The complete guide to riding in wintry conditions
The UK has been hit with its first really cold spell of the winter, even coating London with a lingering layer of snow.
Though most of the snow has now thawed, there's a great deal of ice sitting around and with the mercury still hovering around zero degrees, the road conditions are a little sketchy.
There is a line in road cycling beyond which it is frankly unwise to venture out of doors, but with the right skillset, you'll find that our country's weather will rarely exceed your abilities.
Let's start at the very beginning. Rain is of course not exclusive to winter and as such, we Brits are fairly well versed with what we should do and how we should treat our bikes when the heavens open. Rain should never stop play, especially if you are well prepared with mudguards and spares in the event of a more likely puncture. Bear in mind that rain combined with freezing conditions can result in slippery surfaces - so take greater care at this time of year.
Wind is another weather feature that we are treated to all year round, but together with winter chill, wind can be a cruel conspirator. Without adequate preparation and a mindful approach to riding, a strong stinging wind can be a cyclist's worst enemy. For starters, a windproof gilet or jacket are a vital addition to your wardrobe. Out on the road, you'll need to maintain a higher level of concentration than normal and look out for gaps in the hedgerow or between buildings when battling a crosswind, especially on busy roads.
We probably all know a handful of cyclists who rarely, if ever, don a pair of bib-tights and venture out into the cold, preferring instead to keep sweating it out on the indoor trainer. However, cold temperatures needn't compromise enjoyment and with the right clothes, winter rides can be the most epic of the year. Wrap up warm in a merino neck warmer, skull cap and gloves, and crack on!
Skinny tyres and icy roads are not a marriage made in heaven. Slippery conditions demand some pretty decent bike handling skills in order to stay upright. Maintaining five contact points - feet, hands and backside - on the bike at all times is a good start. It's also important to keep arms and upper body relaxed which will improve reaction time if the bike begins to slide.
Snow takes us very close to the line indicated above. Snow itself can be slippery, while the days- old slushy variety can conceal ice and any number of evil fragments of grit, dirt and potholes. If you're going to brave the elements in the depths of winter, you're certainly going to need a strong and resistant set of tyres like the ever-resilient Continental Gatorhardshell Duraskin tyre. There's nothing worse than having to repair a puncture with frozen fingers on the roadside. As above, bike handling is something that can always be worked on to make the experience of riding in wintry conditions as safe and confident as possible.
2017 may be drawing to a close but winter is just getting started. If you can nail your winter riding skills, this season will be your best yet. Be safe, wrap up warm and happy riding!
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