Cold weather riding

Discouraged by the cold? Get a new bike!

A simple, but expensive expedient to overcoming the demotivating lows of winter, the opportunity to climb aboard shiny new machinery can overcome even the strongest aversion to cold. Happily for me, my mechanical motivator arrived without financial penalty thanks to duties carried out in the service of RCUK.

On such days, dressing is easy: wear as many of the warmest fabrics you own. Mercifully, such temperatures are rare in this country, and few of us will own garments specifically designed for such Arctic conditions. Tingling fingers left me longing for ‘lobster’ gloves at the commencement of Saturday’s outing, but as the miles passed the conventional five-fingered glove proved equal to the task. Skull cap, overshoes, full-length, Roubaix-lined bibtights, merino wool base layer, Roubaix-lined mid layer, and (unnecessary in the event) waterproof outer layer kept me warm and toasty. Overheating on such days is nigh on impossible.

Untreated rural roads can present a hazard in freezing temperatures, and keeping a watching brief for ice is an important part of cycling in such cold conditions. Sticking to a favourite route, one on which you have amassed years of experience, is a sensible choice when ice is suspected. Knowledge of the rivulet that routinely splashes you even in the summer months can prove valuable once it has frozen and its appearance can have more sinister consequences than mere annoyance. Likewise, back roads still popular with motorists should be shunned in favour of busier, but treated routes to the countryside if you’re to avoid an unwanted cameo in the half-wit on ice show that routinely fills the pages of local newspapers at this time of year.

Take a camera. Frosty fields, frozen rivers, and naked trees prove that the winter landscape is every bit as beautiful as summer’s, and every bit as worth capturing for posterity. Anyone know the collective noun for llamas? A pride? A gathering? Whatever, an unexpected glimpse of a field of llamas, apparently oblivious to the cold, presented the natural history highlight of my weekend rides. Deer, a common, but still magical sight where I ride, seemed less appreciative of the plunging temperatures, glancing up warily from their desultory grazing as we sped past. The morning light can also spread a sheen of beauty across the landscape at this time of year, even in the absence of sunshine. By early afternoon, the skies were merely grey, but as we rolled out at 10am, the clouds were suffused with a glow that only comes in winter.

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