We spoke with prolific cyclist and fitness blogger Lisa Thake about how to make winter cycling more comfortable, enjoyable and safe so that you don't have to take all of your rides indoors and can still enjoy cycling in the beautiful outdoors, whatever the weather.
It looks as though the colder weather is here for another couple of months, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop cycling outside. They say, "There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing choices" and this is very true, along with some other changes you can make. Here are my top 5 winter cycling tips.
Dress In Layers
Depending on temperature and personal preference, you can start with items that can be added and removed very easily such as arm warmers, leg warmers and a cycling gilet. Even some waterproof jackets can be stored away small enough to tuck into a jersey pocket if necessary. I personally opt to change from bib shorts to bib tights in winter so I do not need leg warmers.
You'll also want a good thermal cycling jacket that is breathable and temperature regulating so that you can stay warm without overheating. Base layers are all too often overlooked and with good wicking material, even if damp from sweat or rain, will retain the properties that keep you warm.
I opt for clothing that is also water-resistant to ensure I stay warm but that if I am also caught out in bad weather, the rain will simply run off. Swapping to full finger winter gloves to ensure your hands stay warm is essential and I also opt for glove liners with mine as some winter gloves can get sweaty inside.
Toe covers or cycling overshoes, again those where water beads off, will help maintain your cycling shoes and ensure your feet stay warm. Very often, if your feet are cold, the rest of you can feel cold too. I always cover my ears as they are often the first place where I really feel the cold – you can use a wide headband for this or a thermal under-helmet skull hat, both of which do the job well. Lastly, the humble buff – such a versatile item that can be used in multiple ways. I mostly use mine as a neck warmer but during events I have done through the night where the temperature drops, I have pulled it up over my head and neck for more coverage. Whilst not technically kit, I also swap my glasses and on some you may be able to change lenses too – a yellow lens is great for low light or overcast conditions and clear are perfect for night riding.
Invest In Bicycle Lights
It's surprising how dark it is early in the morning and how quickly it gets dark in the evening, so good bicycle lights are key. There are many lights on the market to choose from; I recently got a light from Bontrager and although the price tag is quite high, it is really bright and the battery is long-lasting. As I commute and take part in events that go through the night, good front and rear lights are a wise investment. When commuting, I add extra lights for added visibility. I know many people who also recommend lights from CatEye and Lezyne.
Go High Vis
Following on from lights, being safe and seen is very important and reflective fabrics or accents to clothing and bags are great as an extra safety measure to ensure visibility on the road and cycle paths.
Choose The Right Bike Tyres
There are a lot of different opinions on this, but it stands to reason to choose tyres appropriate for the weather. The fact is that the wet washes more flint, stones and everything else on the road and this causes punctures. I usually ride Continental 4 Seasons all year round and find them great. My new bike came with S-Works tyres and whilst I have put in some decent mileage, they recently needed replacing and, on recommendation, I have swapped to Continental 5000, which also had a very positive review on Cycling Weekly.
If you are fortunate enough to have different summer and winter bikes, you will find this time of year is when you check the forecast and make a judgement as to which bike you want to be using and over the coming months it is more than likely the summer bike will be hung up for a while. You may also opt to ride with an additional spare tube and gas canister as there is unfortunately an increase in punctures during winter months.
Happy winter cycling!
Many people have heard of SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – which refers to the low mood often experienced in winter. Short days, lack of sunlight, and a temptation to eat more 'comfort' food can all contribute to feeling low. But is it actually making us ill? And is taking a Vitamin D supplement the answer? We take a look.
Why do people get more ill in winter?
Do you feel like you're constantly ill over the winter? Coughs, colds, and even the flu make the rounds every year and it can really get you down if it feels like it's constant. But why do we get more ill in winter? There are several factors that cause it but there are also easy ways to combat it.
Drinking less water
If you're someone who regularly drinks plenty of water, it can be hard to believe that some people never drink plain water and exist solely on soft drinks, juices, teas, coffees, or just the water their body gets from food.
In summer, the heat causes people to drink more water because it makes them sweat and makes them feel thirsty. However, in winter it can be easy to 'forget' to drink enough water due to not sweating and feeling cold. Your body needs water to stay healthy and as such, a reduced water intake in the winter could be the reason you are always falling ill and catching colds.
Eating more junk food
It's no secret that the majority of us eat a lot more junk food in winter. Comfort food as it's often called helps us feel warm and comfortable in the dark evenings and something like a salad can be very unappealing in winter. However, surviving solely on junk food can mean reduced intake of vital nutrients and as such your immune system will suffer and you'll fall ill more easily.
Lack of sunlight
Vitamin D is an important vitamin that helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body and a Vitamin D deficiency can lead to weak bones and even deformities. In the summer months, we get all the Vitamin D we need from sunlight as our body is able to create this vitamin when we have sunlight on our skin. However, in winter it is pretty much impossible to get your daily intake of Vitamin D. You can supplement your intake with certain foods such as oily fish, red meat, and eggs, however it can be a good idea to take a Vitamin D supplement.
Why you should be taking a Vitamin D supplement
During the autumn and winter, you need to get Vitamin D from your diet because the sun isn't strong enough for the body to make Vitamin D. But since it's difficult for people to get enough Vitamin D from food alone, everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of Vitamin D during the autumn and winter.
Between late March/early April to the end of September, most people can get all the Vitamin D they need through sunlight on their skin and from a balanced diet. You may choose not to take a Vitamin D supplement during these months, however if you do take one you may well find that you get ill less frequently (if at all) and that your mood is greatly improved.
