So the days are getting shorter, the air is getting colder and the ground is getting wetter. These three things, when put together, don't equate to the most perfect conditions for being outside, but if you want to ride your bike you kinda need to suck it up and get on with it rather than living inside for 6 months of the year.
That being said, it doesn't have to be miserable. With the right kit and the right attitude *cheesy thumbs up* you can still get out on your bike and enjoy this time of year in relative comfort.
Two major changes to get your bike winter-ready:
Do you want to see or be seen? This is a big decision that will have a big impact on what you buy. Do you want to highlight your presence to traffic, or to other bike users on a cycle path? If this is the case a decent set of lights shouldn't set you back more than about £50. However, if you're planning off-road night rides after work or all day epics at the weekend you need a front light that will bust out some serious lumens. Ideally, having one light helmet mounted (to see where you're looking) and a "flood" light mounted on the handlebars (for more general vision) will set you up well throughout the winter. Hope do a great range that's worth checking out (#madeintheuk) (www.hopetech.com)
(image from here)
Yes, they can be naff. Yes, you don't want your brand new, carbon endure-specific weapon to end up looking like a shopper bike (not that there's anything wrong with shoppers, but you get the gist), but sticking on a discreet guard like the "Marsh Guard" (http://marshguard.com) will go some way to prevent the splattered streak of mud up your back, across your face and possibly in your mouth.
You're going to be wet, you're going to be cold. Accept it and then make the changes to your current kit to make it ready for winter.
1. Embrace merino
Merino wool is pretty special stuff. Not only is it a natural insulator (a thin jersey next to the skin will keep you toasty) but also it's naturally antibacterial, so won't smell! Wear a base layer under your jersey and a pair of tights under your baggies to keep your core temperature up without loads of layers flapping around on that epic descent.
A jacket is a given - keep your torso dry and it will stay warm. However, be aware of the difference between waterproof and water-resistant. A water-resistant jacket may seem like a bargain, since you can pick them up for around £50, but they will only keep you dry in a light shower, and probably not withstand a million washes. More to be used as an emergency cover-up. A waterproof jacket, by contrast can cost upwards of £150, but will last forever. Rather than coatings on the surface of the fabric there will be an additional layer within the construction that keeps the water out but still breathes, so will ensure you don't feel like you've been boiled alive at the top of a climb!
Another great one addition to your winter wardrobe is waterproof socks - which may sound excessive, but they will be your best friends after splashing through endless puddles (read: ponds) in the middle of January. Sealskinz have the name for these, and for good reason (www.sealskinz.com)
Finally, who wants to sit down and enjoy their post ride beverage of choice (Hot chocolate? Beer?) in grimy, soggy, freezing cold kit? Make sure you've got a change of clothes in the car, along with a hoody and winter hat to really thaw out all of these icicles.
Hope these hints and tips have been helpful - and stay tuned for out Autumn/Winter 2014 add-on clothing collection being announced later this week!