Sir Bradley Wiggins' seven-point guide to winter cycling
For many amateurs, it's hard to find the motivation to ride a bike in the gloomier months. How does the UK's first Tour de France winner force himself outdoors when it's cold and wet?
"Unfortunately, living in the north-west of England, the weather has always been something to contend with when cycling in the winter," says three-time Olympic gold medallist and adopted Lancastrian Sir Bradley Wiggins.
So what is Sir Bradley's advice to commuters and weekend cyclists who find it difficult to summon the motivation when conditions are poor?
1. Remind yourself your commute isn't that far: "If I've only got to ride 40-odd minutes to work, it's not really long enough to get super-cold. You're not talking about going out four or five hours on your bike, not many people will commute five hours to work on their bike. Forty minutes, 45 minutes, an hour - you can get wet for that amount of time."
2. But be careful on longer rides: "Look at the forecast a few days ahead... You've got to weigh it up, whether it's worth it or not, if you're out for four or five hours on the bike. Don't take for granted that you're going to be able to do everything to the day that it's planned. If you lived in Spain you could do that, but here [in the UK] you can't. You have to be flexible and you have to adjust to the weather. So you might delay it a day and do it tomorrow if it's going to be dry - take the sensible option and leave today. If you pushed on and tried to persist with it and say 'No, today's the day I've got to do that' and you went and did four, five, six hours, got really cold, ended up getting a cold or illness, that sets you back two or three weeks."
3. Know when to take shelter: "If it's a heavy downpour, then give it half an hour and let it ease off because if you can avoid getting wet, then fantastic. Even at times out on the bike I've taken refuge under a bus stop just for 10 minutes, if it's showers. If it's consistent rain, you've kind of got to get on with it. Unfortunately, one of those things you've got to contend with if you're cycling is the weather."
4. Choose the right bike: "A lot of the bikes are carbon wheels now and you don't have as good a braking surface on a carbon wheel in the wet weather as you do on the old aluminium rims. So you tend to not stop [as easily] when you brake in the rain, which causes more crashes, which is why I think we see a lot more crashes in the Tour de France now, especially when it's wet."
5. Leave dry clothes at work. "I know the freedom that cycling gives you in terms of being able to just jump on and go. But sometimes if you plan ahead a little bit it just makes your life a hell of a lot easier, rather than getting demoralised by it, thinking 'Oh, I ain't going to do that again, I'm soaked, sitting around in wet clothing, wet underpants,' and then not doing it again for a week. So just a little bit of putting some clean duds at work, some socks and things like that, just makes it a hell of a lot easier for you."
6. Invest in waterproofs. "They do say now in cycling that there's no such thing as bad weather - it's bad clothing. If you didn't go out every time it was raining you wouldn't get anything done. So it's a case of making the right clothing choice in terms of waterproof, breathable, warm clothing. On the market now there a lot of high-quality waterproof breathable cycling jackets and trousers - they're expensive but they do the job to a degree. Twenty years ago a rain jacket was a PVC kind of greenhouse-type jacket, which you just sweat underneath. Now it's jackets that you can ride in for anything up to six hours that are not PVC but a kind of a membraney, waterproof material."
7. Be visible. "Obviously it does help if you have lights. Most waterproofs now, in cycling anyway, you can buy more fluorescent, stand-out colours. But [for] a lot of the manufacturers, black is the slick, fashionable colour to be wearing in cycling now. But they do make colour options and I think I would always go for the colour option when cycling in any conditions really, because just being seen is more important. I mean, you have to look in the professional peloton - the amount of jerseys that are black or have large amounts of black on them, and obviously that doesn't assist you when you're riding in the rain and you haven't got lights on and stuff. Visibility is reduced anyway in rain, especially when you're in a car, so anything you can do to be seen more is going to help you."
As told to John Shields. Sir Bradley Wiggins is the guest editor of BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Tuesday 29 December.
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