Winter riding is great. That is a simple fact. Riding during winter and particularly commuting to work will have people thinking you are Rambo. People will think you are crazy, but they will also begrudgingly admire you. The secret is that although people believe it is hard, it really is not but it is a whole load of fun. Preparation for winter cycling is the key, if you ride in a pair of jeans, beanie and a Primark jacket, of course, it will be terrible, but by picking up a few pieces and perhaps even a new bike (any excuse) you can sail through winter.
There is nothing better than a freak snowstorm and the streets are gridlocked with wheel spinning BMWs and you can just pick your way past them on a bike. Skids can throw up great plumes of smoke-like snow, you can look back and see the route you carved through the snow. You don't overheat cycling up a climb in the lightest of clothing like in summer, now you can be guided by the ghostly trails of your own breath.
Sadly you won't have loads of snow to deal with in the UK, mostly it will be grey, wet and look a bit bleak. But you can change this look by being a blur of colour through the landscape, you can enliven every winter scene merely by pedalling through it. Then when next spring comes you will also be fitter, happier and have a better grasp of bike handling skills. You will be rewarded every day by the looks of your co-workers as they think you should have driven in but you've proven them wrong. You'll be fitter and healthier than them, that office cold will be less likely to inflict you. You will also arrive at work warmer than those who walked/drove in, cycling is awesomely rewarding that way.
A good priority would be lights, you might think you don’t need them as your not riding early morning or late evening but at this time of the year we have a lot of flat light a sun sitting low on the horizon. Both of these conditions make it hard for drivers to see you, most people have experienced that moment where they come round a bend and go blind for a second, so stand out as much as possible. So a good rear light is essential for keeping you from being run over.
The front light is also highly important, a lot of accidents happen at junctions when cars pull out having not seen a cyclist, a good front light will prevent this. A good idea is not to go for the brightest as they will also blind drivers and cause problems, the bright settings are for when you are riding through unlit areas and not for a nice urban sortie, common sense will keep everyone happy.
Now that you can be seen we should maybe have a look at ideas for making sure you are comfortable whilst on the bike. Mudguards on a bike are a great idea and a set of full guards can prevent parts of your bike from seizing due to rain and grit. The problem is that on a lot of bikes they are just not aesthetically pleasing, since cycling is also about how you feel as much as about exercise and getting from A to B, you may not want to run them and I fully back that decision.
So you have all your sleek lines taken care of and it's a nice sunny morning when you leave for a meander through town or to get to work. Then the Great British weather strikes and things go downhill rapidly and now it's bucketing down. Well, it's just as well you own an Aste Emergency Fender, currently tucked away in your bag, pocket or in a drawer beside those forgotten pens and staples. The fender will quickly and easily attach to your bike and save you from the dreaded soggy bottom, nothing ruins your mood faster than a soggy bottom. So it is just as well the Aste is a nice simple cure for it. Without a soggy bottom, you will ride further and more importantly enjoy the ride.
What about when the rain is just falling from the sky but you have to look stylish when you arrive at work, the pub or more importantly the supermarket. What about an Urban Poncho? The great thing about a poncho is that your street wear will stay nice and dry underneath. You can either take it off and fold it away when you arrive or you can use it as the start to a superhero costume, as remember you have just ridden through some wintry conditions and people will think you are a hero, so it is always better to reinforce that idea.
If like myself you are follicly challenged a nice addition to your ensemble during winter is a head warmer or some form of cap. There is nothing worse than cruising through town first thing in the morning, as the sun comes up and the temperature drops another few degrees, and you can't enjoy the fantastic view as your head is frozen. It overcomes all your thoughts and all you can now think of is how you have an ice cream headache without the actual joy of eating ice cream. It also becomes hard to concentrate and traffic lights become even more of a mortal foe to your timekeeping, all this can be averted for a pocket money type of price.
Like many people living in an urban environment I have an apartment and as such have limited storage options for my bike(s), I don't have a garage and I certainly don't have a lovely garden shed, being 10 floors up I don't think it is feasible for myself to have a garden shed just outside either. I also have to live with other people, my other half would kill me for dragging dirty tyres and a bike with a dripping wet drive train through the house and then to just leave it sitting there slowly dripping onto the floor. I think also a judge and jury would side with her in the inevitable court case, as such I use the Velo Sock for my slightly street-soiled steed when I return. I particularly like the Cinco de Mayo inspired skulls one, ensuring that every day is Halloween, the greatest of all celebrations.
Now that we have looked at accessories, it may be time to look at a new bike, because it is always time to look at a new bike. At this time of year, many people look at cyclocross bikes, this is because cyclocross bikes are awesome for this time of year. Cross bikes are a great choice not just for muddy fields in Belgium but also for commuting, adventures and generally just going for a ride.
They will have wider tyres than their road brethren, which is great for the UK's road network as wider tyres will add a bit more cushion to your ride. Some will have full guard mounts, so you can fit guards and stay dry for longer on the bike, a nice front guard will also keep your toes dry. Some will have discs. Discs are great as you will save wear on your wheel rims, the UK winter and salt is horrible to wheel rims and discs mean you can have full stopping power regardless of the conditions. They also don't mind if you take a short cut down a canal towpath or even a nice set of stairs, these bikes are just built a little bit more burly.
The single speed versions are just simplicity in themselves and you won't have all the drivetrain wear issues that you will have a geared bike during winter, you can forget to clean it for longer and it'll still come back asking for more, and let's face it who wants to clean their bike right after a ride home from work? Cyclocross bikes are also compatible with Belgian blonde ale, the ultimate post-ride recovery drink.
The ultimate winter bike, however, has to be a fat bike. Fat bikes just never lose grip, I have tried hard to make one crash from losing grip and it just seems impossible. They will also roll over kerbs, potholes and cars, you won't even notice. Take it to the beach, snow covered mountains, peat bogs, Shoreditch, muddy woods it will just ride everywhere and anywhere. Those days where the ice is thick and everywhere, you can now glide effortlessly over the top, you are not going to slip or fall, just keep going past all the others who are lying like skittles on the path.
In a move, I don't recommend, you can even drink a coffee and let the bike roll over everything in its path, it'll be far more comfortable than your local Costa. Fat bikes were seen as a fad but I tell you they are here to stay and make a great commuter. I t will also pay itself back in memories, especially that you overtake a lycra-clad roadie going uphill, I've done it and so can you. going to
As you can see then winter riding is just a frame of mind. It's not that hard with the right gear and people will think you are crazy/hard as nails/a form of god, and with those combinations what do you have to lose but sitting on a sofa watching Celebrity Monkey Wrestling, go ride, be rad and enjoy the winter.