February bike blog: Snowed under

February 11, 2013 No Comments »

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YourCardiff’s resident bike blogger Simon Nurse returns this month to talk about getting back on the bike after the worst of the wintry weather, and coping on two wheels when the snow does hit. Simon cycle commutes daily, races cyclo-cross for Cardiff JIF, and edits the Odoni sponsored cycle blog cyclestuff.wordpress.com. Follow him on Twitter @cyclestuffblog.

So what happened to the bike blog in January? It was buried under an avalanche of snow, drowned by a spectacular monsoon and hurtled into February by a hurricane. I think it’s fair to say that for many cyclists, January turned out to be every inch the dreary affair the long range forecasters had been predicting.

That’s not to say it’s impossible to cycle of course – I soldiered on with my commute and attempted to train despite the inclement weather – but cycling in truly poor conditions provides a robust test of kit and survival skills. Should – heaven forbid – the snow and ice return, here’s my advice for coping with it on two wheels.

  1. Route choice – Keep away from the roads as much as possible. A decent set of off-road tyres (and even better, snow/ice tyres) will serve you well in snow that has not become too compacted or icy and trails and cycle paths are the best place to use them. Don’t forget that off-road tyres allow bikes to be used on terrain that cars can’t cope with even when it’s not snowing. If it seems too slippery hop off; you can always hop back on again later. If you do use a stretch of road, DO be aware of other traffic. Even if you can control your bike well, there’s no guarantee that other road users are enjoying the same degree of control.
  2. Footwear – Pay attention to your footwear. There’s every chance you’ll be wheeling your bike at some point (and potentially most of the route!), so try to wear cycle shoes or boots with appropriate tread pattern (mountain bike shoes or walking boots are ideal).
  3. Clothing – Waterproof and warm clothing is the order of the day. Cycling in snow inevitably entails snowflakes down the back of the neck and sodden trousers. Keeping yourself comfortable will add immeasurably to the experience.
  4. Post ride – Keep the bike clean and well maintained. Salt used on roads absolutely obliterates brakes and chainsets, so a quick clean and re-lubrication of the bike will keep everything in good working order.
  5. Finally – Be sensible. Sometimes the weather is simply too grim to ride a bike. You be the judge.

I sincerely hope of course that this advice is rendered entirely irrelevant due to improving weather conditions and we’re all swanning around in shorts. We’ll see!

While January was a bit of a right off in South Wales, the race scene has started to shake off its New Year hangover and ramp up towards the spring classics.

The big news from Australia was Geraint Thomas’ third place in the tour down under. It was very nearly the win; after leading for several days, Geraint was undone on the hill sacrificing thirty seconds and slipping into 5th place on general classification.

Team Sky came out fighting though; some super aggressive riding on the last stage (Adelaide) elevated him back on the podium. February will be a busy month for both Geraint and local team mate Luke Rowe, both of whom are named in the Sky squad for three classic races in Belgium (Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, Le Samyn).

Sticking with local lads, more good news on the domestic front. Promising junior riders Zac May and Adam King both of Cardiff JIF represented GB at the six days of Bremen track meet and the World Cyclocross championships (Kentucky, USA) respectively. Both are names to watch for the future.

With two huge cycling stories in the news, ‘future’ is a loaded word. Whilst it’s encouraging to see the talent that continues to emerge from the UK development programmes it is equally sad to contemplate the retirement of a cycling great and the ongoing saga of a confessed cheat.

Nicole Cooke announced her retirement on January 14 drawing to a close a glittering career as one of the best cyclists the UK has produced. There is little that she hasn’t achieved and Nicole has been torch bearer for women’s cycling ever since she exploded onto the senior scene 11 years ago.

In her retirement statement, Nicole focussed heavily on the impact of drugs on cycle racing – a great shame but perhaps inevitable given the recent developments with confirmed former drug user Lance Armstrong. There is little point in dwelling on Armstrong. He’s enjoyed far too many column inches already and it’s time that the sport drew a line under the whole sorry affair.

Getting back to using our own bikes, if the weather isn’t putting you off, what can you look forward to during February? Organised rides are still thin on the ground, but you’d expect that during the winter months.

If you are keen on riding with a group, mass participation rides are – in the main – restricted to the activities of clubs and centre largely around building up a ‘base’ (in other words, longer rides aimed at building endurance for the summer months ahead).

Whatever your preference for riding, whether it’s long road miles, muddy mountain bike climbs or a gentle saunter to Cardiff bay, my staunch advice is to take your opportunities as the weather presents them (and have fun taking them). Happy cycling.

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