As winter draws in, it's important to make sure you take care of your bike so that it can stay well maintained and won't break down. Follow our tips to maintain your bike over the winter so that it is ready to ride for the next race season.
Store your bike indoors
If you can, storing your bike indoors could save you a lot of hassle and help your bike last longer. Of course, not everyone has the luxury of being able to store a bike in a garage or shed and you may need to find some more creative ways to store your bike indoors. There are many products available such as racks and hooks for you to store your bike in an apartment or smaller space.
Storing your bike indoors will protect it from the elements including damp and cold and will slow the negative effects of bad weather and cold on the mechanisms and frame.
Keep your bike clean
Any good cyclist will be keeping their bike clean anyway, but keeping up dutiful maintenance will really help prolong the life of your bike over the winter.
Do the majority of your riding on an indoor trainer
This will be an unpopular one for many, but sometimes conditions simply do not allow for outdoor riding. Weather conditions in recent years have seen regular storms, hurricanes, and snow so doing the majority of your riding indoors on a trainer will not only help your bike last longer but you too!
When it’s minus five and pitch-black outside, the last thing that most of us want to do is bounce out of bed, bundle up and begin bounding down the frosty pavements on an early morning jog. But don’t worry, there are plenty of tips and tricks for getting in those steps and raising your heart rate, even when time gets tight and temperatures drop approaching the festive season.
Get into a realistic routine
It’s no good telling yourself that tomorrow morning you’re going to transform into the type of person who enjoys that 6am spin class, or vice versa finds a burst of energy after work to smash out that weights session at the gym, if you know it’s simply not realistic for you. Instead, work with your existing habits and find creative ways to fit in your daily exercise.
You could go to that lunchtime yoga session you’ve always fancied, get off the tube/train/tram one stop early and walk the rest of the way, or even take your lunch to go and take a long walk during your break. Or, if the only time you really can carve out is early in the morning or late in the evening, keep your motivation high by giving yourself a reward (like buying your favourite gingerbread latte on the way to the office), and reminding yourself what your end goal is.
Find something you love
It’s easier to get yourself out of the house and battle through the wind and rain if you’re excited about what you’re going to do. If you’re not into running, try cycling or HIIT workouts. Want something less strenuous? Give your local swimming pool or Pilates studio a visit. If you feel like you need to mix things up a bit then even give dance classes a go, or find out what an aerial silks class actually is (please report back tysm). You’ll only find out what exercise you love by trying everything at least once, so get outside your comfort zone!
Wear the right gear
When temperatures plummet, it’s important to keep warm and dry when you exercise outside. It can be tempting to head out on a frosty bike ride bundled up like the Michelin man, but instead, try to choose your winter training gear tactically to optimise your performance. Layering up rather than wearing one heavy hoodie or jacket will ensure you can regulate your temperature during every stage of exercise. It’s much more appealing to venture outside if you know you won’t get too cold or overheat half way through your session.
Refuel and recharge
If you’re making an effort to be active this winter, then it’s really important to fuel your body properly. Eating plenty of slow release carbs, protein (there are some great plant-based sources!) and healthy fats will keep your body running smoothly while you’re running around this December!
Time saving recipes hacks will also help you get those five extra minutes in bed before work in the morning, and we all know that a decent night’s sleep is vital. Getting enough Zs helps your body repair after exercise, and ensures you have enough energy to tackle your trip to the gym as well as your trip to the shops to buy those last minute presents (both equally as exhausting!).
Don’t be too hard on yourself
At the end of the day, this time of year is all about enjoying yourself, so don’t feel guilty for having that extra mince pie, skipping your 5k for a shopping spree, or spending the day curled up on the sofa after the office Christmas party. Balance is important in sustaining a healthy lifestyle, so I hope that these tips help you keep active whilst still enjoying all of the winter wonders this year.
About the author: Natalie Metcalf is in charge of Marketing & Social Media at LoveRaw. Natalie has a passion for creating kick-ass content and can be found practising her yoga poses as she updates the LoveRaw Instagram feed.
It's important to warm up at the best of times, but particularly in winter we need to get our cold muscles ready to work so that we don't get injured. Triathlete and Sundried ambassador Simon Turner shares his tips for warming up thoroughly as well as some warm up exercises you can add into your outdoor training routine.
Winter Outdoor Training Warm Up
During the winter, especially on cold mornings, extra attention is required towards the muscle groups you will be working throughout your session. It can feel like extra effort to do an extended warm up, but discipline is required to prevent injury. A few extra minutes warming up could potentially save you weeks out with a pulled muscle or worse.
Firstly, I check mobility of all limbs and joints by doing a quick rotation forward and backwards. This is to ensure I don’t have any minor niggles prior to training.
A slow progressive warm up follows which can include running on the spot as well as dynamic exercises in which you go further into the exercise, for example squatting to half depth, then three quarters depth, then full depth. This is all designed to fire up the muscles and raise your heart rate ready to train or run.
Once that’s done, I go into a steady jog; nothing fast as this is to continue to raise my heart rate and to control my breathing. I continue this for 5-7 minutes and then I do 5 sets of striders (running strides). These are short sprints done before a workout or run to wake up the body and get it ready for the intensity of the session to come.
All in all, this warm up takes around 20 minutes and by the end I feel pumped and ready to begin my session, whether that's strength, running, or cycling.