Hot winter kit ideas
Far too many of us spend the winter months sat by the fire as our fitness levels dwindle away to nothing. But it doesn’t have to be like this!
With a few minor wardrobe modifications you can happily cycle on through anything that Mother Nature throws at you. And let’s face it, she can be cruel, so keeping yourself kitted out through the winter months is an absolute must.
Apart from the obvious discomfort caused by an icy force nine whistling round your nether regions, there are some serious health conditions that can develop through cycling unprepared in the cold. Regularly freezing your toes and fingers leaves you much more prone to capillary damage and permanent circulation problems such as chilblains or Raynaud’s syndrome, while hypothermia is a distinct possibility if you’re out for long periods.
The chance of tearing or straining muscles in low temperatures becomes vastly increased so it’s essential you warm up and stretch properly. Knees will also become more prone to damage, especially if you’re the wrong side of 40. The knock on effects that cold fingers can have on your braking ability is obvious but the effect on your entire body’s reactions and abilities in the colder months can have a detrimental effect on your ride.
Despite all this, with the right additions to your kit bag – and a full-blooded sense of determination – you can ride until spring arrives. With this in mind, we’ve compiled some top tips to keep you toasty next time you train.
Head & Neck
Depending on which particular misinformed TV doctor you’ve listened to recently, between 50 and 100 per cent of your body’s heat is lost through your head. Although these stats are largely exaggerated, it pays to keep your bonce wrapped up. A merino cap, a headband or a set of ear warmers is a must for jacket pockets on winter rides.
Top tip: Tape up the air vents in the front of your helmet and you’ll avoid the dreaded brain freeze on chilly descents.
Waterproof gloves are something of an enigma. Despite the manufacturer’s promises, we’ve struggled to find any that truly live up to the claim. Your best bet is to find a glove that stays warm when wet and gives you enough manoeuvrability to apply the brakes. Just like with any other part of the body, it pays to layer up, so pack a thin liner glove for when it’s really cold.
Top Tip: If you lose feeling in your fingers, drop your hands by your sides (one at a time please) and give them a shake.
When keeping your body warm it’s all about layers and if you start with a decent base you can’t go far wrong. Find something that’s breathable and will take sweat away from your skin. After that whack on a mid-layer, long sleeve jersey or lightweight jacket – anything too thick will restrict your movement. Using a combo of arm warmers and a gilet gives you more options than a single piece jacket or jersey.
Top Tip: Wearing a pair of bib shorts or tights will give your nipples and lower stomach an extra layer of protection from the cold.
Beware the bulky waterproof! Although they keep outside moisture at bay, you’ll steam up so quick it’ll feel like you’ve ridden through a monsoon. A more breathable windproof will take up next-to-no room in your pack and keep most water at bay. Combined with a decent thermal or two it will create an all-conquering cosy combo.
Top Tip: The gilet isn’t just for posh, horsey types. A wind-breaking waistcoat can make all the difference and packs down to nothing.
Winter boots can make all the difference on a ride, but if you can’t afford a pair then get a pair of standard shoes a size larger than your regular ones and stick on an extra pair of socks. Merino is the ultimate toasty-toes material and it will let them breathe too. When it gets really wet and cold, add some neoprene overshoes too. Don’t be tempted to buckle up too tight as this will restrict circulation.
Top Tip: On a really cold day, try putting a sandwich bag or tin foil round your feet outside the socks.
One of the most important thing you need to worry about on winter days is plugging gaps. Keep the wind out from around your neck and waist and you’ll be a much happier bunny. Arm and leg warmers allow for extra stripping off capabilities once you’ve sufficiently warmed up. Also, it’s often overlooked but it’s just as important to keep hydrated on cold days as it is hot, so stick a warm drink in your bottle and water stops won’t feel like such a chore.
Top Tip: On icy days a set of spiked tyres will let you corner just like in the dry. Also, run your tyres slightly softer for added traction.
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