Frosty mornings, quiet trails and the sheer joy of a hot drink after a cold ride are just three of the simple pleasures to be found when bike riding through the winter months.
Here are 10 reasons we love winter cycling.
Bright, cold, frosty mornings
First and foremost, there’s nothing like riding on a perfect winter day.
It’s hard to beat cycling through the countryside with frost coating leaves and trees, your breath clouding the air, and the bright sunshine lighting everything so it looks like it’s in a David Attenborough documentary.
Unexpected wildlife encounters
Since a lot of your riding is likely to occur in the dark over winter, your chances of coming face to face with nocturnal wildlife is all the greater. Is that looming dark shape ahead of you a bush or a resting cow?
Expect to see your lights reflected back in the glinting eyes of various animals, and hear strange noises overhead. It adds a little frisson of danger and excitement to what might otherwise be a fairly tame trail.
That said, if you do happen to ride regularly where the wildlife is a bit more bite-y than the UK, it’s probably worth exercising a little caution depending on when and where you go out.
You get REALLY good at washing your bike and kit
One of the downsides of winter riding, whatever type of cycling you do, is the wear and tear that quickly builds up when riding on gritty, muddy trails.
That means it’s important to wash your bike after every ride. Expect to get your post-ride routine down to a fine art – off the bike, quick hose-down (bike and rider), wet kit in the washing machine while you clean off the bike, lights on charge, oil the chain, and you’re good to go again.
Of course, if you’re worried about ruining your pride and joy, you can always use your winter riding plans to justify the purchase of a new bike, or you could read our guide on how to pressure wash your bike safely.
You’ll need more kit
Are you a total kit fiend? Do you like to have the best cycling jacket, the best bike lights and the right tyres to suit every conceivable weather condition? Well, say hello to winter, your new best friend!
It’s oh so quiet
Weather can put many people off cycling, so that means you’re likely to have the roads and trails almost to yourself.
No searching for a parking space at the trail centre, no repeatedly calling ‘on your right!’ when trying to overtake, no long stream of cyclists on the road and no queues at the usual cafe stop.
You’ll burn extra calories
You may have heard that people burn more calories in the cold than in warmer temperatures. Non-shivering thermogenesis (NST) is part of the reason why.
It’s one of the ways your body works to keep your core temperature at the right operational level through chemical reactions that burn off fat tissue, as opposed to muscle contractions – shivering – which is another method.
This means you burn off more calories if you exercise outdoors in cold weather, especially since the chances are you’ll be exposed to it for longer periods of time.
This does not mean, however, that you should head out in a skimpy short-sleeved jersey and shorts if you’re trying to shift weight; that way lies hypothermia and injury…
You’ll get tougher
Riding in cold, wet weather toughens you up in two ways.
First, mentally. If you can motivate yourself to get out riding when the weather is bad and ride on through the rain, cold and snow, then any inclement weather come summer or race season will pose no obstacle.
Second, it toughens you up physically as well. In addition to the calorie-burning advantages mentioned above, some research has shown that people who are regularly exposed to colder temperatures subsequently don’t feel the cold as much and are more comfortable in colder weather.
They also don’t shiver as much, which is good news for conserving energy.
You’ll appreciate hot food more!
Not only is hot food after a cold ride nothing short of perfection (particularly if it’s soup or hot chocolate), it’s also fully justified. After all, as mentioned earlier, you’ll be burning off more calories.
And while that’s great if you are looking to shift a few extra pounds, you also want to make sure you’re giving your body enough fuel and nutrients to run efficiently and fight off illness.
So long as you tuck into healthy food (maybe the occasional treat too) and pay attention to how you are feeling, you’ll strike the right balance.
The joys of the humblebrag
“What did you do over the weekend?”, “Oh, you know, just took myself off for a little ride. Nothing big, just 100km off-road across a snow-covered mountain.”
Yes, winter provides many opportunities for the humblebrag, whether it’s beating your workmates in by bike when their trains are delayed, or sticking to your training schedule come snow, hail or raining frogs.
Winter training holidays
If it gets too much, you’ll be justified in taking a break from the winter weather and jetting off somewhere to ride in the sun. Because, you know, vitamin D is important for health and performance, right?