Winter Rides

Winter Rides

Winter has been pretty grim these past weeks, but at least the shortest day is behind us. This is the time of year which evokes the strongest memories of those early adventures out on 2 wheels (I started out on an mtb), due to the persistent, thick winter mud which I came back covered in on most winter rides.

It was so much fun though, exploring the local trails around Bristol (this was well before there was any trail building or maintenance) falling off, sliding round corners and generally just grinning. It was never a chore to head out, as it was all about simply enjoying the pedaling and challenging myself to bigger climbs, steeper descents and not falling off. All that on a fully rigid mtb with cantilever brakes. Quite how I managed to stop with those I'll never know. Disc brakes and full suspension were not even conceived at the time! The road bike purchase came a couple of years later, as I felt the need for some speed on the roads and to join the local road club.

Winter isn’t all glum though, despite the weather, there's something fulfilling about getting out there, pedalling in winter and sharing that with friends or the local club. Plus it keeps the fitness up fit for when summer comes along, so that you can enjoy those longer rides in the sunshine or the odd race or 2.

With the plethora of mtb trail centres across the country, you can avoid the mud, well the deep, thick stuff anyhow and most centres have a cafe nearby, so winter mtb riding has never been better. There’s no excuse! Coffee and a large piece of cake always feel well deserved after a wet, cold winter’s ride.

Motivation is one thing to keep riding in the cold, wet months and good riding clothing is the other.  Being at least a little bit comfortable and warm certainly makes you more inclined to ride! The first time I discovered windstopper clothing, a good number of years ago, was a total revelation. The cycling wardrobe doesn't have to be expensive, with manufacturers offering various levels of design for the beginner to those racing. Neither does it all have to be super tight lycra, as the options of more relaxed fit garments are just as functional. My personal choice is GoreBikeWear® as they offer such a great range of clothing for all levels and types of riding for mtb and road.

I use their Alp-X or Xenon/Oxygen range due to its fit and function because of the miles I now do. Personally, I need to keep my hands and feet warm as a priority, as they can suffer in the winter. For long rides, it has to be the Xenon thermo windstopper glove and overshoes or Gore-Tex gloves and overshoes when really wet. Any of their active shell gore-tex jackets are superb for breathability and keeping the elements out. I always use a thermal lined bib tight (prefer bib style tights over non bib as I never found the waistband that comfortable, and the tights stay up better when wet).There are some super pricey brands out there, mid priced and lower priced. As with anything, you get what you pay for. Any garment can be made waterproof, but it is the quality of the breathability which puts the cost up. If you get hot, it is worth spending the extra on a quality waterproof. Where possible, try clothing on, take advice from friends or reviews to find clothing which is suitable for your level and the time you spend in the saddle. A thin 'skull' hat covering the ears under the helmet  may not be the most flattering, but it makes for more comfortable winter riding. Oh, and don’t forget the chamois cream, an essential in any cyclist’s gear.

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Gore is a favourite with me, as well.

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