Winter Riding Top Tips: Equipment

Bob from Campbell Coaching hasn’t been letting the snow get him down. He’s just sent us some winter riding tips and tricks to help the waverers toughen up and get out to play in the snow. In the first part, delivered with a minimum of shivering from the door of his VW Syncro van, he covers what kit you really ought to take when you go and brave the white stuff…

“Having all this wintery weather and snow about really should not stop you getting out on the bike. You need to take a few sensible precautions, have the right equipment and a bit of training or experience. Overall winter riding can be a real blast and fantastic fun too. So don’t be put off by the weather get out there, the views can be stunning, you can have a great laugh and keep your fitness and skills up and it’s definitely better that sitting in watching doom and gloom TV too!

Winter riding actually makes you practice good ‘skills’ for your summer riding too so what are you waiting for? Get your bike back out and go ride…

Living at 1200ft on top of the Horseshoe Pass in North Wales we have got used to riding in wintery conditions and snow with our friends, so here are Campbell Coaching’s ‘top tips’ on safe and fun winter and snow riding:

PART ONE: Be prepared:

This is a real key one obviously, but often forgotten in the excitement of getting out on the bike. The weather is going to play a massive part in when, how and where you ride. New cold snow about 3 – 6 inches deep is ace for riding in and you will be surprised how grippy it can be too, above 6 inches you can still get going but it’s going to be a bit tougher and old snow that has melted and re-frozen is generally a real pain. Slush is just not fun so, unless you have to, don’t ride in it.

However continuous dry, cold, sub zero temperatures like we are experiencing right now are actually spot on for riding in as the dry the snow maintains grip, so don’t be put off.

1. Chose an easy route:

Chose a shorter route that you would normally. It’s going to be physically tougher and will take longer, so just plan an easy, fun ride. Try to pick one that you know well and if you can, pick one with good views, the clear cold air will allow you to see further and in more detail. The conditions will add the challenge, keep the trail easy. Don’t try to tackle too steeper ground, either up or down – you will just end up walking or falling!

2. Invite some mates:

Try to go out with a couple of friends – it’s more fun, you can laugh at them and it makes it safer too. If you are going to go out on your own then tell someone where you are going and check back in with them so they know you are back safe.

3. Clothing & Equipment:

Super important. During my years at Llandegla trail centre it used to scare me seeing people out riding in these really cold -5 to -10 temperatures in just their normal riding clothing, thin tops and shorts etc. with no bag or spare gear.

While you might keep warm while you are riding a minor ‘trailside’ issue such as a puncture, broken chain and more likely a frozen hub or snow clogged brakes, it can turn in to a bit of a dangerous situation within 10 to 15mins if you don’t dress accordingly and have some emergency clothing with you.

Just ‘layer’ up as you would do for any normal winter sport. Have a thin wicking base layers next to your skin, top and bottom. A a mid layer and definitely a full windproof, waterproof outer layer, again top and bottom.

Your extremities will get colder especially as you set off initially as your body draws the warm blood in to protect the vital organs; feet, fingers, ears are going to feel it first so make sure they are covered. Warm longer socks or layer two thin socks, thin hat or Buff under your helmet that covers your ears and warmer windproof gloves (not mittens, you won’t be able to brake properly!) are a great combination. As your core warms up the warm blood will return to them after a short while on the bike.

Overshoes are also ideal, however good outside shoes will be just fine too. If you normally ride clipped in that’s OK just be aware that your cleats are probably going to freeze up at some stage and you are probably going to need to put your feet down quite a bit too and even walk every now and again. So if you want to try flats now’s not a bad time to try them.

You don’t have to go buy lots of special gear, if you root about you probably already have most of this stuff and never use it or you just don’t use it riding your bike!

Hydration pack will probably freeze up, even if you have a winter version when its this cold. So just carry a drinks bottle inside your bag like you used too. Also have some spare warm clothing, warm hat and gloves and a bivvy bag or emergency shelter. Take torch ( it gets dark at about 3.30pm here now ) a flask and some high energy food. Don’t forget to actually stop and take a drink and eat, your going to use more energy to ride and at times you will get too hot and start to sweat, slow down and take it easy.

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