How to stay motivated to cycle when you look out the window and see this

Gloomy view of London

It’s easy as we head into winter to lose motivation to cycle. Grey gloomy views make you think maybe I’ll just take the tube or bus today. However, as someone who’s given up on the bike only to come running back, I can tell you it’s worth sticking to it. Here’s some tips that work well for me and that should help you stay part of the cycling brotherhood and sisterhood.

Having the right gear

If water keeps splattering on your back, your feet are wet and your hands feel cold then it won’t be too long before you turn your back on cycling to work. Upgrading your kit shouldn’t be too painful an expense.

For the hands the Endura Strike Waterproof glove provides warmth and waterproofing. The cost is £27.95 which is nearly the same price as a week long TfL Travelcard. The Endura Strike comes in both male and female styles.

Keeping your feet dry is a little more of a challenge. DIY solutions such as a plastic bag over your socks work surprisingly well but a pair of Seal Skinz socks should also be considered, especially at the current clearance price of £17.38. If wet feet remain a persistent problem, then a pair of winter cycling shoes or overshoes should put the problem to rest for good.

Keeping the rest of your body dry and warm is a matter of grabbing a good waterproof cycling jacket and a pair of waterproof trousers. The DHB minima cycling jacket and waterproof trousers are exceptional value for money and will pack down nicely in your bag. Alternatively, you may already cycle with waterproof shorts. It’s a matter of personal preference. 

How to get organised for winter cycling

Winter cycling may mean a couple of tweaks to your normal cycling routine. Whereas previously you may have got away with cycling in the same kit you wear all day, in the winter you need to be ready for the changing weather. Otherwise, you’ll end up arriving at work too sweaty or soaking wet. The best way to tackle this is to have a couple of layers ready. As your body temperature rises, you can lose a layer.

A change into dry clothes is another essential part of getting organised for winter. Getting these clothes into work without them getting soaked is possible using waterproof panniers, a waterproof bag or buying a waterproof cover for your bag. The Hump Cover is a popular option as it has plenty of reflective material.

Using the stats

Keeping an eye on your cycling computer is another way to stay motivated. Stats such as distance cycled and calories burnt keep the motivation high and mean you can avoid feeling bad when tucking into those hearty Christmas meals.

Consider the alternative

If all else fails then there’s nothing like a quick stint on public transport to get you back on your bike. Not only is it expensive but it’s also often overcrowded and slow. Give me the bike any day!

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35 Responses to How to stay motivated to cycle when you look out the window and see this

  1. Pete 14/11/2011 at 9:16 am #

    It’s funny, before moving to London I never used to cycle in the winter. Lodnon turned out to actually be less rainy than its reputation made it out to be. A little bit of drizzle doesn’t to much to dampen the spirits when the alternative is the tube. I also found that it would never rain for that long and rarely got too wet over my 12mi commute.

    Now having recently moved back to NZ I have found it much harder to cycle through winter due to the weather here than I ever could in the UK.

    The most I would add to my cycling kit during winter would be a thermal top under my normal riding top and stick with the cycling shorts, anything more and I’d be overheating within 5 minutes.

    The best tips for winter cycling is put on some decent full cover fenders, keeps you surprisingly dry.

    • Jozudave 18/11/2011 at 2:03 pm #

      Totally agree. The whole “Rainy London” thing is a myth. It rains much less here than in the vast majority of towns and cities in Britain. I started cycling this year four days a week and can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve gotten wet. And that is not an exaggeration. I think I’ve only been properly rained on twice in 8 months!

  2. Pete 14/11/2011 at 9:20 am #

    I can also thoroughly recommend the Altura Dryline panniers, not only did they keep my work gear dry they survived 12 days of rain while cycling JOGLE without an issue

    • Ashleigh 14/11/2011 at 9:43 am #

      Aha, another expat! (Or, I guess, ex-expat.) I too have found the London winter relatively easy to cycle through. In my hometown – Wellington, NZ – it’s often pretty dangerous to ride on some days in winter and spring. Howling gales, sleet, hail… Comparatively, London is a walk in the park. (Apart from the death-trap roundabouts and crowded roads, but that’s another story.)
      I treasure the independence and freedom of cycling to work and would rather get a bit damp and bedraggled than sweat it out on the tube.
      Oh, and another essential addition would be a good set of mudguards, to keep your bum relatively dry.

      • Andreas 14/11/2011 at 10:19 am #

        Thanks for putting things into perspective for us Londoners ;)

      • Pete 14/11/2011 at 9:26 pm #

        That Welly wind is definitely a special experience, eh!

