OK, let’s face it, winter may not be the most inspiring season to cycle in but that’s no excuse to stop riding just because the weather is bad. You usually find that once you are out it’s not as bad as you think so getting out the door and knowing you are going to be somewhat comfortable is a big bonus. Keeping warm and dry always helps and with the darker days, making yourself seen should also be a priority, always good in case you spend too long at the cafe stop and are struggling to get home in daylight. Rides are usually slower so your bike doesn’t necessarily have be as aero or light as normal as comfort is key.
With this in mind we have come up with a few suggestions on equipment which could keep you riding even when the weather is foul.
If there is one product which can make riding in the wet more comfortable it’s mudguards. You still get wet from rain falling but road spray is eliminated meaning shoes stay drier and you don’t get a muddy face or mud line up your back. It’s surprising just how dry they keep you, and everyone else if you are group riding, despite the rain and once tried we bet you don’t go back.
Traditionally mudguards could only used on bikes with dedicated mudguard fittings, called eyelets, attached to the frame and fork but nowadays you can get detachable mudguards to fit on any bike, even close clearance race frames. Here’s the difference between the two:
Traditional – where the mudguards attach to the bike via eyelets. These tend to be more robust, wider and longer with more secure fittings as they don’t have to be removed but can be if needed as they are just held on with bolts.
Detachable – if your bike doesn’t have eyelets, or even it if it does but you don’t want to have mudguards fixed all the time, then hard wearing plastic detachable mudguards can be fixed to the frame and fork via detachable bolt mounts or elastic straps and zip ties.
So these days there really is no excuse not have mudguards on your bike, try them and you’ll see why people love them.
We like: Crud Road Racer MK2 – fits practically any race bike, lightweight, inexpensive, easy to fit and work a treat.
Keeping the extremities, hands and feet, warm can greatly affect your comfort. For hands there are gloves and for feet there are overshoes. These are exactly what they say, covers which go over cycling shoes to help keep feet warm and dry. Available in a variety of materials from lightweight socks to full cover Gore Tex and Neoprene, there’s an overshoe to match your needs from commuting to race models and everything in-between.
We like: Northwave H2O Extreme Technical Waterproof Shoecover – keeps out wind and water, good fit and reasonably priced.
There’s nothing worse than worrying if other road users can see you when the weather turns foul or racing home trying to get in before dark or. A simple set of lights will keep you riding longer and help reassure you that others can see you. It’s not just for night time either, winter weather can turn bad quickly reducing visibility so having lights can be a reassuring feeling against the gloom.
Lights have come a very long way in the last few years. They are brighter, smaller and most importantly battery life is longer than previous versions. There are rechargeable versions, most by computer USB port to save on batteries, as well as traditional battery for front and rear nowadays. Putting a set on your bike doesn’t increase weight that much as even the smallest LED lightsets these days kick out an impressive amount of light. We’d recommend a small set of LED flashers even if you are not planning any night rides as they are inexpensive, weigh nothing, easy to use and unobtrusive, very noticeable and most importantly help you be seen by others.
We like: Hope Vision R4 Front light LED – handlebar, helmet or head mounts available, multiple battery options, lightweight, super reliable, and an amazing amount of light from such a small unit
4. Thermal jacket
A good jacket will make a real difference to your cycling comfort in the cold. It doesn’t have to cost the earth but a good fitting, well designed one will keep you out longer. Modern fabrics means jackets are lighter, more wind and water resistant than before without the bulk. The huge choice means you can have whatever colour you want and even dark colours, we’re not getting into the black cycling clothing debate, have reflective touches to help keep you visible as well as comfortable.
We like: Bianchi Milano Modica – packed with features but with a hint of retro styling.
5. Waterproof jacket
Waterproof jackets have come a very long way in the last few years. Advances in fabrics and production techniques have made waterproof jackets lighter, less bulky and more breathable whilst retaining their water repellent properties. Keeping the elements out and not cooking you or soaking you in sweat in the process is what makes a good waterproof stand out. Combined with the right layers underneath, a good waterproof will help you remain warm and dry throughout your ride.
We like: Altura Pocket Rocket –lightweight, takes up no space and keeps all but the heaviest of rain out.
6. Base layer
A good base layer can make all the difference to your comfort on a cold day. Wicking moisture away from the body even on a cold day will make you feel less clammy under layers. Go for a long sleeve for an extra layer on the arms.
We like: Castelli Flanders long sleeve base layer– well made and superb wicking capabilities
No one likes to see exposed legs during the winter; it may be ok for runners but not cyclists. Covering the legs will keep you warmer, your knees will thank you for it, and no one has ever complained of being too warm in tights on a cold day so don’t worry about overheating or feeling restricted. Bib tights keep the lower back and tummy warm as well and also prevent tights from slipping down. Available with or without padded insert, a pair of tights will keep you warmer, and drier depending on fabric, and most usually have some reflective strips making you more visible.
We like: Castelli Sorpasso Bibtight – excellent quality, good insert and a nice touch of colour on the legs
8. Long fingered gloves
Talking extremities again but keeping hands warm and dry will keep you out longer. Cold hands are not uncomfortable but can be dangerous as braking becomes a problem. Spend as much as you can on gloves and you won’t be disappointed. There is a huge range of gloves available to suit all budgets so whether it’s to keep you warm or dry, preferably both, there is no excuse for not having long fingered gloves on. If you really feel the cold then a simple thin liner glove can make a difference without much bulk or expense.
We like: Sealskinz All Weather Gloves – 100% waterproof, breathable and windproof with padding on the palm and silicon grips on fingers
It goes without saying that a hat of some sort will keep your head warm. Whether you wear a helmet or not there’s a hat to suit your needs. Basic woolly beanies and toggle hats are fine for those who prefer not to wear helmets but they are usually too bulky to wear under helmets. Cotton caps are an inexpensive way of keeping your head warm under a helmet and the peak does a great job of keeping low sun and rain from your eyes but can be too thin when it gets colder. For colder days a specific under helmet hat works best as they are quite thin but made with thermal and wind repellent fabrics which keep you warm and dry without overheating or being bulky.
We like: Shimano Windstopper Under Helmet cap – lightweight yet wind and waterproof and sits nicely under helmets without the bulk
10. Thicker tyres
It’s surprising the difference a thinker tyre can make, even moving up 2mm can make a bike feel totally different. Road buzz is greatly reduced and comfort can increase dramatically making longer roads more enjoyable. Thicker winter tyres also tend to be tougher with thicker tread and stronger sidewalls reducing the chances of puncturing; believe us there’s nothing worse than trying to fix a flat in the cold and dark. Winter roads tend to carry more debris and the dreaded pothole menace can ruin wheels and tyres instantly so having a bit more protection with thicker tyres can help protect against impacts and pinch flats. Granted, thicker tyres may offer more rolling resistance but this is winter we’re talking about so comfort is key and anyway you’ll appreciate the difference when you go back to skinny tyres in the better weather!
We like: Schwalbe Durano Plus – hardwearing and one of the best puncture protection casings out there
So there are our Top Ten Essential Winter Accessories. If you have any suggestions of items that you think we’ve missed, let us know below.