If you are, like me, a cycling fan, you may have noticed that the winter months are distinctly lacking in anything resembling bike racing. This shouldn’t come as any surprise – it’s the same as every other year – but these long empty months drag on a bit don’t they?
You will also have noticed that in lieu of anything resembling cycling news the cycling press tend to fill their column inches (or whatever the online equivalent is…megabytes?) with helpful cycling related advice. They tend to have titles like ‘top ten tips for winter cycling’, ‘how to pedal away the winter blues’, and ‘five superfoods that all cyclists should be eating’.
The common theme here is, of course, the weather. As someone with a mild obsession about both cycling and the weather, if not so much superfoods, here is my indispensable guide to cold weather cycling: it’s my ‘top three tips for keeping warm on the bike’.
#1 Ask someone for a cuddle
We all know that sharing body heat is the time-honoured method for keeping warm in a survival situation. The image of five or six frozen cyclists at the side of the road, bikes propped against a wall and furiously cuddling each other, does have a certain poignancy to it.
Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like a cuddle?
Obviously, in an ideal world your sweaty mate might not be first choice in this department, but if your wife/partner is anything like my wife/partner then she/he’s not going to look kindly on being on all-day Sunday call-out ready to turn up and give me a cuddle at the first signs of hypothermia.
Apart from anything, she/he is currently not entirely happy about being given indeterminate gender and referred to as my wife/partner.
Ah well…such are the tribulations of the humble blogger’s wife (and her role as a convenient plot device).
#2 Layer up
If you are truly cold on the bike then any concession to sartorial style should immediately go out of the window. It might not be the most elegant way to deal with the weather, but by layering up to the point where you resemble a mummy in a fat-suit you are at least doing all you can to keep the warmth in and the weather out.
Of course, if you are one of those annoying cyclists who possess about 3% body fat and pretend to be distraught because they’ve just tipped the scales at more than 65 kilo’s, then by layering up like a mummy you are simply making up for your lack of natural insulation.
It is the lot of the skinny cyclist to suffer like a dog in the cold, and no number of base layers is going to change that.
I think they call it Karma.
For the rest of us, there are one or two other useful little tips, such as wrapping your soon-to-be frozen feet in ever more elaborate coverings – cling film, tin foil, carrier bags…bacon?! – to ward off that numb wooden feeling that comes from pedalling in extreme cold. Although to be honest, if you have ever considered wrapping your feet in bacon pre-ride, you probably need to have a long hard look at yourself!
If you’re really cold you may have no option but to succumb to it and stop. The fact is, if you’ve never, at least once, considered simply climbing off your bike to curl up at the side of the road and die, then you’ve never really ridden in serious, mind numbing cold.
There are different kinds of stopping though.
There’s ‘oh-my-god-it’s-too-cold-I-want-my-mummy’ which is hysterical, dramatic, and does you no credit. In addition, should you be the one to unveil yourself as the drama queen of the group, your display will only get worse as your friends retell the tale over the months and years to come.
There’s the ‘face-saving-group-compromise’ where you all, in a grown up kind of way, agree for plausible (if slightly dull) reasons of health and safety that: ‘we’ve all got families to go home to so let’s not end up killing ourselves’. This is dependent on every member of the group acting in a mature and sensible manner, and is almost unheard of.
It’s about as common as a cyclist riding a hundred miles and not telling anybody about it.
The smartest way to stop is to disguise it as a café stop, and wait the weather out. An hour, a day, a week? As long as there is cake and coffee you’ll be fine.
So there you go – you now have all the knowledge and guidance you need to head off for a fun and fully insulated bike ride in the winter. Just remember to hold back the tears, and pick and choose your cuddling partners, and always be wary if you can detect a whiff of bacon in the air.
Oh, and as always, try not to upset your wife/partner.
That’s nothing to do with keeping warm, just general advice.