Clean up your act

Riding through the winter months demands more commitment: fact! Low temperatures dictate the need for extra layers of clothing, which in turn create their own challenges. Anyone who has tried to retrieve a bar or gel from a rear pocket with numb fingers encased in winter gloves will know what we're talking about. The point when frustration turns to anger is the moment a ride ceases to be enjoyable.

From sportive to daily commute, if you're not suitably attired or haven't bothered to tuck in and pull up your clothing, the damp and cold will inevitably find a way in. Only time out on the bike in wintry conditions will determine the layering options that work for you. We all have different needs; our bodies react uniquely and must be listened to. Being too hot can be just as bad as being too cold.

The elements cause just as much mental suffering as physical. There's an aspect of primitive isolation to any long ride which can force us into a survival mode of sorts. There's always the possibility of being stranded, however much care we take over our equipment choices. It's these moments that lay bare our reliance on our creature comforts. There's nothing quite as humbling as finding yourself alone on a country lane, miles from home, in the face of a pending storm. It's at times like this that reliability suddenly seems much more important than speed.

As we outlined in the second edition of the magazine, there is a strange nobility in suffering. It's good to be taken out of our comfort zones once in a while and to come face to face with the age old challenge of survival. The reward - the successful completion of a ride - strengthens the bond between rider and bicycle.

What we must never lose sight of is the essential clean up and re-lube of your bike after such epic winter journeys. Just as your kit should go in the wash straight after a ride, so too does your bike need some TLC. Back in the comfort of our centrally heated homes, it's too easy to overlook the very machine that delivered us safely back.