Mud, potholes, ice, snow, salt and cold – the challenges of riding through the winter are diverse and disagreeable. But the riding must go on, however, so BikeRadar spoke to four pros about their winter cycling gear. Our UK team spoke to pros in England, where the winters can be particularly nasty. From tin foil and SealSkinz socks in the shoes to mudguards and thick tires, their tips and tricks can help you prepare your bike and riding gear for the coming winter.
Luke Rowe, 23, Team Sky
“I used to have a proper hack bike with mudguards and the whole shebang, but those days are gone! In terms of adaptations to my current bike – nothing whatsoever. I’ll ride exactly the same bike as I rode in the middle of the summer.
“The bottom line is that when it’s raining full gas, there’s no product in the world that’s going to keep you completely dry. I think if you’re going to train in that weather your overshoes and gloves have to be the best of the best – it’s not the sort of thing you can save money on – just get the best. I think with Rapha we’ve pretty much got the best stuff in the world to train with.
“When it’s a proper shitty ride you’ve got to clean your bike after every ride or within a couple of weeks it’s going to be a piece of crap. I’ve got a local bike shop, Cyclopaedia, and I’m down there most weeks getting bits and bobs, but I think the secret there is as soon as you get in and you’re still in your kit, clean it straight away, then it’s done and out the way.”
Luke Rowe’s (Team Sky) filthy Dogma – look at the brake pad scum on the wheels
Evan Oliphant, 31, Team Raleigh
“I used to ride a winter bike, but now I stick to my normal Raleigh Militis race bike fitted with wider tyres and clip-on mudguards – it’s a pretty standard and means I can ride the same bike all year round.
“Living in Edinburgh, the weather can be pretty bad up here and you can go out for a ride and your bike either comes back covered in mud or completely white with salt. Last year, a pair of training wheels lasted me all winter. It’s brake pads that take a hammering – they need replacing a lot. Sometimes you can go out for a one ride and find they needed changing.
“The one thing I’ve found that works to stave off the cold is to put tin foil inside my shoes – that seems to reflect the heat back up. It’s a bit of a quick fix but it seems to do something.
“After a winter ride I’ll usually have a shower and some food before tackling the bike. I just give it a quick wash and if it’s bad then I use the Motorex degreaser we’re given and make sure everything’s working fine.
“I always check the tyres for cuts to try to prevent punctures on the next ride. I’ll lube it up the next day just before going out.”
Evan Oliphant has fitted SKS Race Blades to his Raleigh Militis
James Moss, 28, Team IG-Sigma Sport
“Move to the south – that made a massive difference to my winter training a couple of years back!
“I can get Crud RoadRacer 2 mudguards on my Venge, so I fit them. I quite like to stick to the bike I race on, which means there’s Rotor Q-Rings on. I use QXL rings for racing though. I also swap out the standard training wheels for some 36-hole Mavic Open Pros which I built myself with a pair of Dura-Ace hubs I had lying around. Even if you break a spoke on them you can keep going. They’re fitted with proper 25mm winter tyres with protected side walls and are filled with tyre sealant. Rob Hayles gave me that tip – said he used to do it with Cav‘s bike.
“Last year it occurred to me to start using embrocation before winter rides. I thought, ‘Why do I only do this in the season and not when training?’ The other trick is to carry another set of gloves and a hat in my back pocket and mid-ride, when they’ve got a bit damp and cold, swap them over.
“I also leave it as late as possible in the year to start wearing gloves so that you get used to the cold a bit more. And if it’s really wet and shit, those totally waterproof SealSkinz socks – they’re amazing.
“I tend to go to the petrol station after most rides and jet wash the bike. I’ll dry and oil the chain off every time and then clean the bike properly once a week or something. As long as you clean it properly and rebuild it every now and then, and you’re not jet-washing inside the hubs, I don’t see a problem with it.”
James Moss has well-fitted Crud RoadRacer 2 guards on. Not above a modification, he’s also swapped over the front and rear flap extensions
Richard Handley, 23, Rapha-Condor-JLT
“I’ve now been riding through six UK winters. Ideally I’d have mudguards on but as I train on my own a lot I don’t usually bother. If I do join up with a group I’ve got an SKS Race Blade which I’ll fit and wrap the seat stay in a bit of insulation tape to stop it scratching the frame.
“I’ll put some thicker tyres on too – Conti Gator Skins or something, but that’s about it.
“Normally I do four-day blocks through the winter, so every time I come back I’ll hose the bike down quickly, dry the chain and re-oil it. Then at the end of the fourth ride – usually a long one – I’ll clean the bike properly. I’ll get the Muc-Off de-greaser out and keep on top of it that way. I think you’d still have to wash your bike that regularly if you were using mudguards .
“My clothing strategy is to layer up. I find my Rapha Pro Team Jacket over the top of two base layers is fine, and I’ll keep my waterproof with me all the time.
My hands and feet suffer in the cold. I still struggle with them and I’ve not found a way around it yet. I’ve tried sandwich bags over my toes and shopping bags between my shoe and over-shoe. I’ve even seen people duct tape their ankle to stop the water running down. I’ve not tried that yet – but it’s one for this winter. I think you only ever end up postponing what’s inevitable though.
“I prefer to go out rather than sit on the turbo – I can’t cope with that! I think I must have done four turbo rides in last two years through the winter and that’s my limit really.”
We’re not sure we agree with the hand pump sullying the lines of Richard Handley’s (Rapha-Condor-JLT) Condor Leggero