The slog of the winter commute is here again, right on your doorstep, and it can feel like a truly daunting task as you look out the window every morning. More often than not, we are met with the unenviable sight of strong sideways winds, heavy downpours or worse still, solid frost across the driveway. These conditions can make the car a hugely alluring prospect with climate control, heated seats and no need for multiple high-vis layers. Features that sadly no bike, despite its price tag, can offer.
However, us cyclists are made of strong stuff, with offices across the country full of brave warriors who battle these conditions to spin their way to work every day. We thought it would be a good idea to whip around the Tailfin office to get our tips and insights on what makes the winter commute a bit more bearable.
“This is probably a really boring and generic answer, but the hardest lesson I learnt was trying to use summer gloves through last winter. Turning up to work with borderline frostbite isn’t a great start to the day. I quickly wised up and got myself some Void winter gloves which I am super impressed by. I recommend getting winter gloves as early as possible.”
“Next one is a decent merino buff, especially if, like me, you have an issue with being cold. I have to state not all buffs are equal so getting a decent fleece-lined one is essential. I use mine to wrap my whole head, around my ears and over my nose, to stop cold-induced headaches. It’s all about function, not fashion here!”
“I think gaining motivation through some kind of fun is always a good idea, no matter what you’re doing. I have a decent segment on my way home, Park Street, which is a savage little heartburner that I used to dread after a long day. However, setting yourself against a time gets me up for it and you quickly forget about the cold.”
“I have to confess, I am very new to commuting to work - up until now I’ve never had to consider it. I am an avid cyclist, although prefer not cycling in the rain. I have, however, been told this job is not weather-dependant, so I have to make journey no matter what. At first I thought I would be able to get by on my trusty windbreaker and chinos, however, after the very first, very wet commute, I had to endure a soggy 9-5 day, not something I’d recommend. So I quickly invested in a high-quality jacket and waterproof overtrousers and haven’t looked back - the result is a much more enjoyable ride and drier day’s work.”
“As a lover of road and mountain biking, I appreciate the benefits of correct tyre choice, and feel it is an area worth investing time to learn about all the different shapes, sizes and compounds of rubber. I have been caught out in the past with cheap, super hard compound tyres that typically comes on new full build bikes, and would definitely recommend investing in some good year round tyres. My personal choice would be the Continental Grand prix 4 season folding tyre. An interesting read to aid tyre choice is this cycling tips article that dispels a few urban myths about how tyres function:
“I know this is going to sound very biased coming from the marketing guy at Tailfin, however, I cannot describe how much more enjoyable, comfortable and, I would even argue, safer riding is without a big heavy rucksack on your back. Moving my stuff into my Tailfin rack and bag has made me feel less restricted, not to mention no sweaty back and no struggling to look over my shoulder at lights.”
Casual Gear doesn't look so good when you turn up to work soaking wet!
"Commuting can be hectic - people are often rushing, late or impatient. In winter, poor light or bad weather can add to the madness. Visibility is therefore key to make sure you can be easily seen in all conditions - it's definitely worth the investment to have decent lights and high vis layers."
“This can be anything from track stands at traffic lights, improving your kerb-hopping skills or practising wheelies in the park. Find different ways to challenge yourself, improve your skills and have fun instead of seeing it as a grind.”
“The old adage goes: This one runs on money and makes you fat, this one runs on fat and saves you money. However terrible it is outside, and whatever excuse you have, remember that quote and keep pedalling”
“While most of my commute is urban and therefore pretty well lit, towards the end of my ride I take the towpath and in winter, it’s pitch black. Having decent front and rear lights are key, and means I can switch from a flashing front light (for visibility on busy rush hour roads) to a full beam so that I don’t inadvertently ride off the path and into the river.”
“Sometimes it’s not the water falling from the sky that gets you, but the stuff coming back up at you from the road. Caught completely off guard, I rode into the morning in an absolute downpour the other day. My legs were wet up to the mid-calf point thanks to the lack of a front mudguard and I had a soggy sit down for the rest of the day thanks to the lack of a rear one. I would 100% recommend mudguards - they keep your bike a teeny bit cleaner too and they also make you much nicer to ride behind.
“This is really boring but it really works. Get everything ready the night before. Have your bag packed, kit out and then in the morning, all you have to do is get ready, grab your bags and get out the door. Keeping early-morning faffing to a minimum will make the whole commuting process feel a lot smoother.
“And one final thought- and enjoy it! As long as you’re well-kitted out, the commute to and from work is a great way to get some fresh air, to mentally prepare for the day ahead and to wind down from it once it’s over.”