So, the leaves are falling from the trees, the temperature has dropped and the days are getting shorter - it can only mean one thing, winter is coming! Thankfully for most of us that doesn't mean that the White Walkers are on their way but rather more just time to re-aquaint ourselves with the winter bike or your pain cave (aka indoor training setup) or both...ideally both.
This short blog is designed to offer up a few pointers and considerations as we head into this different phase of riding and training depending on your goals. For some its the off-season, for others it's full on cyclocross race season, for other its just cycling in different weather conditions. But whatever it is for you there are some things you should be thinking about.
If you choose to continue to brave the weather and ride outdoors then you'll need to think about your kit and perhaps you are also switching to a winter bike if you have the luxury of being able to pack away your pride and joy for the winter months.
1 - Layering - This is the best way to be able to regulate your temperature during longer outdoor rides in changeable conditions. Autumn rides can start notoriously cold and then warm up leaving you a sweaty mess half way into your ride. Arm warmers, leg warmers, and wind blocking gilets are some of the most versatile pieces of kit for the changing seasons and can also extend the range of the kit you already have which may save you shelling out for more winter kit.
2 - Be Seen, Be Safe - Look for kit choices that incorporate reflective patches or panels on both your top and bottom half. It has been shown that moving reflectives are more visible to drivers so having reflective elements on your bib tights or shoes is invaluable. In addition to improving your visibility through your kit you should ensure you have bright lights that serve the areas that you tend to ride in whether that be country lanes or suburban areas with street lighting.
3 - Protect your Extremities - Your hands and feet don't get to do all that much when you are riding and as such they are the first areas that will really start to feel the bite of the cold. Ensuring you have some thicker shoe covers and some layering options for gloves will ensure you are able to safely operate the gears and brakes during your ride.
If you are switching to a winter bike then the first thing is to make sure it is in good working order. Either take it to your local bike shop to get a full service or if you are a confident and competent home mechanic give the bike a full once over. Pay special attention to brake pads and rotors (if using discs), gear shifting, chain condition (use a chain wear tool to see it has not stretched), tyre condition, and check the steering is turning smoothly and so too the cranks.
Next up you will need to consider your bike fit. It may be six months or more since you rode your winter bike and your body will have adapted to your summer bike or your fitness, flexibility, or strength may well have changed through the summer. As such, getting your bike fit reviewed prior to piling in the miles on the winter rig is sensible.