How to stay in the saddle and stay happy this winter
We’ve all seen the memes… “Happiness is doing what you love”, “You can’t buy happiness but you can buy a bike, and that’s pretty close”. Yes, they’re cheesy, but like most clichés, they contain a kernel of truth.
In fact, the top search result on ‘How to be happy’ on Google is an NHS article with six ways to improve your mood, three of which advocate increasing your activity and doing something you enjoy.
Our mental health takes a bit of a battering with the colder climate and shorter days, so we need all the mood boosters we can get at this time of year. As the winter weather comes in, don’t abandon your bike, embrace it.
Just because it’s winter, it doesn’t mean that the bike needs to be consigned to the back of the shed, going into hibernation until the springtime.
Cycling is just as fun and even more invigorating in the autumn and winter with just a few tweaks to your equipment and what you wear - whether you’re commuting to work, doing the school run or just riding a bike for the sheer joy of it.
Keep reading for how to stay in the saddle and to get your exclusive Proviz Discount Code!
Banish the blues this winter
You might ask why anyone would want to keep bike riding throughout the winter. Our answer is, why wouldn’t you?
What’s so good about cycling in the winter?
- Fresh air – awakens the senses and energises you
- Being outside – increases happiness and connects you with nature, improving your mental health
- Exercise – burns off the extra pre- and post-Christmas indulgences
- Sunshine – helps you avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder and gives you vitamin D all year round
A study from the University of Minnesota recently looked at how people travelled in correlation to their mood and concluded that biking is the happiest way to get around. So it’s not just us, then.
Firstly, the legal stuff - be a Shining Example
First things first… the most important change you need to make to your bike is to make sure you have good, working lights, that you actually switch on. The purpose of lights is for people to be able to see you in the gloom, as much as for you to see where you’re going.
The UK law states that, between sunset and sunrise, bikes must have:
- White front light
- Red rear light
- Red rear reflector
- Yellow pedal reflectors – front and rear on each pedal
Lights can be flashing or steady, or a mixture of both. The flash rate must be between 60 and 240 flashed per minute.
We recommend that you use lights during daylight in the winter as well – cyclists can disappear into the mist or drizzle on a grey day, especially if they’re not wearing bright clothing. It’s the same advice you’d give a driver using the car on a winter’s day.
Watch this video about the difference that lights and bright clothing make during the darker hours.
As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing
There are few things more refreshing than a brisk bike ride in the crisp morning air. Wrap up warm, particularly your hands and feet, and job’s a good’un. Cycling to work will see you getting there full of energy and ready to crack on with the day ahead.
It may be cold outside but pedalling will keep you warm inside. A cycling-specific jacket isn’t necessary, but something light and waterproof is best. You can layer up underneath to keep you toasty on chilly days, but getting soaked to the skin is no fun in winter.
Help other road users see you by wearing brighter colours, and any reflective sections will help you be seen at night.
Proviz offer a range of men’s and women’s jackets that are coloured by day and reflective by night, keeping you super stylish and safe along the way.
DISCOUNT CODE ALERT!
To help keep our lovely Tees Valley cyclists warm and dry, Proviz are offering a whopping 20% discount to anyone using a special code, created just for us. Click below to get the code and read the T&Cs.
Casual cycling gear
The internet offers a wealth of information about what to wear when cycling. We like this article from Road.cc about casual cycling gear, so you can leave the Lycra at home!
The key to warm hands is gloves that are windproof and, ideally, waterproof. There are many products on the market but you don’t have to break the bank. Cycling-specific gloves will provide padding on the palms and some will come with reflective or high vis sections for extra visibility, but it’s not essential.
We love these cheeky chappies – a little wave with these guys will put a smile everyone’s faces! As they are cycling gloves, they come with cushioning in the right places, reflective sections on the front and back, and are touch-sensitive so you don’t need to expose your fingers to elements en route.
It’s not everyone’s favourite look but they keep your toes toasty in the winter and better than a plastic bag over your trainers! Or you could just wear an extra pair of socks…
You can buy overshoes for as little as £10 on the internet, but you might want to consider durability and the quality before parting with your hard-earned cash.
Winter-proof your bike
During the winter, your bike is likely to get wetter and muddier than during the summer months. This means you need to give your bike a little more TLC to prevent rust and additional wear and tear, which is easily avoided.
Before the winter weather sets in, treating your bike to a service will ensure that your brakes are in good condition and there are no wobbly bits where there shouldn’t be – on the bike, at least.
You might also want to change your tyres to provide more grip on wet roads and cycle paths and protect against punctures, which are a common hazard during the winter. Learning how to change a tyre would certainly be worthwhile and your local hub will also be able to teach you how to do that with a maintenance course.
For the truly dedicated winter rider, you might want to invest in some studded tyres, which have metal studs for gripping in ice.
Road.cc has a great article about how winter tyres work and a round-up of some of the products on the market at the moment.
Unless you want a wet behind and badger stripe of mud up your back, mudguards are a must-have for winter cycling.
They range from dinky little ‘rear savers’, which are short plastic guards that are easily attached beneath your saddle and protect your behind and your back from the worst of the spray, to fixed mudguards for the front and rear tyres that keep you and your fellow cyclists free from most of what the road throws at you.
You can find reviews online of all sorts of different types and brands, or you can pop into your local bike shop to find something to suit you.
This buying guide from Wiggle gives a great overview of the types of mudguards, with pros and cons of each.
Keep it clean to keep it moving
Dirt, mud and leaves from the road can clog up your chainset, brakes and pedals, making your ride slower and potentially damaging your bike. Giving your wheels a quick brush or hose down and re-oiling your chain regularly will keep your bike running smoothly.
Many people like to take their bikes in for full service at the end of the winter for a complete check-up before the springtime.
Stay in the saddle, stay happy, stay healthy
The long and short of it is, continuing to ride your bike, no matter how often or how far, will help keep the winter blues at bay.
If you’d like some company on your bike rides, or you’d like to build your confidence on the roads, the cycle hubs around the area offer group rides for all levels of ability and one-to-one sessions as required.
Physical activity in the open air, combined with the feel-good factor of doing your bit for the environment and climate change will keep the smile on your face, even if it is frozen there in the process. Your mind, your body and your planet will thank you for it.
By Georgina at 6 Nov 2019, 13:07 PM
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