- Winter conditions are entirely rideable, if you are in the correct gear
- Keeping your head layered, under the helmet, is a big win
- Being warm and visible, are important
You don’t want to be an exclusively summer cyclist. Riding year-round is one of the privileges of living in South Africa, where winters are mild and short, compared to the northern hemisphere.
If European or Canadian riders keep training and getting out on those mindfulness rides during their severe winter months, you should too.
As the first proper cold front sweeps through the Cape and makes its way across the country, it signals the change in riding gear. If you are going to go on those big solo rides, beyond spinning on the indoor trainer, you need to rethink what you wear.
Winter riding gear is all about understanding shadows, windchill, visibility and ventilation. If you live in a mountainous area, like greater Cape Town or George, chances are that you’ll be riding in those long shadows, during the early morning. Which can be bitterly cold.
As the sun arcs and you gain more radiation, too much winter riding gear can become uncomfortably hot. The key is to layer and have adequate storage pockets to carry clothing items, when removed.
It is all about the base
Perhaps the most popular and appropriate South African approach to winter riding gear, is a base ventilation vest, under your conventional zipped cycling jersey, with arm warmers. This configuration gives you great flexibility, to manage rising temperatures, as you ride along.
The zipped jersey can be opened to improve airflow, and if it gets much hotter than anticipated throughout the morning, you can roll off those arm warmers and store them in your cargo pockets.
We lose a lot of heat through our heads and on a bicycle. When riding in the aero position, you are channelling a flow of freezing air through the helmet, onto your head. Lockdown riding has made everyone a buff wearer and keeping that neck area covered is crucial.
Riders with buzzcuts (or balding heads) can definitely benefit from a secondary buff, under their helmet. If you are going to be doing higher-speed road riding, a skullcap is recommended, to keep that bitter windchill from ruining your ride.
Reducing your risk - in the dark
Shorter winter days mean more sunrise and sunset rides, which might have you heading out or returning home, in low-light conditions. A taillight or front light are non-negotiables for sunrise and sunset riding.
You can also make yourself more visible to vehicles, by being bold in that lightweight rain jacket choice.
Most arm and leg warmers are black, and to adds some contrasting colour to your riding attire, and make you more visible, a luminous rain jacket is ideal.