When you arrive home, with feet numb like swollen ice bricks, fingers white and brittle, or soaked to the skin, winter can seem a less than fabulous time to ride a bike. But we still keep on doing it, and there have to be some very good reasons for that. Here are a few to bear in mind next time you question your sanity…
The transition from cold to warm
Leaving the house wrapped head to toe in layers of winter gear, the air can feel bitingly cold. In the real mid-winter, the sight of your own breath adds insult to the injury; it confirms the extent of the chill.
Once you start rolling, your body begins to work and your muscles warm up. It’s then that I sometimes find the puff of white exhalation strangely satisfying. Riding when you can see your breath is an indication that you are staying active in the depths of the British big-freeze, and the dichotomy between warm body and cold winter air is oddly comforting.
Clever winter kit
After a winter ride with no overshoes, when the temperature gauge read about 3 degrees, I bought myself a new pair of Castelli Diluvio overshoes. I can tell you, my next ride was a lot more pleasant. My feet weren’t just “not cold”, they felt like little radiators on the ends of my legs.
Good winter clothing can’t solve all your problems, and it will never be faultless, but my, it is incredibly clever. ‘Nanothis’, ‘windstopperthat’ – it certainly not always cheap, but so much research has gone into creating the perfect fabric, it’s quite a pleasure to know that the clothes on your back are the product of so much innovation.
Here’s our round up of some of the most essential winter kit, if you’ve yet to stock up.
Cycling past traffic despite the weather
Wheeling (carefully!) along past stationary traffic as you make your way to the front of the queue at the lights (note – the front – never squeezed in the blind spot of a vehicle) is satisfying all year round. This is particularly true if you pass the car that overtook you a couple of minutes ago.
In winter, it’s even more of an ego massage. It’s chilly and the frost has settled on the grass and pavements, but you, my friend are hardcore – more hardcore than all these drivers huddled in their cars. Perhaps the pleasure comes from a sense of pride at being able to survive without air con and windscreen wipers, but it’s also twice as pleasing when you’re getting where you’re going quicker, too.
Camaraderie between cyclists
We cyclists are a friendly bunch as it is – we know each other’s struggles with traffic and punctures and we do our best, most of the time, to help each other out. In winter, we all know those struggles are heightened. There’s a heightened sense of how as this is London not Amsterdam, we’ve got to be a little bit crazy to be doing what we’re doing, and that is faintly amusing.
I’ve endured rides to and from my work in driving rain with fellow commuting colleagues, and though it was grim, we shared the grim-ness between us. I remember a winter ride with a good friend of mine where neither of us could feel a single finger or toe on return, but it’s a memory I think on fondly because we shared the pain and had a good laugh over hot chocolate half-way round.
The hot drink when you get in
Arriving at work or (better still) walking through your front door at home, flicking on the kettle and preparing that lovely hot drink to wrap your icy fingers around is such a reward for your efforts. Even better, is having someone do it for you, or drinking from a cool mug, like my Chapeau one.
What do you like most about winter riding? If so – do make sure your bike is ready – here are our tips on winterising your bike.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.