How to stay warm in winter
Advice: How to stay warm on a bike in winter
Loads of the benefits of riding a bike remain as relevant in the middle of winter as they do on a bright summer’s day. You can still bust to the front of queues, save money on fuel and get a parking space much closer to where you want to be. The obvious downside is that it’s colder, but a few practical measures can make life much more comfortable. Here’s what you need to know…
Your first enemy is wind chill, so blocking that out can make a huge difference. Start with the bike and isolate your hands from the wind with an old-school solution like handguards or even the courier’s favourite – handlebar muffs. In terms of what you wear, eliminate bare skin from the equation with a decent neckwarmer or go full-on with a balaclava. Most heat escapes from your head, so an extra layer there is a brilliant option. While we’re at it, make sure all the vents on your helmet are closed to stop cold air from getting in. If that means you struggle with visor misting, it’s possibly time to consider a helmet with a Pinlock insert.
One you’ve kept cold air out the second objective is to slow the escape of the heat generated by your body out into the atmosphere. Wearing a series of thinner layers helps trap heat nearer your skin. It’s crucial to use the right layers, though. Start with a thin base layer next to the skin, then go for a thicker mid-layer like a fleece – both should be breathable to reduce moisture build-up inside. Finally, put your bike jacket over the top. Lost the zip-out thermal liner? Find it. And check for an extra section poppered back on itself where your jacket’s main zip will be. If it does, unfurl it as that bit acts as a windbreak behind the zip. If your jacket has vented sections, make sure they’re closed.
Keeping your torso warm keeps blood flowing to fingertips and toes so they stay comfortable too
Wet skin sheds heat quicker than dry skin – about 25 times faster – so staying dry is crucial to staying warm. There are two sources of moisture to combat – precipitation has to stay out and perspiration has to get out. Waterproof and breathable membranes are designed to allow both to happen, with holes small enough to block raindrops and big enough to let perspiration vapour escape in the other direction. If the membrane is positioned as a drop liner inside the jacket and trousers then they can still ‘wet out’ and make you feel chilly without water actually leaking through to the skin. Refreshing the water-resistant treatment on the outermost layer with a treatment like sDoc100’s spray prolongs the first line of water defence. A more expensive solution is a laminated membrane, where the waterproof material is bonded to the outermost layer. This helps it shed water on first contact rather than soaking through. Until recently only Gore-Tex made laminated kit, which made it the preserve of premium brands. But now there are a growing number of companies using laminated outers on more budget-conscious options such as Oxford’s Mondial Advanced, with other companies releasing options in 2020.
Electronically heated kit is the current forefront of the battle with the cold. It harnesses battery power from either the bike or a separate pack stored within the garment to distribute heat to key areas. Heated jackets help the body maintain its core temperature. Artificially maintaining it stops the body from putting its natural defence plan into action – cutting blood flow to ‘expendable’ extremities in order to protect vital organs. The theory is that keeping your torso warm keeps blood flowing to fingertips and toes so they stay more comfortable too. Heated handlebar grips are a good option, or heated gloves for a broader coverage of warmth.
Think of your body like a fire generating the heat to keep you warm. It needs energy to do that
Think of your body like a fire generating the heat to keep you warm. It needs energy to do that, and gets it from what you eat. Get your diet right and you have a better chance of staying warm. Slow-release carbohydrates are a good bet – something with plenty of oats like porridge – so your body has a longer-lasting supply to keep that fire burning. On longer journeys keep yourself fed and watered properly as a deficiency in calories will make you feel colder sooner. Timing of putting on your bike kit also makes a difference. Pile on a load of layers while you’re in a toasty house and you could soon start sweating, which puts a layer of moisture on your skin that will cool you down. Not ideal when you head out to the great outdoors. Prepare your kit in advance so you can quickly get out through the door and on the road before you get a sweat on.