The complete survival guide to winter road cycling

The complete survival guide to winter road cycling


As the mercury starts to drop, we turn to coach Cat Benger from ABCpure, for her complete guide on how to effectively approach the winter cycling season and embrace the blast of fresh air that comes with it.

Winter is a beautiful season and brings its own benefits to your cycling training. Obviously the lower temperatures and unpredictable weather conditions mean there are a few ways we can prepare to make the most out of our time in the saddle, stay safe and have fun.

Bike ready

Ensure your bike is ready for those slightly harsher weather conditions. Do you have lights, do you want to add a rear mud-guard? Some people prefer to change their tyres to something a little heavier than racing slicks to add a little more grip on the road and to be more puncture proof. Always make sure your tyres are checked and pumped up to the required PSI, saddle bag with all the tools required to change a puncture or fix a minor mechanical.

Body ready

During the winter, it’s especially important to get your body ready for the ride. Make sure you’re dressed correctly (see kit list below) and have enough fuel on board to cope in colder conditions. Pre-ride I have a hearty breakfast, my go-to is porridge with a strong coffee.


Check your tyres – Image: KPP

Nutrition for winter fuelling

The body burns more calories to keep warm so it’s key to replace them on winter rides. People often forget to drink and keep hydrated, you still sweat and can get de-hydrated in cooler conditions. If you are using bars as an energy source, store them close to your body where they will stay a little warmer and not get rock hard! Before you go, unwrap or chop up your fuel into bite size pieces, the addition of gloves makes the whole process a little more “clumsy”.

Plan your route

In the winter especially, it’s good to know where you are going and what to expect from your route. Knowing there is a start, half-way and finish point helps to break down the ride. Plan stops to refuel on warm drinks and food. This also reduces the “are we nearly there yet” murmurings and enhances the sense of adventure.

Check your technique

Once on the road pay attention to your technique. Ask yourself this series of questions to complete your technique checklist:

  1. Do you feel relaxed? Are you holding any unnecessary tension in my upper body and wasting energy?
  2. Are your pedal revolutions fluid with even pressure being applied throughout the pedal stroke? Any discrepancies between your right and left leg?
  3. Is your gear selection and cadence suitable for the profile of the road you are riding on?
  4. Are your hamstrings actually doing something and working in the 6 to 12 o clock phase of the pedal stroke?
  5. Are your glutes engaged and switched on?

Ride with others

Long winter rides are best shared with company or a group. Chatting, keeping up, chasing all confirm “time flies when you are having fun”. That said, some solo efforts can be hugely advantageous as ultimately we race alone, not with others for company, distraction and motivation.


Fitness benefits of winter base miles

A great deal of our fitness is built when doing the longer, slower, steadier rides and just because it’s not hurting does not mean it’s not working. These sessions are vital to building our aerobic capacity and getting in the base miles. So with that in mind and knowing all the benefits you are reaping you can be encouraged by how the session is helping you, how it is making you a fitter, faster, stronger and ultimately a better athlete.

Enjoy your surroundings

I often find myself admiring the views I am surrounded by. Where possible I ensure the majority of my riding is done outside of London in the countryside of Kent, Surrey or further afield to Berkshire, Oxfordshire or Hertfordshire. I am sure I am not alone here but riding through the country lanes admiring the cottages and mansions I often wonder who lives in a pace like this!? Dreams of “grand designs” or “escape to the country” make me smile. Savour the freedom of no to-do list. Enjoy the head space, the lack of noise, distraction and interference. Enjoy the winter.

My winter wardrobe

Every cyclist will dress differently for different conditions; it’s about finding what works for you. I have found the art of layering is effective and keeping the extremities warm the deal breaker! If you are going to invest in 1 or 2 key accessories for the season I would suggest it keeps your fingers and toes toasty. Checking the forecast is really key during the colder and darker months, not just as your start point but also for points throughout your route. More rural locations can get very misty and a few degrees cooler!

  • Wicking undervest and thermal base layers
  • Cycling jersey and shorts
  • Arm and leg warmers
  • Waterproof jacket and gilet
  • Soft shell jacket
  • Thermal socks (have been known to wear more than 1 pair)
  • Gloves (plural, a thermal and then a water/wind proof pair)
  • Hat, ear warmer and buff (the buff can be used over your head and or around neck)
  • Toe covers and over shoes/boots
  • Glasses, clear or lightly tinted are a good idea to keep spray and grit out of your eyes (and fingers crossed the winter sun!!)

I hope you feel educated, equipped, energised and eager to keep riding and riding long over the next few months!

