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24th September 2020 / Comments (4)

How do you get ready for winter?

Winter gravel cycling
The autumn equinox has been and gone and the leaves are starting to turn. It might be time to say goodbye to the dusty, dry trails of summer, but what does that mean for winter riding? We asked you how you prepare, physically and mentally for riding in the winter months. 

A change of tread

WTB SG2 New Tyre Casing

The WTB Nano is a great choice for a mid-width (40mm) gravel tyre for the winter

“I’ve changed my tyres so the mud won’t stop me, from WTB Riddlers to a WTB Nanos, and set them up tubeless too,” says Claire Sharpe, “Last night I definitely felt the difference in the rain!”

Switching out your rubber for a more aggressive tread (aka more, deeper knobs) can make a huge difference when it comes to winter slop. Rather that sliding about all over the place, attack muddy sections with confidence.

If you’ve been riding all summer too, your tyres might be a little worn and more prone to punctures, as well as sealant drying up, so adopting a fresh set of tyres and new tubeless set up for the changing seasons can be a good way of keeping on top of it. A little time in the home workshop or at the bike shop in the dry will hopefully mean a lot less time at the side of the trail trying to fix issues in the filth and rain later!

Tog up

Natt Williams in Iceland

When it comes to super cold weather, little beats a down jacket! Photo credit: Natt Williams

Keeping warm and dry are priorities for most of us. Whether that means digging out the box of winter kit from under the bed/the attic/the depths of the garage, or checking out new clothing in the shops or online, knowing that you’ll have the right kit for the conditions can make a huge difference.

“I use [the changing seasons] as an excuse to buy new kit to keep me motivated, and then think ‘I’ve spent all this money on new kit, I better go out in the crap weather’,” admits David Hicks.

Cold, wet hands and feet have always been the biggest barrier for Daniel Williams, “I’ve not had much luck with the usual suspects in the glove department so splashed out on some Dissent 133 gloves back in July after some recommendations. Looking forward to trying them out properly.”

Mountain biking trousers for gravel riding were the revelation of the 2019/20 winter for editor Katherine Moore, with thicker, splash-proof material compared to bib tights keeping her warmer and drier through many muddy puddles!

We’ve got some cold and wet weather kit lined up for review here at ADVNTR, from some new baselayers to winter boots. If there’s anything you’d like to see reviewed or learn more about, as always, just let us know.

Gear up 

Dynamo winter gravel riding

A dynamo set up can make a huge difference to how easy it is to get out there in the dark or low light. Photo: Josh Meyland

Just like clothing, some of us enjoy the fresh challenge of another winter to tinker with bike set up and equipment. “Although I am the proud owner of some Exposure lights, I have just purchased myself a dynamo hub and plan follow Roger Musson’s book to build myself a dynamo front wheel and light setup,” says Sam Davidson. Besides the project, a dynamo set up can make a huge difference through the darker months. No more forgetting to charge or pack lights, and Josh Meyland concurs, “Having had one for the last three years, with a Dynamo light set  setup on my winter bike, being able to just jump on my bike without having to worry about charging lights is a godsend.”

David Hicks digs the shoe drier out every winter, which is a must if you live in the Scottish Borders!

Other adaptations might be less hi-tech, but equally genius. “Given my commute starts at 6.30 in the morning, I spend a lot of time riding in the cold(er) and dark(er) bits of the day. My favourite winter addition is an insulated water bottle full of warm tea. It’s like being on a perpetual audax,” cyclo-cross racer Leon Gierat reveals, “It fits well in my bottle cage and keeps coffee drinkably warm for a couple of hours.”

Changing disciplines

Winter gravel cycling

Beth Hodge descending Snowdon’s Rangers Path on New Year’s Eve. During the winter months the access on Wales’ highest peak is opened up to mountain bikers during the day, but you’ll need to be ready for a bike hike!

Perhaps for you, winter is the time to put the gravel bike into hibernation and pick up different disciplines instead? “I’ll usually take the fixie out to Clevedon and back because it’s easier to clean,” admits Daniel Williams.

Other riders like Dylan Lang choose more off-road rides, “I tend to ride off road a lot more in winter, on the MTB or CX bike. The MTB has Mudhugger guards, or I’ll choose the CX bike if it’s not a complete slop fest, or stick to gravel or less used trails.”

Mountain biking is a great way to progress your technical bike handling skills, and you’ll often find that trail centres are designed to be ridden year-round. On the other hand, road riding can be a great way of building or maintaining fitness during the colder months. Some riders might even leave the bike altogether until the next season and take up other sports or hobbies, or invest in an indoor training set-up.

Mudguards

Winter gravel cycling

Mudguards for gravel bikes range from simple clip-on designs to full, fixed guards

They may have somehow earned some sort of stigma in some road cycling circles, but mudguards can revolutionise your winter cycling. Keeping excess muck and water away from your face, ass and drivetrain, these can not only keep you feeling more comfortable, but also prolong the life of your components. Oh, and your friends behind you will thank you too.

