7 winter riding mistakes all cyclists should avoid

Manon and Conor show you how to avoid common mistakes cyclists make when riding in the cold, so you can focus on enjoying your winter ride

Clock17:01, Wednesday 10th January 2024

Winter riding is a bit of a cycling speciality in its own right. There are so many considerations that just wouldn't normally come into play during the spring and summer months.

So it's perhaps not surprising that we all make mistakes every now and again - especially when heading out in colder conditions for the first time. The cruel thing about winter is that it is the one time of the year when being caught out on the roadside can be an issue all on its own. By taking a look at the list below, hopefully we can save you from falling foul of these common mistakes and help you to actually enjoy riding in the winter.

1. Underdressing

One of the worst things you can do when heading out for a winter ride is not taking enough layers with you to keep warm. Although we aren’t saying you need a degree in meteorology, taking an active interest in the forecast for your ride will save you from slowly shivering your way home.

As well as layering up with some typical warm riding kit, taking a windproof jacket or a waterproof layer will keep you comfortable no matter what the weather throws your way. In the winter it is always better to take more layers than you need and adjust your clothing accordingly throughout the ride.

2. Overdressing

At the other end of the spectrum is overdressing. Although you should take more layers than you potentially need for the ride it is always best to stop to take layers off as you warm up throughout the ride, particularly on climbs.

If you ride with too many layers on you'll likely start to overheat and become sweaty. This does mean that as you cool down on a descent or pause for a mechanical you will cool considerably quicker than if you had regulated your body temperature with layering.

3. Forgetting to drink

When it's cold and you aren’t getting all hot and sweaty, it's all too easy to forget to hydrate yourself. The reality is that although you might not feel as hot as you would during a summer ride you still expend a lot of fluid both through perspiration and through breathing. When you are a bit cold you are far less likely to find yourself reaching for a water bottle as often as you should. Dehydration is still a real concern whilst out riding in the winter so sipping water even if you don’t feel thirsty is important.

4. Wearing gloves that are too thin

Winter riding does require some specific riding kit and one of those essential pieces is a pair of good-quality riding gloves. Wearing thin gloves can be okay on more temperate winter rides in the dry but as soon as the temperature drops and with the wind chill factored in you will be left struggling to feel your fingers.

Another feature worth investing in is gloves with a waterproof coating. Even if you have no plans of riding in the rain, road spray and puddles will still find a way to your gloves and without a waterproof coating will immediately freeze your hands. The reason to use a good pair of gloves goes beyond just comfort. Cold hands have less dexterity and feeling which makes changing gears and braking more difficult.

5. Going without overshoes

Overshoes might looks a bit weird at first but they are great additional insulating layers that will keep the chill off of your toes and keep your shoes looking lovely and clean even on the wettest of rides.

Again, we'd suggest getting a pair that are waterproof as there is nothing worse than damp and frozen toes to ruin a ride. Overshoes are a far more elegant solution to keeping your feet warm in the winter than trying to double up your socks which can affect the fit of your shoes.

6. No mudguard

Mudguards are actually a more divisive topic amongst cyclists than you might think. For all their merits it is hard to convince a bike proud rider that they are an aesthetic addition to their pride and joy. Here at GCN, we are fans of the humble mudguard, they keep the worst of the spray off of you and your bike which is no bad thing. There are also genuine benefits to fitting mudguards including increasing component longevity and reducing the amount of time needed to be spent cleaning the bike post-ride.

  • Read more: Cycling in the rain: 8 top tips for staying safe and comfortable

7. Not changing your tyres

When winter rolls around the roads very quickly fill up with debris that is washed out of the gutters and surrounding fields. This massively increases the likelihood of getting a puncture whilst out on a ride. We suggest that spending your time at the side of the road repairing a punctured inner tube or working out how to plug a tubeless tyre is not the most pleasant mid-ride activity in the cold and/or wet.

To prevent this it could be wise to look at fitting some specific winter tyres to your bike that can handle the lower temperatures and increased risk of punctures more than your summer race tyres.

Have you made any of these winter mistakes, we definitely have at some point. If there are any other valuable bits of advice you have to make winter riding that little bit more comfortable share them with our global community in the comments below.

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