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Aldo's Plan of Attack For Winter Cycling

Posted by Carol Sicbaldi

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For the last 17 years, the "man behind the scenes" at the Ciclismo Classico base in Italy has been Aldo Papini. As our in-house Tuscan bike mechanic, Aldo is a wealth of information when it comes to easier winter cycling and plain old 'tender loving' bike care. To help you stay motivated to ride during the winter, we've also included Top Guide Enrico Pizzorni's tips for proper dress and layers during inclement weather conditions.

Best advice of all: Don't stop riding!

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Stay Clean

Brush, Don't Spray. Grit and water work double-time on brake pads and rim sidewalls when riding your bike in the winter. But don't use a hose to clean them. Wash your bike with a brush immediately after your ride. Dry the chain and lubricate it lightly.

Use a soft brush to clean in between—and around—the chain and drivetrain. Rinse with low pressure water to avoid getting unwanted water in seals and bearings, which can cause future problems down the road.

Aldo's Cleaning Tips:

1. Clean bike with a degreasing soap (like Dawn dish soap), a soft brush, and a stiff brush for drivetrain.

2, If you live in a place where de-icing chemicals are used on the roads, these chemicals can cause a lot of damage to your bike. Be sure to clean your bike after every ride.

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Aldo at work at our Ciclismo Classico Tuscan base

Fenders 

Although most Italians don't use mudguards or fenders, they can be a lifesaver (saving your clothes as well) in colder climates. In addition, with less or little sun to dry the roads in the wintertime, mudguards will protect you and your riding buddies from the cold and dirty water kicked up by your tires on roads that remain wet or slushy long after it has stopped raining or snowing. 

Winter Tires

Winter-specific tires are typically a little heavier and have a higher rolling resistance than summer or racing tires. But in return they’re likely to be more durable and offer increased puncture resistance. Punctures are inevitable, and unfortunately, increasingly more likely to happen in winter when more debris (glass, flint, etc) is washed onto wet roads. Staying out of the gutter to will help you avoid the worst of the debris and switching from your supple summer tires to a new pair of winter tires will help you keep rolling, too.

 

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Lights

Winter's darker days means that if you are a commuter, you will almost certainly ride one direction home in semi-darkness. Good lights are essential, according to Ciclismo Classico Top Guide Enrico Pizzorni.

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Ciclismo Classico Top Guide Enrico Pizzorni

What lights you choose to use will depend on where and when you will be using them: on lit roads during the urban commute or pitch-black country lanes during early morning or evening training rides. Either way, the progression of LED technology and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries means there are plenty of options. If you ride regularly when it’s dark, we’d recommend having two lights at the front and back. That way you can have one flashing and one in a steady state, and always have a backup should one fail. Just remember to charge them.

Saddlebag

Some cyclists curse the very thought of a saddle bag on a road bike but, in winter, the benefits are clear justification for breaking ‘rule number 29’.

It’s never nice to be stuck at the side of the road, and certainly not when it is cold, wet, and miserable. Having a small saddlebag on your bike not only ensures you have the essentials to get you up and running in the event of a mechanical failure, it also frees up space in your jersey pockets for food or extra clothing.

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 “There is no such thing as bad weather—only unsuitable clothing.”

– Alan Wainwright 

Dress in Layers

As with cycling at any time of year, keeping moisture away from your skin is important. In the winter, it’s particularly important in order to avoid getting too cold. A merino base layer will help to wick moisture away from the skin effectively and help regulate your body temperature. A decent pair of overshoes will keep the wind and rain out of your shoes—something which is particularly uncomfortable otherwise.

Long-fingered gloves are a must after October, with any loss of dexterity being potentially calamitous. It’s worth spending the money on a decent pair of cycling gloves that not only provide warmth but also retain your feeling of control and keep you safe. Although it can be tempting to go purely down the path of warmth, you must also ensure the clothing you wear is suitable for cycling—and will help protect you.

Enrico shares:  "Some of my favorite clothing brands are Endura for pants and jackets and SealSkinz for amazing waterproof socks, hats, and gloves.Tthese are both British brands, so their clothing is definitely durable in cold and rainy weather."

 

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Food & Drink

Aldo says "to get ready for a winter ride, I start the day with a typical Italian breakfast just before heading out: toasted Tuscan bread with butter and marmalade, a glass of milk, and an espresso."

Eating enough before and during a ride is as important in winter as it is at any other time of year. Be aware that some energy bars can become very hard during low temperatures, so either keep them somewhere warm (e.g. a jersey back pocket) or opt for a softer product, such as gels. If the temperature is really cold, then mix your drink with hot or warm water to stave off the chilling effect, at least for a while. It's important to keep drinking regularly, too. It may not be obvious that you are sweating under all that clothing, but fluid loss happens when cycling at any temperature.

Enrico adds, "Eat and drink regularly. When possible, carry a hot drink in an insulated water bottle or small thermos. Of course, a café stop on longer rides is even more essential during winter, giving you a chance to have a hot drink and a large slice of cake. Make sure you stay warm and don’t cool off too much when you are stopped."

 

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Aldo (third from left) and team at the shop in Tuscany

Aldo and Enrico both agree that with the proper preparation and equipment, cycling during the winter months can be just as fun as during the summer. In fact, it can be even more enjoyable. A winter ride is not only a challenge for the enthusiastic cyclist, it can be a good seasonal diversion from those hot-and-sweaty summer rides.

If you spend time "winterizing" your bike and investing in the right clothing and safety precautions, you’ll be sure to enjoy winter cycling as much as summer riding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lights

The nights have quickly drawn in and the clocks going back, if you are a commuter, will almost certainly mean at least one ride under cover of darkness.

Good lights are essential, then, and we’d advise keeping them on your bike throughout winter as it can remain gloomy even in the middle of the day.

What lights you choose to use will depend on where and when you will be using them – on lit roads during the urban commute or pitch black country lanes during early morning or evening training rides? Either way, the progression of LED technology and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries means there are plenty of options out there. If you ride regularly when it’s dark, we’d recommend having two lights at the front and back. That way you can have one flashing and one steady state, and always have a backup should one fail. Just remember to charge them!



Saddlebag

Some cyclists curse the very thought of a saddle bag on a road bike but, in winter, the benefits are clear justification for breaking ‘rule number 29’.

It’s never nice to be stuck at the side of the road, and certainly not when it is cold, wet and miserable – as it all too often can be in the midst of winter. Having a small saddlebag on your bike not only ensures you have the essentials to get you up and running in the event of a mechanical, but also frees up space in your jersey pockets for food for long base training ride and extra clothing.


Good Winter Clothing/Gear

The British writer Alan Wainwright once wrote “there is no such thing as bad weather only unsuitable clothing.”



Food & Drink

Eating enough before and during a ride is as important in winter as it is at any other time of year. Be aware that some energy bars can become very hard during low temperatures, so either keep them somewhere warm (eg a jersey back pocket) or opt for a softer product, such as gels.

>>> Fuel properly for winter cycling

Keep drinking regularly too. It may not be obvious that you are sweating under all that clothing, but fluid loss happens when cycling at any temperature.

>>> Winter blunderland: don’t make these winter cycling mistakes

If the temperature is really cold, then mix your drink with hot or warm water to stave off the chilling effect, at least for a while.

Of course, a café stop on longer rides is even more essential during winter, giving you a chance to have a hot drink and a large slice of cake. Make sure you stay warm and don’t cool off too much when you are stopped.

Topics: Winter, Cycling Tips

Written by Carol Sicbaldi

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