Emily Chappell is an writer, advocate, ultra-endurance bike owner – and BikeRadar’s latest columnist. Having began commuting by bike in London in 2006, she’s labored as a courier, toured throughout Asia, Iceland and North America, and received the Transcontinental and the Strathpuffer races. Emily specialises (unsurprisingly) in endurance-focused bikes and, as somebody who covers massive miles all 12 months spherical, has a nostril for sturdy, hard-wearing equipment that may deal with the worst of the British climate, as you’ll discover out within the first of Emily’s month-to-month columns for BikeRadar.
I’ve ridden by means of sufficient winters that I inform myself I ought to know what I’m doing by now. However the worst factor about winter biking? It finds infinite methods to shock you.
That is partly, I believe, as a result of winter simply entails so many extra variables than summer time.
To start out, there’s extra equipment to faff with – after I was a courier, my common job time was considerably elevated by having to take off my gloves and take away my lights from my bike each single time I locked it up (I had two lights stolen earlier than I realised it wasn’t value skipping this step).
The climate’s worse and the roads are sometimes in horrible situation.
Probably the most injury I’ve ever finished to a motorcycle was driving alongside Canada’s Yellowhead Freeway throughout an unseasonal thaw – the entire grit and salt that I’d anticipated to be frozen into the ice was swimming round in a 900km puddle of slush, which quickly coated all the pieces.
I repeatedly discovered mud working down my again below my garments. And the bike, after every week of being exfoliated by this unholy mess, gave the impression of a wounded animal. It hasn’t been the identical since.
And winter is difficult on the physique – a physique that in lots of instances might already be a bit drained from all of the driving we did when it was summer time.
We’re extra prone to get ailing. Some winters I handle the Festive 500, or some foolish ultra-distance problem like a four-day LEJOG, however not less than half of them I spend preventing off incessant colds.
One thing in regards to the coldness and the darkness and the dampness make me way more inclined to twist up with a book than to enterprise out to get coated in mud but once more.
You may need guessed, from that torrent of whinging, what kind of winter I’m at the moment having. However I’m nonetheless driving. Over time I’ve discovered what thoughts video games to play with myself with the intention to hold going.
The primary factor I’ve realized, time and time once more, is that having the precise equipment actually does make all of the distinction.
After I cycled by means of Turkey and Iran in early 2012, the temperature repeatedly hit minus-25ºC – on the time, the coldest situations I had ever skilled. And there I used to be, carrying my road shoes with overshoes and an additional pair of socks, questioning why I felt so depressing and pathetic.
Three years later I cycled by means of temperatures as little as -40ºC in Alaska, and all the pieces felt a lot simpler. I had realized that squeezing into as many socks as attainable makes issues worse – the additional layers cut back your circulation, and there’s much less area to lure heat air near your pores and skin.
Evaluating notes with a friend who’s raced in the Yukon Arctic Ultra, we agreed that getting by means of the coldest challenges is way extra about good admin than any notions of private toughness. It’s about spending the money and time to make sure that you may have the suitable clothes and gear for the situations, and – simply as crucially – that you simply make it as simple as attainable for your self to hold out the important processes of consuming, ingesting, faffing and transferring ahead.
(Simply final winter I referred to as a buddy to rescue me from a trip, as a result of I bought misplaced and my arms had been too excruciatingly chilly to navigate from my telephone. Had I had higher gloves, and bothered to make use of my bike computer, it might have been a unique story.)
Discover equipment that works and keep it up
So now I’m completely on the look-out for good winter cycling kit – and with the situations I put it by means of, I in a short time discover if it’s not good.
One of many common complications of winter driving – particularly in case you’re feminine – is having to strip off your jacket, gilet and jersey, and hold them from a rusty barbed wire fence as you squat to pee within the nook of a muddy subject within the rain. I as soon as even needed to be helped out of my clothes by a fellow cyclist as a result of my arms had been too frozen to handle the zips.
So Rapha’s new winter bib tights have genuinely modified my life. They do up on the again, which means which you could squat to pee with out eradicating a single merchandise of clothes – even your gloves as a result of the nifty magnetic clasp requires little or no guide dexterity.
One other ongoing winter headache was fortunately resolved the 12 months after I invested in a SON hub dynamo and Supernova lights. Lastly, right here was a lighting system that might by no means run out of battery, and which (because it was completely fastened to the bike) I couldn’t lose.
I should have gone by means of dozens of rear lights over time, and have wearily come to contemplate them disposable, since I break and lose them always.
This winter’s tally? One misplaced, two damaged. And it’s solely December as I write this.
I ought to add that I nonetheless use a battery-powered mild alongside the dynamo – you may by no means have too many lights.
Yearly I welcome my previous pals from the again of the wardrobe – the Swrve Milwaukee jacket has been retaining me heat since 2008, after I struggled by means of my first winter as a courier. I’ve since worn it (together with Swrve’s excellent softshell trousers and Belgian caps) by means of winters in Turkey, Iran, Japan, Iceland, Alaska and Canada, and actually my solely grievance is that it’s too cosy for temperatures a lot above zero, so doesn’t see as a lot motion in Bristol’s delicate local weather.
Some issues are nonetheless a studying curve although, and I’m nonetheless on the lookout for the proper pair of waterproof winter cycling gloves (recommendations beneath, please).
When you’ve cracked your equipment alternative, there’s nice consolation in understanding you’ve bought it proper, and with the ability to head out into the worst of the climate trusting your equipment to see you thru it’s liberating.