Cat Benger

Cat Benger

Coach at ABCpure

Cat Benger is a personal trainer and triathlon coach at ABCpure who took up the sport in her late 20’s when she got hooked on the triathlon endorphin high! She was looking for a personal challenge outside of her work in luxury retail and ultimately swapped her Louboutin’s for Lycra. Cat has teamed up with Queen of the Mile to share coaching tips on triathlon, running and cycling challenges

How to choose your next challenge

How to choose your next challenge

I often get asked “what race do you think I should do” or “what events would you recommend”? I am, of course more than happy to share my views, thoughts and experiences but I also try to encourage you, the athlete to think about what you really want to do? What would really excite you? The popularity of races and events these days, notably the long-course triathlons, mean we have to register months and months often up to a year in advance. So, it is never too early to be thinking about what next and next season! There is also such a plethora of choice that you may be finding it hard to select one. Here is the thought process I go through when thinking about my challenge for the next year and encourage all athletes / participants to do the same:

What’s on the bucket list?

Is there an event you have heard of and really want to do it? For me being genuinely excited about the race and really wanting to do it should be one of the most influential factors. I have never done a race because somebody else told me to do it, of course my choice may have been influenced but I have always made the final decision. There are still many, many events on my bucket list (and it keeps getting longer!!)

Location: UK, Europe, further afield?

Is there a place you really want to travel to or visit? Can participating be tied in with a holiday or adventure?! If you are jet-setting, does a different time zone and or jet lag need to be considered? I have been able to tick off many of the “to visit” places on my list by choosing the race in a country or destination I have wanted to visit.


Following on from the point made above, what will the weather be like in your chosen destination? It is also worth considering, what is the weather typically like where you train versus where you will race? Our bodies get used to the environment we are familiar with so choosing a climate or conditions that are wildly different to our norm can be fun but can also come with its challenges. Simple question to answer, do you prefer competing in warmer or cooler conditions? I know favourable race conditions for me would be slightly better than the classic British summer, notably the water temperature!

Time of year

This is something that is often over-looked in terms of the timing of your training in relation to your race. If for example you choose a triathlon at the very start of the UK season, you may not have the opportunity to open water swim pre-event, and the water temp can be freezing! It also places more emphasis on your training over the winter and spring months. A race later in the season July, Aug, Sept gives you more time, the longer days and (fingers crossed) the warmer summer conditions to train in. You also have the advantage and opportunity to get some “practice” races in. There is of course the option to race outside of the UK, with the popularity of the multi and single sport events there is always something on Northern or Southern hemisphere to tempt you!

Training and racing buddies

Lots of people choose races where they will have some company. I totally agree racing with friends or having a support crew with you can make a huge difference. Signing up to a race or races with others may also mean you have the opportunity to train together. Some company can never be over rated, especially if your chosen event is more on the endurance end of the spectrum!! And who doesn’t love a bit of friendly competition!! I am very fortunate, since meeting my partner Ben in 2010, I have always had someone to train and race with (and against!!) More recently since we started ABCpure, we have also had our athletes to keep up company on training sessions and on our toes when racing!!

My checklist when choosing an event

As a triathlete I will always consider the following

Swim: Where is it, lake, river, sea? For a novice swimmer or triathlete I would probably advise against a sea swim as your inaugural dip! Instead, opt for a lake or river swim where conditions are generally calmer and the water a little warmer. A rolling, wave or mass start may also influence your decision. As a non-swimmer myself (not growing up in the water), I am influenced by a non-sea swim.


Bike and run: What is the profile / terrain like? Is it flat and fast, undulating, hilly or mountainous?? What terrain do you enjoy? What suits your strengths? If you hate going up and down something with lots of ascending and descending is not going to float your boat. On the contrary you may be a bit of a “mountain goat” and love the up’s and down’s. Let’s say I can hold my own and I enjoy climbing on the bike but maybe due to my size / stature and a lack of “real” descents on my door-step to practice going down on, I can give away time to my competition if the descending is very technical. If “switch back’s and hair pin bends” are used in the description of the bike course I may do some additional course homework. If I want to be really competitive at a race, I would not only choose a course I want to do but one that I believe I can do well at. I often ask myself does the course suit me, will it take advantage of my strengths?

Get in touch for more advice
Cat Benger

Cat Benger

Coach at ABCpure

Cat Benger is a personal trainer and triathlon coach at ABCpure who took up the sport in her late 20’s when she got hooked on the triathlon endorphin high! She was looking for a personal challenge outside of her work in luxury retail and ultimately swapped her Louboutin’s for Lycra. Cat has teamed up with Queen of the Mile to share coaching tips on triathlon, running and cycling challenges