There’s quite a few new mudguards on the market now, from minimal clip-on guard like these Gravelhuggers to fixed mudguards such as Kinesis’ Wide Fend-Off guards, SKS Speedrockers or Veloorange fenders.

It’s worth remembering though, that if you’re planning on riding in really muddy conditions, some mudgards can clog up, which will be really annoying at best, or catastrophic for the guards at worst!

Sharing the ride with friends

Winter gravel cycling

The Woods Cyclery’s Sunday cinnamon bun ride, photo by co-owner Tom Farrell

There’s nothing quite like togging up for the cold when you know there’s plenty of like-minded riders to join you. This winter might be a bit different in terms of larger group gatherings, but hopefully smaller social rides will still give many the motivation they need to get out there. 

“I plan rides with the slightly more insane riding friends who you know won’t bail if it looks a bit dodgy,” says David Hicks, “I might be the slightly insane person who will go out whatever and then find that people will do an actual ‘rain-check’. As in, I’ve checked outside, it’s raining, I’m bailing!”

Social events like cyclocross (once you get over the lung-bursting effort) can be a great way to regularly ride with others during the winter, or even if you just ride there to pit for a friend or simply cheering on.

Bikepacking

Winter gravel cycling

Winter bikepacking is no joke, but can be really rewarding when it goes well.

You don’t need to let the weather and dark nights (and sometimes days) stop you from getting out and exploring. Sure, you might want to reel back your expectations in terms of distance or duration to accommodate the weather and trail conditions, but you can still enjoy getting an overnighter or bikepacking tour in over the winter months. 

Unfortunately, winter kit like sleeping bags tend to be a lot more expensive. Camping out in really grim conditions can sometimes be less than fun. Why not ride to a bunkhouse, hostel, B&B or hotel so you can still enjoy your adventures, but with a proper night’s sleep? There’s no shame in comfort and leaving the camping until the better weather. It also means that you’ll need to carry less on your tour, which can make the riding a bit more fun too.

A change of perspective

Winter gravel cycling

A very chilly February morning in the Peak District next to Derwentwater. Photo by Luke Douglas from Outdoor Provisions

Sometimes it’s mental preparation that’s key to riding through the winter months, in fact some riders even prefer it! “It might be odd, but I love winter riding. I get my winter gear on and headphones and set off and get the miles under my belt. The changing of the seasons is better for me as I can train harder,” reveals Jason Selby. He’s not the only one, either, “I love the challenge of getting my clothes right and riding through everything. It’s me vs nature,” agreed Simon Hill.

Photographer Dan Monaghan is among the pro-winter crowd, “I really like this time of year, it feels more raw. I feel more connected to nature riding off road in autumn and winter. It’s a pain to rethink tyre choice for mud plugging, and layering up, plus I get sick of washing muddy clothes and drying shoes, but it’s often the time when everyone else starts to hibernate, and I can still get out. I’m thinking about frosty mornings when the road is icy, I’m off on trails. You have to accept that the big rides may not happen, but it’s a chance to explore locally, plus the coffee stops feel more earned! You also can’t beat tin foil or bag wrapped feet inside your shoes!”

This little quip about PMA from Simon Reid sums it up perfectly.

Cycling in the dark can be lovely.
Nice and fresh when its cold.
Refreshing when it’s raining.
Invigorating when it’s windy.
Much better than staying in all day.
But blimming awful when you get all 4 at the same time.

How do you get ready for winter riding? Let us know in the comments!

Last modified: 8th October 2020

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John Bronze
John Bronze
27 days ago

I’m just discovering the joys of a down jacket. Warm, windproof and water repellent.Yes, I’ve had them for years but never thought about using them on the bike. Need to get away from thinking we are professional road racers and embrace the non aero, functional clothing, from other outdoor sports.
Anyway, thin down jacket, layered underneath with increasingly warmer merino base layers as it gets colder. Just zip up, zip down as conditions change. Add a Buff for ultimate climate control!

Katherine Moore
Admin
27 days ago
Reply to  John Bronze

Agreed, there are loads of clothes from other sports that come in really handy, especially from hiking, like trousers and waterproof jackets. Down jackets are super warm, of course depending on synthetic vs down and fill rating. A great bit of kit that I *always* carry on bikepacking trips (no matter the season) for instant warmth or even wear on the very coldest of days!

Keith
Keith
25 days ago
Reply to  John Bronze

I agree. I now wear padded shorts or bib shorts and SPD shoes. The rest comes from my walking wardrobe – light fleece, gillet, waterproof jacket with pit zips, base layers etc.

This also keeps the cost down if you already have the walking / climbing etc. kit.

I just ‘need’ to invest in some warm tights – this cold snap has caught me off guard!

Last edited 25 days ago by Keith
Katherine Moore
Admin
25 days ago
Reply to  Keith

It came round quick, didn’t it?!

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