  3. Mark S 14/11/2011 at 9:37 am #

    I have a pair of the Strike gloves and asides from the lining twisting after they where washed (a problem others have experienced from a quick spot of Googling….) they have been fantastic – even to the point where I used them for playing with the kids in the snow last year and still had warm(ish) dry hands when they had given up :-D

    Another upgrade I’d recommend is mudguards. There are various styles available and I bit the bullet 2 years ago and got a set of the excellent Crud Roadracers for my commute bike, I had held off previously as I’m a bit of a tart so didn’t want to ruin the look of my road bike but there are really discrete and do a great job of keeping your ar$e dry ;-)

    These along with a waterproof coat (dhb) and some overshoes, not the cheap dhb one’s fell apart in a few months when the seams underneath split due to walking on them….replaced with more sturdy Planet X ones now!, have meant I could keep riding through pretty much all last winter.

    • Andreas 14/11/2011 at 10:21 am #

      Overshoes are well known for falling apart after any walking in so that’s definitely something to look out for. Agreed – mudguards is an essential part of a winter bike setup.

    • Philippa 17/11/2011 at 10:25 am #

      I recently bought some Endura Strike gloves (womens) and found they barely held up to sub 10 degree weather and got pretty soggy in even a drizzle, plus the twisting lining kept cutting off the circulation in my fingers! Swapped them for some Sealskinz which are amazing. The Sealskinz socks I’ve had for a few years are also a miracle, for commuting or winter mountain biking, they are my top bike gear item of all time.

  4. steve 14/11/2011 at 9:56 am #

    Sorry, I read the headline, looked at the photo and expected to see something awful!!!
    I then read on and and saw you meant the grey skys!!!
    kit is very important but a little thing like a bit of drizzle is not going to dampen my enthusiasm

  5. nilling 14/11/2011 at 10:01 am #

    It is difficult to stay motivated when you look outside and it’s dark and raining. It can be so tempting to skip the bike and take the car. But getting organised the night before usually helps.

    For winter you don’t need to buy bike specific clothing. Lookout for ski gear in Aldi/Lidl for base layers, buffs, headbands, gloves etc.

    +1 Seal Skinz socks keep your feet dry and toastie

  6. Ann 14/11/2011 at 10:32 am #

    Rain on my face- especially if I’m wearing my glasses, which I usually do- is the biggest discomfort for me. I can’t see well and my face goes numb. Or if I wear my contact lenses, then rain constantly flying into my eyes is just as irritating and sometimes downright painful.

    Other than that I usually turn up at the office drier than if I took public transport, with my waterproof trousers and coat!

  7. iamnotacyclist (@iamnotacyclist) 14/11/2011 at 11:24 am #

    You could also cycle in your normal clothes and have a rain cape in case it rains. No need for overshoes as the rain cape covers you from top to bottom.
    Very clever about the layers and obviously gloves are often necessary.
    However I think it’s just common sense – you make it sound as if it was rocket science and instead of pointing to simple and pretty much obvious solutions you suggest buing more gear…

    • Andreas 14/11/2011 at 11:34 am #

      As I’ve said in many of my posts before the gear isn’t essential to it and you can quite easily use any coat/jacket/cape/shoes/shorts/bike etc you wish. My suggestions are simply for those looking for a few tips for good gear to buy. I believe everyone has the common sense to make their own decision about what they do and don’t need!

  8. Nick 14/11/2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Recently forced off the road having broken my hand in an accident that was entirely my fault and totally avoidable. Does mean it’s going to be a bit of a shock to the system when I get back on the bike after six weeks out – going from affable autumn to deep mid-winter – but the ridiculous expense of a tube ticket should prove motivation enough to do it.

    Nothing like riding through a blanket of freezing fog to beat a mid-week hangover either.

  9. matthew 14/11/2011 at 1:11 pm #

    I have found walking boots excellent for keeping feet warm and dry cycling in the rain. Loosen off the toe clips and put the seat a tad higher and away you go.

  10. Andrew 14/11/2011 at 2:45 pm #

    Although good for improving visibility the Hump backpack cover (even the “waterproof” model) will not keep your bag contents dry in heavy rain. I found this out the hard way.

    So best to put your change of clothes inside a carrier bag as well, just to be sure.

    • Andreas 14/11/2011 at 5:29 pm #

      Be interesting to test a Hump cover versus a standard cover you can buy for a backpack. The messenger bags always tend to be quite good for preventing water getting in

  11. Amoeba 14/11/2011 at 3:09 pm #

    The thing that has prevented me from cycling last Winter was the packed snow and ice. Having fallen off on a back Street when the back wheel slid without warning from under me and in what can only be called treacherous conditions, having variously been followed dangerously close, overtaken too close at speed; hooted and sworn at by a stupid dangerous and offensive harridon in a Mercedes really put me off.

    I now have Marathon Winter spiked HS 396 tyres with 200 carbide spikes each. This will I hope provide me with more options than following the tyre tracks.

    • Amoeba 14/11/2011 at 4:12 pm #

      Mudguards are essential.

  12. Tim 14/11/2011 at 3:45 pm #

    You forgot: buy some damn mudguards. Not only do they keep you drier, but they do the same for everyone arond you!

