I am a huge advocate for the active commute and have been battling the elements for nearly 13 years now! Over time I have moved further away from my school, but have always kept up the daily cycle, come rain or shine.
Over that time, I have picked up a thing or two about staying warm, safe and comfortable on the bike, even in the worst of the British weather. Below are my 5 top tips for an active winter commute! So even if you are a fair-weather active commuter, I hope this will push you in the right direction to become a fully-fledged all year rounder!
1) Layer up
As the weather gradually cools down, being able to add a thin layer at a time will stop you getting ridiculously sweaty after 5 mins. As much as I like the saying “be bold and start cold, we don’t want to be freezing right out the door.
I will normally go for a base layer and long sleeved jersey followed by a light rain jacket or gilet. Something you can remove easily and stick in your bag quickly if you warm up.
When the weather does really turn, I go for a winter jacket like this one from HuuB, light and fully waterproof. Quick drying too so it’s ready to go again for the return journey. If you want something more robust, you can’t go wrong with DHB.
2) Choose your bag wisely
Your return journey clothing will be heavier and bulkier in the winter than in the summer, so as the weather cools you will need a bag that can carry more.
As well as needing to fit more in, you will also need a bag that can withstand harsh weather, and also help with your visibility. So, spend time on your bag, picking a good one will last a long time, my last one has been going for over 5 years and I have only just needed to change it.
Make sure your bag has a good chest strap and sits comfortably on your back and is designed to get a little wet and sweaty.
My current bag is a KitBrix CityBrix Bag. It has a smooth laptop sleeve, space for x2 water bottles and a KitBrix signature waterproof section in the base, perfect for carrying dry things on the way into work and wet things on the way home. The bonus of this compartment is also that you can shove your sweaty gear in there when you get to school and it won’t stink out your classroom or office, it also won’t get the rest of the bag damp!
3) Look after the extremities!
Cold fingers and toes are no joke, once the wind chill drops cold fingers and toes can leave you in a lot of pain and discomfort. It is not an enjoyable place to be at all!
A good pair of thin gloves for when the temperature gets chilly and a thick pair of full winter gloves that can even go over the top of the thin ones work a treat.
I use DHB brand gloves for both of these.
For the toes there are a few tricks. Firstly a good pair of thick socks, then before putting your shoes on, you can cover your toes in a layer of tin foil that will keep the windchill off. Then, the best invention is the over shoe or toe covers. These will keep the cold air and light rain out. It was a huge game changer for me when I went to the toe covers. They can stay on from autumn all the way through to spring if you like your toes to stay toasty. (Again I went with DHB for my over shoes)
4) Be bright, be seen
We tell the children this but it’s amazing how many cyclists I see without lights, and this counts for runners and walkers too!
A good rear flashing light and a high beam front light, I go for 1000+ lumens on the front as my route takes me through the country lanes, be sure to check out battery life though and make sure you can charge them when you’re in school. When you’re commuting both ways in the dark you don’t want them to die on you part way through.
It’s never a bad idea to have a spare in your bag just in case!
5) Plan ahead
Try and make your journey as light as possible by planning ahead. Think about the things you can leave at work like towels and shower gels. Anything you don’t need to carry back and forth is a weight saver!
Also, if it’s been a cold ride you are going to want a warm jumper or jacket to slide into after you’re changed, and of course a good hot drink to warm you up. Mines a black americano!
This is my top 5 for an active commute in the winter. My commute is by bike (currently commuting on a Cannondale TopStone Gravel Bike), with the occasional run thrown in for good measure. I know that pretty much no matter the traffic or weather I can be at work or home within 40 minutes. I can’t say the same for the rare occasions I do drive.
My daily cycles give me time to process the day ahead, or more often just think of sweet nothing and enjoy the ride!
If you have your own tips to add or you think I have missed a few big ones (we didn’t even talk about bikes or tyre choice), put them in the comments below!
Thanks for taking the time, and happy commuting!