Within certain cycling circles, the thing to do in winter is to struggle through the miserable weather and get training. This has trickled down from the pro ranks and is applicable to both pro and amateur racers, whose likely objective for the upcoming season is to win races – something that doesn’t happen without serious winter training.
For many of us though, the idea of a strict regime, freezing mornings and another bowl of plain porridge isn’t that appealing. It is all too easy to let your bike take a hint from the polar bears and go into hibernation for six months. So, how do you keep riding over winter, without turning into a lean, mean racing machine? We have a few ideas…
Exploring a cityscape
Cities are filled with opportunities to explore. Between all the backstreets, main roads and cobbles are exciting places, houses, shops, restaurants and pathways. Stop and take the time to admire the intricacies of the buildings you pass every day on the way to work. Have a look at the closed down factory building in the centre of town. Try and get from point A to point B without looking at a map, test your knowledge and surprise yourself.
Cities generally feel warmer than surrounding countryside as they aren’t as exposed – all that tall brickwork does a good job blocking the wind! You’ll never be too far away from some shelter or somewhere to warm up. Just remember a set of lights and your street smarts and you’re ready to go.
Staying Local, delving deep
Mechanicals go from irritating in summer to downright shocking in winter, so venturing out close to home can be quite appealing (you can always walk home!). It is a great opportunity to ride each road on your estate, learn about all the cut throughs or just have some fun following the curves of the roads. There’s no need to leave yourself constrained to tarmac – if there is a slightly dishevelled lane or a gap in the trees you’ve never explored, don’t worry about letting your curiosity get the better of you.
Official Cycle Routes
Going back to basics and riding a cycle trail has plenty of benefits, particularly in winter. They provide varied terrain, sign posting and a feeling of adventure, all without being too far away from civilisation. With the roads being slippery and debris-ridden during the colder months, it is pleasant to break to get away from them just for a while. Some routes will challenge more than others but choosing the right one can offer some spectacular scenery. Take it slow, take a camera and make a morning of it.
Sustrans has a wonderful map showing all the different routes – distinguishing between traffic free routes and ones that are shared with cars.
For many of us, getting out on the bike is our way of enjoying how picturesque the countryside is. You’ll cycle past countless vistas and viewpoints in summer, likely admiring them while basking in the heat. There’s no reason not to do this in winter as well – the character and intrigue of a place can totally change with the time of year. Everything from a gentle sprinkling of frost to jutting, angular branches. Bring an extra layer, a warm flask or thermal bottle and a few extra minutes to enjoy what you see.
Stopping for a roadside top up isn’t going to go out of fashion, but with a chilly breeze it is even harder to resist the temptation… so why bother? It is vitally important to know which haunts offer the best food and drink. From delicately prepared paninis to breakfast piled high, the creamiest of cappuccinos to a local ale on tap. Let the winter time prepare you for some hard-earned treats and genuine reward for those summertime epics.
Enjoying winter is much easier said than done. Accepting winter time for what it is – cold, dark and cold – will let you focus your attention on the best bits of winter, whether that is the scenery, the bigger appreciation of a roaring fire or the food. Grab your thickest bib tights, as many layers as you have and get out there and revel in it.