Who wants to go winter cycle touring? A couple of weeks back my partner and I set off on a cold and brisk mini-tour. It’s not often we both have a weekend off together, so we thought we would make the most of it. January is not normally the best time to be hitting the open road, but with a few tips and tricks I think you can keep touring all year round!
We decided to keep it relatively chilled – why stress yourself out with long days and strict deadlines? The days are shorter and light is in short supply, so there is no point trying to do extra miles the day just for the sake of it. We decided on day one we would ride across the Mendips into Wells, and slip past the Somerset Levels. Miles that we knew we could do, thereby taking the worry away and allowing us to enjoy the day rather than fight off the dwindling light. So, baby steps. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, and keep it easy!
Sorry, George… you love camping don’t you? Yes, yes I do. What I don’t love is faff. Winter camping is a whole different ball game: heavy kit, big coats, a high chance of rain – and the idea of shivering myself to sleep didn’t sound particularly appealing either. If you can, plan to stop somewhere warm and inviting. We are lucky enough that my parents’ house is nestled at the foot of the Mendips. Home-cooked meals, board games, and a movie night… we were hardly slumming it! If you are not that lucky, there are plenty of B&Bs or pubs that would offer a similar haven from the wind.
Pack light, travel slow
This sort of links to my point above, but no camping means no kit! You no longer have to pack four pairs of socks in case it gets too cold, or that extra packet of emergency super noodles. Just the clothes you’ve got on, and some spares for the evening. My partner Sam took a pannier bag with a couple of bits and bobs in. This meant less weight more speed, right? Nah! More space for snacks! We stopped for a snack perhaps too many times but it’s a holiday after all. You have to try and enjoy yourself.
Ride somewhere new, or at least interesting
“No luck catching them swans then?” This Hot Fuzz quote filled our brains as we headed towards Wells. It had been a destination Sam had wanted to ride to for some time now, and is an area I know well. Sam got to ride on new roads and conquer the Mendip hills, and I got to show off some of my favourite lanes in a place I always enjoy riding. Having a destination to aim for really helps with morale, and gives you a purpose rather than just spending the day out in the cold.
“What, George? But you said…” Yes, I know what I said. Winter is a time for rest, getting snug, and drinking tea! There is no shame in doing nothing. I love cycling but sometimes I don’t want to go out in the freezing cold and get soaking wet, I’ve often struggled with the guilt attached to not riding or not being “productive”. This is silly, nobody needs to be active 100% of the time, so if you’d rather stay inside and read a book, play a game or watch cat videos online, that’s great too! The outside is going to be there when the sun comes out, and your bike will be patiently waiting at the door.
But if the mood takes you, what’s stopping you now? Get out there and get pedalling. Enjoy what’s left of winter!