This article was first published as a VeloVixen editorial in the February issue of Cycling World Magazine.

Let’s face it: this time of year isn’t exactly peak season for cycling.

It’s cold - even in a mild winter like this one. It’s wet. It’s dank. Daylight hours are almost non-existent. And frequently there’s ice on the ground. To say nothing of that residual Christmas pudding clogging up both arteries and will-power.

It’s hardly a recipe for joyful times on your bike. Or is it?

We’ll let you into a secret: the most vital accessory at this time of year isn’t a thick jacket, or a bright light or reflective helmet. It’s that Accuweather app on your phone; make friends with a reliable weather forecasting service and you’ll have some of the best rides of the year just when most people are getting cabin fever hibernating.

A crisp winter day is cycling’s equivalent of those old Tango ads. It’s the ultimate head-clearer, a chance to get the blood pumping and the mind rebalanced - only without that nasty fizzy orange stuff.

Some of our favourite rides are on days when those first deep breaths sting the bottom of your lungs just a little and you have to keep wriggling your toes to keep feeling in them. Days when the hedgerows are tinseled with frost, when your breath billows out on the climbs and those knowing nods to other hardy pedallers come with extra layers of understanding – ‘we’re out here, feeling great, whilst everyone else is sitting on the sofa’.

Yes, you have to pick the right day – a wet, windy day in February is only for the truly hardcore, and ice is only fun for skating and drinks. There’s no shame in having a rethink when you open the curtains. But if the forecast is good, don’t hesitate – get out there and ride.

Here are 7 basics that can make or break a winter ride:

  1. Layers: the time-honoured way to trap warm air around yourself; several thin ones are invariably better than one thick one.
  2. Shoe Covers: cold feet are as miserable as cold hands – protect them with windproof, waterproof shoe covers.
  3. Arm Warmers: don’t underestimate the difference a decent pair of arm warmers can make to your core temperature – they’re also brilliantly adaptable.
  4. Neck Warmers: a good neck warmer helps to keep those pesky drafts out, and can usually double as a head buff to wear under your helmet.
  5. Materials: ‘normal’ technical cycling jerseys have minimal thermal insulation to them – merino is a fantastic natural way to keep your temperature constant, and ‘Roubaix’ fabric offers fleecy warmth for jerseys and leggings.
  6. Water Resistant vs. Proof: make sure you know which your jacket is – ‘resistant’ will keep you fairly dry in a shower, but only ‘proof’ will protect you fully from the rain.
  7. Take a break: if you’re getting really cold, stop and defrost; pubs, shops, cafés and even service stations can all be havens for coffee, cake and quiet reflection on just how heroic you’re being!

See you out there!