Perhaps it’s because my introduction to the bike was guided by a handful of old-school club riders who had earned their spurs riding and racing in a time long before cycling became cool. Cyclists’ were often seen as outsiders. Often exposed to piss-taking and ridicule from those that simply 'don’t get it’.
Winter riding where I come from consists of riding a trusted steel or aluminium winter bike with full (proper) clearance for mudguards and vitally important mudflap. Usually tyres would be nothing less than 28mm, sometimes with tread. Plenty of clearance for off-roading, perhaps a bike with a longer wheel-base. A saddle-bag is very useful, containing extra kit ~ in case you get caught out by the rain on a long Sunday ride (you can change in the cafe!). Other bits of kit consist of a spare pair of gloves for the same reason and I know some lads who carry a spare couple of tubes and even a tyre. I’ve heard stories of (but never witnessed) old-school pro’s riding through winter with a brick in their saddle bag, to make them stronger. I’m unsure if there is any evidence to back up if this experiment works! I’ve also heard stories of Freddie riding a steel MTB bike with drop handle-bars through winter (and still giving people a tough time on the road).
Compare the above with how we see winter cycling marketed nowadays. I’ve not seen one mudguard in a photoshoot this year from many of the ‘top’ brands, and I don’t see many out on the road either (not to mention the vital mudflap!). Many new riders idea of a winter bike is their old racing bike, ie. their old summer bike before they bought their expensive new one! How anyone can be happy riding in a group getting covered in shite and covering their cycling compadre in shite off the road is beyond me!
As for the the kit, I’ve seen brands push their ‘winter kit’ out there, consisting of a thin base-layer and thin polyester jersey! Unless this is a Gabba, Combi or Assos 851 jacket you’re likely to get cold riding in the North, this is especially true in the Peak District. Bib-shorts and leg-warmers are for riding in the Spring/early Autumn. Winter is the time for proper warm tights, really ‘biff’ overshoes. I suppose you could argue with the development of materials such as Gabba or Tempest, that the need for laying-up is changing, but you still wont see me leave the house in winter without a gilet on my back or in my jersey pocket (ever!). So what is deemed ‘acceptable attire’ for winter riding? I am questioning here weather cycling brands have turned their back on ‘authenticity’.
Round our way many riders will opt to wear a pair of winter shoes, MTB or recessed-cleated touring shoes ~ ideal if you need to carry the bike on the shoulder over black-ice or (hopefully) over some rough-stuff! Also great for walking around in the cafe or the pub! Fast carbon soled road shoes are saved for best.
All words by Thom Barnett
Photos by Nick Newton