    • nilling 14/11/2011 at 3:48 pm #

      +1 mudguards ;)

      • Andreas 14/11/2011 at 5:29 pm #

        +2 ;) I’m doing a post on winter bike setup soon so mudguards will be in there!

        • Mr C. 15/11/2011 at 9:58 pm #

          Surely the sort of practical bike you’d use for transportation (as opposed to a sports/leisure bike) would come with mudguards as standard. I’d assumed that’s why it wasn’t on the list.

  13. Johnomi 14/11/2011 at 7:15 pm #

    I don’t commute so I don’t use mudguards, I worry more about looks than practicality. I love riding in the current cold wet and gloomy weather. I struggle to understand why. It gives me an inner smug feeling as if im taking on winter in a personal fight. The only large disadvantages are the stronger winds and having to wear extra layers.

  14. Dermot 14/11/2011 at 10:32 pm #

    Totally agree with your last point!

    The prospect of getting on the bus/tube is enough to keep me cycling through winter, although snow and ice can test my resolve…

    Speaking of which, anyone know of any (hybrid) tyres which are particularly good in icy conditions?

  15. Sophie Hobson 15/11/2011 at 9:49 am #

    Great advice. The best way to get motivated to cycle through the winter for me is to imagine the big crowds on the tube or bus. It’s just a matter of preparation.
    Sophie Hobson, deputy editor, LondonlovesBusiness

    • Jozudave 18/11/2011 at 2:09 pm #

      +1 – Tube is horrendous in the winter! I’d rather face the cold than face the Northern Line at 8am….

  16. Sue 16/11/2011 at 1:39 pm #

    I’m in a new job, so hadn’t been using my Brompton as I wasn’t sure what the cycle policy was. Turns out it is very good, with secure underground parking for ‘normal’ bikes and quite a lot of Bromptons under desks. And showers. I just haven’t plucked up the courage to negotiate Parliament Square yet.

    However, after last nights sardine tin impersonation on the District Line back to Richmond, I’ve resolved to get the box of bike bits back down from the attic (I was out of work from July to mid October, so hardly used the Brompton), test the batteries and just get on and do it! My last commute was through the winter, and I found layers the best answer.

  17. David Smith 19/11/2011 at 9:02 pm #

    I suppose it depends on how keen you are. For those who are out on their bikes in all conditions – I say fair play to you.
    Someone once said “there is no such thing as bad weather, just a bad choice of clothing and equipment”.
    This really sums it up doesn’t it?

  18. Goonz 21/11/2011 at 9:38 am #

    Winter cycling is not that bad at all. The weather has not turned really sour yet and after about 5 mins the body has heated up more than enough to lose a layer or roll the sleeves up.

    The only real demotivator is the rain. As another poster above mentions, the rain has an uncanny way of annoying my contact lenses on my commute. Like another poster stated, I prefer the aesthetics than ergonomics of cycling and hence my mudguard remians hanging from my alley wall. I don’t mind a wet bum which will just dry by the time I have to cycle home.

    I bought a Hump cover thinking it would be waterproof, only to my despair the day I had to cycle home in torrential rain (only 2-3 tmes in the 9 months I have been cycling) when everything in my backpack was totally soaked. *Note to self and others, make sure you read the descriptions very carefully*. A plastic bag holding the clothing and other important things should help with keeping things dry in your backpack.

    Overshoes are good but even they don’t keep my feet totally dry. A little water always seems to seep through.

    What I have found is if you are going to be a serious all year commuter, then it is worth spending the extra cash on quality cycling gear for all weather conditions then not having to worry about it ever again. Safety and comfort should be paramount as the weather gets colder and the days get darker. Buy the correct gear and cycle in comfort and enjoy the commute as much as possible because getting on a packed tube will only motivate you further to getting back on your bike!

  19. Phil 22/11/2011 at 11:19 am #

    My motivation to cycle in crap weather? I can’t afford to commute any other way apart from walking. It’s also quicker than having to catch two buses, even with shower time factored in.

  20. alua 22/11/2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Honestly, that doesn’t demotivate me all too much. Or at least not bike-specifically. I’ll be hesitant to go out, but I would be just as much if I had to take the bus/tube or walk! Biking in that kind of grey-wet weather at least makes me feel alive.

    But I’m hardcore maybe… even in middle school, my sister and I would commute to school by bike when the roads were frozen solid with snow (we’d have to push the bikes but we liked that better than taking the bus! Of course, it was only a 2 km commute.).

    The only thing I worry about in winter weather is my laptop (which I tend to lug around with me), although a few extra plastic bags plus a backpack cover for rain keep it safe enough (agreeing with Andrew here – just the backpack cover doesn’t do it in really heavy rain).

  21. brucie445 22/11/2011 at 9:51 pm #

    my main problem is getting too hot whilst cycling. I have been using the altura night vision jacket which i bought from evans for £75. excellent jacket but poor ventilation. I find I always have to remove it 10 minutes after my journey which involves pulling over and putting it into my backpack. any suggestions? thanks!

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