinking makes plans easier to stick with, even if the weather isn’t cooperating. Plus, if you’ve followed our ultimate guide to layering for cyclists, then you’ll keep a nice warm body temperature throughout your ride.

For more inspiration check out the London Cyclist cycle routes guide which has 35 of the best routes in London.


There is something highly satisfying about staying on the bike in the rough weather. Those querying colleagues who are shocked you are still riding in to work (especially those who wrongly think you are a little crazy even in summer) who you humbly brush off, stating it’s no big deal. All the while you have a smug internal smile, knowing that you are being somewhat hardcore.

On the road, you can often feel a little more camaraderie with other cyclists, particularly when sitting at a red light in the freezing drizzle. Then, when the spring comes and you see the fair-weather cyclists back out, you can easily breeze past them. You will also find summer adventures a lot easier if you stick to cycling all year round.

Quieter roads and paths

With the slow but steady growth of the number of cyclists in London, morning and evening commutes are now a shared experience. In many ways that’s joyful to see so many people choosing the humble bicycle as their vehicle of choice but it can also have a few jarring moments (bike shoalers – you know who you are).

In the winter there are less cyclists around and that can have it’s upsides such as more of the bike lane to yourself.

Winter kit

Sometimes we are guilty of getting a little materialistic but there’s a real pleasure in picking the right set of gear. From the jackets, to the gloves, trousers and beyond – once you’ve got your setup just right it feels great. (Though as always our caveat that you can cycle in anything you choose – and you don’t necessarily need cycling specific gear).

winter commuter

What are you feelings about cycling through the winter? Do you have a specific strategy or set of motivations to keep you on the bike?

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11 Responses to 5 motivators to keep riding in the winter

  1. Sabrina Wharton-Brown 18/01/2016 at 7:20 pm #

    Definitely the kudos! Plus five more reasons:

    You’re less likely to get ill, so while everyone else is supporting Kleenex and Covonia, you can enjoy that natural cheery smugness that comes from knowing how much more immune you are! 😀

    “Winter body” becomes something other people moan about.

    Increased motor traffic with fair weather cyclists means that we get to enjoy flying past the jams and not searching for parking so much more.

    We get to look awesome in regular coats and scarves (everything looks better when you’re on a bike!)

    It warms you up, so you save on heating bills, and can wear less bulk at home and the office.

  2. Tom 19/01/2016 at 8:56 am #

    My motivation is the same as all the rest of the year: cycling is enjoyable, getting the tube really isn’t!

  3. MJ Ray 19/01/2016 at 8:57 am #

    Motivation? I’ve still got places to go and the bike’s still the easiest way to get there.

    Awful last photo there. You can be very comfortable in winter without looking like a low rent superhero.

  4. Lycralout 19/01/2016 at 9:57 am #

    Temperature -2°C when I left home this morning. Managed to keep fairly warm…except my fingers. THREE layers of gloves (merino wool and Specialized double gloves — one layer neoprene, the other claw mittens) and I still couldn’t feel my fingers after a few minutes.

    • Opynyinated 21/01/2016 at 2:29 am #

      Hi Lycralout. You might want to get checked out for Raynaud’s or similar. All those hand cosies should’ve kept you toasty for longer than a few minutes in relatively mild conditions.

      • Phil 21/01/2016 at 12:50 pm #

        Seconded; -2 isn’t really that cold, it was -6 where I live yesterday and I kept fully warm, thanks to army surplus arctic mittens and Weasy boots.

  5. welshcyclist 21/01/2016 at 10:49 am #

    Rain, dark winter mornings and evenings, are no problem at all. Ivy roads, however, are a completely different matter. I have to check the forecasts carefully every day, because I don’t want to be caught out. Ice has had me off my bike three times in the last 10 or so years of me commuting. It is so violent, when you’re not expecting it, and ouch!!! It really hurts. I love riding my bike, but if there’s ice about, it’s a big no-no for me.

    • MJ Ray 21/01/2016 at 1:33 pm #

      Fit studded tyres. Keep the rubber side down 🙂

    • commuterjohn 31/01/2016 at 1:29 pm #

      Go along completely with the icy days. Misjudged it the other week and was off the bike, fortunately no harm done but could easily keep you off the bike for many weeks as I know from experience.
      Miss out the ice day and enjoy all the other days.

  6. Alan 22/01/2016 at 2:01 pm #

    I wear loose fitting shorts and have bare legs on my daily 30 mile commute ( return) all year round no matter how cold it is outside, of course I am hardcore!

  7. Anna 22/01/2016 at 5:35 pm #

    Yeah I thought I could be hardcore until couple of days ago. I recently (4 months ago) moved to another place which means 40 mile return commute. However since the winter has been mild I’ve been surviving on just one layer of jersey. That night as the temperature dropped to 0 I decided to put on another layer of thermal base. The first half of the journey was fine I did not feel too bad. However the last 30 min I really felt the cold was kicking in and my body temperature was dropping. Towards the end I could not feel most parts of my body and I could not tell if my fingers were braking or not (although it was silly of me to wear fingerless gloves as my proper gloves were too thick to operate the bike properly). Although added to my miscalculation is that I fast from time to time and I had forgone lunch that day. I really thought another 15 to 30 min I would be in some degree of danger. I had a long shower but was still shaking all over afterwards. Don’t underestimate proper winter clothing…especially if the ride is longish… I’ve learnt my lesson which means I might need to fork out £200 for a proper soft shell.

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