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Many children (and some big kids) will have a bike on their Christmas list this year but sometimes winter can be a challenge to get out on these shiny new wheels. Helen Pollard gives us her top tips to keep wheels turning until spring returns.
Once you have overcome the challenge of unwrapping the bike, then before you head out on any adventures you need to make sure your bike is set-up correctly.
If you have purchased your bike at an independent bike shop, they should have done this for you. With an internet purchase you will have to do a bit of DIY.
Successful winter riding does need a bit more kit and preparation.
Although we’d admit that it’s hard to beat cycling around in the summer, with short-sleeves and no waterproofs there’s still a lot of enjoyment to be had from winter riding – let alone the benefits of keeping your legs turning, and a bit of (very) fresh air.
However successful winter riding does need a bit more kit and preparation. Remember it's a good idea to allow children to have a practice on a new bike before setting off on a marathon ride, especially if they are getting to grips with gears for the 1st time.
The most important factor in winter weather riding is, of course, clothing. This is essential when riding with children who are less able to regulate their body temperature and cold hands will take the enjoyment out of a ride very quickly.
Not sure whether you have enough clothes on (or too many)? Then go outside before your ride and see how it feels. You should not feel too warm.
When riding with children we always carry an emergency spare set of clothes including gloves.
Remember that the effort of riding will warm you up considerably especially in hilly areas.
Eating enough before and during a ride is as important in winter as it is at any other times of year. Be aware that some energy bars can become very hard during low temperatures, so keep them somewhere warm. Jelly babies are a good alternative.
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. If the temperature is really cold, we always carry a thermos of hot chocolate perfect to revive cold little fingers.
When riding as a family including a cafe stop as part of the planned route is excellent motivation, 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.
Punctures are an unfortunate part of winter riding, so don’t forget your tubes and pump.
Take care if you are considering using CO2 cartridges low temperatures, the gas can cause the head of the canister to freeze, including to your gloves or fingers.
In winter, when riding on the road we always have lights on as it can get very gloomy on overcast winter days when the sun is at its weakest.
Small, light and very bright rechargeable LED lights can be cheaply purchased and are perfect to be seen with. Make sure that your lights are charged before every ride. Remember the cold will zap the battery!
Wider tyres are great for winter riding, on and off road. Opt for tyres that offer a degree of puncture protection and are harder wearing. Continental Gatorskins are excellent for winter riding on roads, but many other tyre manufacturers offer similar models.
Use mudguards – your backside and the rider behind will thanks you for it.
Salty water off gritted roads or mud can cause lots of problems with moving parts, and water getting into exposed cables can cause upset gears. Give your bike a regular look over and try and wash off the accumulated grime regularly. Check for wear on rims and brake blocks, as wet weather can be particularly harsh on these areas.
Keep your chain oiled regularly, and make sure that your cables are in good shape.
Check the weather before you leave and be prepared for the worst. We use the mountain weather information service www.mwis.org.uk. Remember as soon as you climb the weather can change dramatically.
Make sure you plan a sensible route to match the predicted weather forecast. If you are going alone tell somewhere you are going and expected return time.
It is very easy to become inactive over winter. But getting outside is just as essential as in summer. It will combat bored kids’ syndrome and boost everyone’s immune system and mood helping to fight off winter bugs.