cycling kit

The Winter Bike – practical piece of kit…or excuse to buy a new bike?

Once the winter weather starts to gets nasty the effects of wind, rain, sleet, snow and ice start to seriously disrupt the surface of your local tarmac. This then gets thrown up and into all the moving bits of your machine, and as this mixture of grit, grime and salt goes to work it can seriously reduce the lifespan of your bike.

This is where the winter bike comes in. Apart from anything else it’s a ready made excuse to acquire another bike…and what self respecting cyclist doesn’t want another bike? What’s more, it’s an excuse based on logic – where’s the sense in chucking a couple of grand at some beautifully crafted lump of carbon fibre, only to spend all winter wearing it away with the elements.

Winter Training
Winter Training

Ideally, it will be something solid and hard-wearing –  but performance wise, nothing like the shiny, pristine piece of art that’s now polished, greased, and wrapped up snug and warm in the garage. Where I come from, the classic blue alloy Ribble is a popular choice as a winter hack.

Of course, the drop in performance takes some adjusting to, but once you’ve committed to the winter steed for those long dark months, the time has come to ease off anyway; forget about your average kph, and settle into some solid winter mileage. It’s this tipping point between seasons that reveals another positive effect of your new winter toy – it’s the ideal tool to help you save a bit of face.

The Ribble Winter Trainer - a common site in Lancasire
The Ribble Winter Trainer – a common site in Lancashire

Picture the scene…autumn is heading towards winter and you’ve not been getting out much – frankly, your summer form has plummeted off the edge of a cliff. Your mate gives you a ring, suggesting a couple of hours blast around your local roads. Great, you think…and then reality hits. This is going to involve burning lungs and conversation through gasping breaths.

The solution? Simply meet your mate at the usual spot, nonchalantly riding your winter bike. When he raises eyebrows just claim, ‘oh, I thought we were riding winter pace today’. If at any point during your ride the pace is still getting too hot just remind him how solidly made (and therefore heavy) the alloy tubes are on your winter steed, and how enjoyable it is to get in some serious winter base miles.

Never mention last summer, only next. This will create the impression you are building towards something and so justifies your sluggish pace as part of a larger plan. If it’s coming across well you could even talk about how pleased you are to be so disciplined about sticking to your training plan (rather than how disappointed you are to be riding so slowly). Without the winter bike, none of this will work.

Winter cartoon

After a few months of racking up the miles on your trusty workhorse you become attuned to it and forget what it feels like to ride your carbon framed pride and joy. Whatever speed you ride is neither fast nor slow, just relative; quicker or slower than last week/month/year.

Once you have lost all grasp of what another bike feels like (around March or April) it’s time to dust off your Sunday best again – your expensively kitted weapon of choice – wait for a sunny day, and throw your leg over it. And then you get the pay off…

…it feels like test driving a Lambourghini – quick, twitchy, temperamental – and you feel light and agile, like a proper bike rider again. You even start to look the part, as your best kit is re-united with the bike it was bought to match.

The bike that you felt indifferently about last October, happy to stash it away in the shed, suddenly feels like the bike of your dreams. You might even feel a touch of guilt about the winter months spent leafing through bike magazines with your tongue hanging out.

10 comments on “The Winter Bike – practical piece of kit…or excuse to buy a new bike?

  1. Hmmm…if you cycle for transportation (plus train,race, etc.), there’s a strong chance you already have more than 1 bike already. That’s what it’s like for the cyclists I know who don’t race: they own and use 2-3 bikes. So no need to think about what type of winter bike…except forget about the skinny tires for snowy, icy winter cycling.

    From Alberta where it’s -15 to -25 degrees C average in winter.


    • You’re right, my point about the need for a winter bike being an excuse to buy another bike is tongue in cheek really. Of course, as you are from Alberta, I’ll bow to your knowledge when it comes to winter conditions…compared to those temperatures our winters here in the north of England are hardly worthy of the name.


    • Wow, with those temperatures, I’m guessing all 3 bikes are winter bikes all year round!


      • Well at least 2 could/are rideable during winter. 3rd one is a folding bike and wonderful. But not for winter slogging.


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