Many cyclists stow away their road bike by the end of October for the time being. And admittedly, it took me years to ride through the winter as well. I can now truly enjoy it. Simply cruising on on desolate roads. Especially on a day with 'Kaiserwetter', it's awesome. Nature looks different. Moreover, such a battle with the elements is just special. Of course you can also buy an indoor trainer, but there is really nothing like cycling outside. You come home extremely satisfied, pop on the couch next to the wood burner and drink a hot chocolate or a Westmalle Triple (fill in what's applicable). My 10 tips for cycling in the winter.
It's an open door but it need to be said. Which clothing you need is of course very personal. If you're warm-blooded then you'll come with a set of overshoes, lined leg warmer, a collection of base layers, a buff, a pair of winter gloves and a jacket like the Castelli Perfetto will get you through. If you're a cold fish like me, this won't be enough when it gets really cold. Then heavier stuff is needed: a thick winter jacket, woolen socks, winter shoes, winter tights and heavier gloves. It shouldn't cost the world. Secret tip 1: buy this kind of stuff in the summer. Secret tip 2: take a look at your local classifieds website.
2. Adjust your route
When it gets cold, it is important to follow the salt. Salt is your friend and sometimes your enemy (but more about that later). Don't be afraid to slalom on the more populair routes between hordes of families or other road users, because they all stay wisely inside.
If you leave home, you are still warm and not sweaty. Then choose for headwind first. Slowly you will cool down, and when you're done with it, turn around and let it blow you home. It's amazing how much warmer wind it feels. Is it really cold? Then opt for some short local loops, preferably in an area with little wind such as a forest. The period with headwind is then always so short that you don't cool down too much.
Also in winter it is almost always colder in the morning than in the afternoon. So if you want to suffer as little as possible from the cold, leave as late as possible.
In winter you will ride at least 10% slower than in summer because of the thicker air. Mentally that can be tricky. Two tips: don't count kilometers but hours. Something many pros do as well. Secondly, consider not displaying a speed on your bike computer. Something I've been doing for more than 12 years, even in summer.
In wintertime salt is your friend (see 2) but also your enemy. Especially your wheels, cables and drivetrain don't like it. Fanatic winter cyclists use a scraper to cover their winter kilometers for good reason. Although not strictly necessary, a set of cheap wheels is recommended. After a ride in the dirt or large amounts of salt, it is advisable to clean your bike thoroughly. A garden hose (preferably not a pressure washer) is a suitable tool for the job. Make sure the chain is dry and re-lubricated before putting your bike away to prevent rust. Drying goes well with for example a leaf blower, compressor or a hair dryer.
It goes without saying that it can be slippery when it freezes. But even when it's less cold, there is a risk of sliding. Leaves, acorns, branches or other debris are all potential hazards. Cut corners as quietly as possible and even click out when in doubt. The last thing you want is to fall!
I rarely stop myself during a workout but when it gets really cold (below zero) I often build in a coffee stop halfway. Just warm it up for half an hour and you can get back to it. Unfortunately I can't go inside during this lockdown period, but if you stand still for a while, your feet can get back to temperature.
In the winter it is wise to build in more security. Always take an extra "emergency bar" (o.i.d.) with you in case you suddenly get hungry. Especially if you're not cycling long in winter you'll often misjudge the temperature. Always bring extra clothing, such as a windbreaker. It's also a good idea to bring an extra pair of dry gloves.
In countries like Belgium, The Netherlands and even Germany the winters are now so warm you almost always ride outside. But know when to stop. Frozen snow and freezing rain are an absolute no go. When you are unsure about the conditions, then take a walk through the area as a way of exploring. And of course, if you can't ride outside, an indoor trainer is of course an excellent alternative.