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Cycling tips: How to stay warm in winter

It’s easy to love cycling when the weather is warm and sunny, but if you want to stay fit for cycling through the winter, you’ll need to pay more attention to warmth. Many cyclists suffer with cold feet and hands, in particular, and it can be all too easy to get chilly when you stop at a cafe mid-ride. We bring you tips for staying warm on your bike in winter.

Layer up

It’s better to wear several thinner layers that you can add or take off as you warm up or cool down. Start with a baselayer of natural fabric, such as merino wool or merino-synthetic mix, and then add a short or long-sleeved cycling top and then a long-sleeved cycling jacket. Once you warm up while cycling, you can take off layers and add then back on as required.

Bibs for warmth

Bibbed cycling shorts and tights will help to keep legs warm and also your waist and back. Bib tights and shorts have the advantage of rising up higher above the waist. It’s worth thinking about bibbed shorts or tights in the winter to reduce the chance of a bare skin gap around the lower back.

Stop – and still stay warm

When you stop, whether for a chat with friends or to have a coffee and cake at a cafe, your body temperature will suddenly drop. Even if you head indoors into the warmth, if you have been sweating, you will quickly feel cold and damp. So, it’s a good idea to have a spare outer layer to pop on top of your cycling clothes to keep warm.

Ideally this should be a synthetic insulated jacket of some kind. You can buy very lightweight but warming insulated jackets that stuff into a small space while cycling, such as your back pocket.

If you sweat a lot it can be a good idea to carry a spare lightweight baselayer with you. Then, when you stop, you can change the layer closest to your skin.

Arm and leg warmers

If you’re not sure how warm it will be when you are out for a bike ride, it could be a good idea to start off with arm warmers and leg warmers. These items of kit are very useful because you can add or take them off as you need them.

When not in use they roll up into a small space in a back pocket or a small saddle bag.

Add a gilet

Like arm warmers, a gilet offers extra protection from the cold and wind. But when not needed it can be folded up and placed in a pocket or saddle bag. It’s another useful item of kit for winter cyclists.

Waterproof for windproofing

Even if the forecast says it won’t be wet, a waterproof jacket is usually a must-have for winter cycling, especially in the UK. The advantage of a waterproof cycling jacket is it will also offer wind-proofing. So, on days when there is a chill wind, you can wear a lightweight waterproof jacket or a gilet.

Feet first

The feet often get cold while cycling in winter. To protect your feet from the cold you could try wearing extra socks – merino is a god choice of fabric for warm socks – or try waterproof socks. Waterproof socks offer good insulation from the cold, as well as repelling rain and wet from puddles.

Add neoprene overshoes as an extra protection layer form the wind and cold and you could think about trying heated insoles for cycling shoes if you suffer particularly badly with cold feet.

Handy winter ideas

Hands can also suffer in the cold during winter cycling. Many people find that “lobster” style gloves helps to keep hands warmer than gloves, while still offer dexterity for gear changes. Lobster gloves keep more fingers together to aid warmth, compared to gloves.

Another tip is wear a thin liner glove under you normal gloves for an extra layer of insulation, or think about heated gloves, although these can be expensive.

Get ahead

Another place where cyclists feel the cold is their head. Even when wearing a helmet, the ears can get cold. You also lose lots of heat through the head, especially if your helmet has air holes.

Think about wearing a buff or some kind of cycling headwear to cover the ears. You might also choose to wear a buff around your neck to stop the wind chilling your skin in this area, too.

Go off-road

If you still find it cold cycling on the roads, try heading off-road. Cycling on trails and rougher ground usually requires extra effort and movement on the bike, such as getting in and out of the saddle. The movement can help to keep you warmer.

Likewise, rather than doing a longer steady ride, why not stay warm with a series of hill reps? These offer good fitness training but require extra effort so you will stay warmer on cold days.

And when it’s icy, snowy or particularly cold, you could simply choose to do a turbo session indoors!

Hopefully these tips will help to keep you cycling through the winter – and planning for a cycling holiday next year. Highland Transfer offers supported cycling trips, with luggage transfer, such as the North Coast 500 and the Badger Divide in Scotland.

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