Reasons to go out cycling in winter

This morning, I was nursing a rather painful saddle sore. The consequence of either a cheap saddle on my winter training bike or the many hours I’ve spent on the bike in the past seven days. Since it was also very cold first thing, I had two very good reasons not to go out cycling. Instead, I pottered down to Cafe Nero on Oxford High street to enjoy a bit of leisurely breakfast. Firstly, it was very painful cycling on saddle sore (with just standard trousers) and very cold on the hands. Comfortably seated on the Cafe Nero Couch, I felt pretty pleased with myself for the choice I’d made. Furthermore, inspired by the early morning coffee, and the comfort of a warm coffee shop,  I even started writing a blog – Reasons not to go out cycling in winter. I was doing a pretty good job with the blog, the reasons were stacking up…


The only problem is that, seated by the window of the High Street, I kept seeing cyclists and groups of cyclists setting off for their traditional Sunday morning club ride – all kitted up in a variety of winter cycling clothes – from full blow balaclavas to the odd student wearing shorts. Why do you always seem some cyclists wearing shorts when it’s -2 degrees? – To paraphrase a silly old expression  ‘It makes me cold, just looking at them.’

I saw Mid Oxons,  a few Zappi CCs, Oxonians CC and a few  unattached cyclists go whizzing past. You know you’re a little obsessed with cycling when the sight of other cyclists flying past gets you thinking – why aren’t you on your bike?

The cappuccino was empty, the blog running out of steam, I looked at my watch only 9.40am – still time to get a 100 miles in if I’m quick. So I raced home, spent 10 minutes putting on my winter cycling clothes and them I’m off on the road to Chipping Campden.


The other clincher for going out, is that it was another one of those perfect November days – no cloud, just sun. A little too cold, but the Cotswold villages are looking great at this time of the year.  If you forgive me for sounding as smug as a smug, tax avoiding Jersey millionaire, paying 1% tax a year – I’m pretty fit for November; cycling feels pretty effortless at the moment. To be honest, I wouldn’t swap this kind of fitness for even a tax rate of 1%.

The only drawback was the old saddle sore. It inspired frequently changing handlebar positions, slight movements on the saddle – all trying to find that elusive comfortable position. After a great descent into Chipping Campden I climbed over to Broadway for the main climb of the day – towards Snowshill. 11 minutes or so for a 200 metre ascent, averaging 6%. At the top, the saddle sore was still giving a bit of jip, so I did a bit of riding out of the saddle. But, even with the best intentions, I knew I couldn’t cycle 30 miles home standing on the pedals.

The strange thing about saddle sores is that the more you cycle, the less painful they become. After about five hours on the bike, the pain finally evaporated. I can never work that out. It’s like they become numbed into submission. It’s always worse when you first get on your bike btw (see: dealing with saddle sores)

With cycling you always seem to be fighting some kind of pain. As the saddle sore dissipated, I became aware of cold feet. I stopped in a petrol station to buy some water. The petrol station warmed up the feet, and I tried putting on a thermal hat under my helmet. To be great surprise, my feet remained warm all the way home. Work that one out – to warm your feet, put on a hat. (there is actually some science behind this. If your core body -temperature is cold, the body restricts blood flow to the extremities. Warm up your head, and the body gives more blood to the feet. – So there you go, cycling info -  always a source of useful information, even on a rambling ‘I went for a cycle ride’ kind of post.

But, after the feet warmed up, my back started to play up – perhaps the consequence of 6 hours wriggling around the bike trying to cope with saddle sore. With a sore back, I was again jumping around the handlebars trying to relieve the pressure. I tried cycling with hands off  handlebars, but that reminded me of the saddle sore – temporarily quiet, but still a potential to be inflamed.  I noticed that with a bad back, my speed really dropped. I think a strong back is important to cycling.

Back home, it was another 100 miles on the clock, and a well earned rest on a comfy couch. At least, I finished the day as I started.

Other Reasons to go out cycling in winter

1. You can plot nice graphs of your winter mile-age total (no that isn’t sad, I’ve been reliably informed, drawing nice bar charts are the main secret of Bradley Wiggins’ success as a cyclist.)

2. You can stop in a cafe, and enjoy a pot of tea. That really is a good reason.

3. If you cycle through winter, you’ll feel the benefit in summer.

4. You can eat more cake

5. What else are you going to do?


Toasted tea cakes and tea – another good reason to go out cycling in the winter.



2 Responses to Reasons to go out cycling in winter

  1. Doug November 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    I think you have every reason to feel smug. You’re really fit, brilliant blogger and you’ve had some great races / results this year – so yes you can feel smug, that’s okay, but don’t over do it!

  2. Aequitas Legal November 19, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    Completely agree. Why let the weather stop you doing something you love!?

    Reason no 4 is an odds on favourite for all the office cyclists. No need to feel guilty about that extra piece of Christmas Pudding on the 25th.

    Just remember to keep safe when cycling this winter, especially in the dark.

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