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Top Tips for Cycling in the Cold

With the World Championships done and the chill in the air returning, the transition from summer cycling to winter training is here. We’ve put together our top tips to keep you on the bike through the winter.


New Season, New Gear

The good thing about a change in season is the opportunity to tinker with the bike and add to the cycling wardrobe. As the temperature drops, heading out of the door in the right kit can be the difference between a good ride and just wanting it to be over. Dressing in breathable layers, with a light windproof or waterproof jacket that can easily be rolled into a jersey pocket, will help you control body temperature out on the bike.

Winter bike or tweak the summer one? We all know the theory of n+1 and while this may seem excessive to those out of the loop, having the correct setup going into the winter months will make riding in poor conditions that bit more enjoyable. At the very least, a good set of mudguards will keep the worst of the road grime off yourself, your bottles and the poor person on your wheel. Switching to a wider tyre, run at slightly lower pressure, will provide additional grip in the wet and don’t forget to charge your lights.



Sweat loss still occurs in cold conditions, extra layers can cause extra sweating and cycling in the cold can reduce our thirst response. The combination of these factors, plus the negative effects of dehydration on performance, makes hydration a key consideration. Try dropping a HYDRO in warm water this winter, keep it warm with a thermal bottle.

Always start in a hydrated state, this can be achieved through pre-hydration with 500-1000 ml of Hydro in the hours leading up to a ride. The goal out on a ride would be to take in sufficient fluids to prevent greater than 2-3% body mass loss through sweat loss (1).


The importance of carbohydrate becomes even more apparent in cold conditions (2). Ensuring you fuel right for each session can both support the demands of training and facilitate the desired training response post session. Your high-intensity sessions will be carbohydrate dependent, meaning that you need carbohydrate in the working muscle to use as energy. Whereas easy spins and recovery miles can be fuelled using our own body fat stores.

When it comes to weekend long rides you may be working at a lower intensity and for a shorter duration than sportive riding, even so, try to take on 60 g carbohydrate per hour during these rides to support performance (1). A café stop half-way can contribute to in-ride fuelling and is a good opportunity to get the feeling back in the fingers.


Vitamins and Minerals

It is well known that there is an inflammatory response to exercise and prolonged, heavy training can cause immunosuppression (3). In addition to hitting your 5-a-day, 200 mg of vitamin C can contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system after exercise.

Fewer hours of daylight, riding in the dark and turbo sessions indoors can all contribute to reduced sun exposure, potentially resulting in vitamin D deficiencies. Vitamin D contributes to the maintenance of normal bones and muscle function, supports in the absorption and utilisation of calcium and supports the normal functioning of the immune system. It is recommended that an athlete supplements with up to 5000 IU vitamin D3 per day throughout the winter months (4).


Alter your training to make the most out of the winter training block, with a mixture of outdoor rides and indoor sessions. People often look at this training phase as a time to solely focus on building base fitness and while this is important, you miss out on that crucial top end work. Plan out each training week with a mixture of sessions and enter a spring sportive. Having a number of small checkpoints and an event in the diary can help motivate you to get out there.

Meeting a friend for a ride or going out with the local club are great motivators to get out on the bike. Given the conditions, these rides are naturally at a lower intensity than those during the summer, meaning they can function as your base sessions. Then the development of turbo trainers, Zwift and TrainingPeaks means you can work on top end speed / power from the warmth of your own home.


  1. Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 48(3), 543-568.
  2. Galloway, S. D., & Maughan, R. J. (1997). Effects of ambient temperature on the capacity to perform prolonged cycle exercise in man. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 29(9), 1240-1249.
  3. Gleeson, M. (2007). Immune function in sport and exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 103(2), .693-699.
  4. Close, G. L., Russell, J., Cobley, J. N., Owens, D. J., Wilson, G., Gregson, W., … & Morton, J. P. (2013). Assessment of vitamin D concentration in non-supplemented professional athletes and healthy adults during the winter months in the UK: implications for skeletal muscle function. Journal of Sports Sciences, 31(4), 344-353.
Written By

Ben Samuels

Ben is a Performance Nutritionist at Science in Sport