We are now over half way through the UK Winter, come on, we can do it… Whilst generally its been another miserable wet off-season, there could be snow and ice on its way… So let’s get prepared, the right kit for freezing conditions can make all the difference…
Riding in a Winter Wonderland
As the chilly season kicks in and temperatures are hovering around zero degrees C, it’s time to winterize your ride gear. While autumn can be ridden through in thinner tights, jackets and long-fingered gloves, winter needs to be shown more respect. Extra hard-core kit is required, with sub-zero temperatures demanding even more insulating clothing. Whether you go for chic Italian winter style from Castelli or functional warmth from our own Merlin winter clothing, winter rides are far more enjoyable wearing the right kit.
A quality neck tube / warmer is a low-cost cold weather essential. A nice stretchy one can be pulled up to cover half of your face, brilliant for those unexpected snow or hail showers! Check out the Merlin Core Neck Tube
Warm waterproof overshoes are definitely worth investing in. Feet are particularly prone to getting cold and wet, they are in the direct line of road spray from the front wheel, unless you have a decent front mudguard flap. Waterproof winter socks will also make riding much more pleasant. TOPTIP: Clingfilm or freezer bags and gaffa tape can keep your feet drier and warmer if you misplace your overshoes, but don’t want to miss a winter ride. You won’t win any style awards though.
Either a warm jacket, together with a waterproof cape in your back pocket, or a waterproof jacket is vital. This should help you be prepared for the worst the winter can throw at you. A decent quality winter jacket should last, providing it’s looked after. TOPTIP: If you get caught out without a cape / waterproof jacket when the rain starts while you are sat in the cafe – borrow an empty black bin-bag and force a couple of holes into it for your arms, yes I know – hardly designer, but it will do the job if needs must. You can then sit-on the back all the way home, saying you feel rubbish… Check out the Merlin Sport Thermal jacket, perfect for winter and great with a waterproof cape over the top when the rain and snow comes.
Winter tights are warmer than regular tights, some are made from thermal wind block material and some are water-repellent. Get the best quality tights you can and look after them, they will last. TOPTIP: Wearing shorts with a seat pad, under your also padded winter tights will give more comfort for long winter rides. Dropping your saddle by a few millimetres, to compensate for the extra pad, is a small price to pay for a happier ‘under-carraige’.
Under helmet skull caps which cover ears are vital. Ears get cold flapping around out in the chilly airflow and can be prone to ear ache with the severe cold. When descending in near zero degree temperatures; Zero degrees at 40mph equates to a wind-chill of around minus 10. The Merlin Core Skull Cap provides a good fit, windproof front section and essentially covers ears.
Warm and breathable base layers are key to cold ride comfort. Merino undervests are a bit more expensive than polyester ones but they feel more luxurious and keep you comfortable despite the cold. TOPTIP: Take a spare vest if you are planning a winter café stop. Avoid winter chills by changing into your spare vest as soon as you get to the café.
For those really, really cold days, (those when you are in two minds to set foot out of the door) get some reusable gel hand warmers. Simply boil the warmers in water before your ride and pop them in your back pocket. Activate the hand warmer by clicking the metal disc in the gel, ideally when you are having your bleakest moments on a mid-winter ride. Marvel at the hot, hot, heat – it will defrost your fingers and feel like they are on a Caribbean island. The science behind these little wonders is a bit long-winded. Suffice to say, they contain chemicals (including sodium acetate) and some kind of reaction happens. They get really warm quite quickly, enough to motivate you enough to get home for a hot shower.
Winter gloves do a great job when the temperature drops below freezing. Bulkier gloves can make gear changes slightly trickier and easier to fluff, but who cares when your fingers are warm! TOPTIP: For really cold days, double-up your gloves, use a thin pair of thermal gloves inside big warm outer gloves. Stop and remove a pair if your hands get too warm.
So get wrapped up in proper winter kit and enjoy the worst of the winter – Get Lost Jack Frost…