As we’ve already explored in the previous sections of our blog riding through winter is a challenge but one G!RO is committed to helping you overcome, as we also believe that getting outside and riding, even when conditions aren’t perfect is great for your physical and mental health and there’s plenty of beautiful Autumnal scenes and winter wonderlands to be discovered by bike! So as the weather worsens and the days draw in, don’t let that drag your KM count down, check out this blog and the rest of our guides to winter to see how you can successfully ride your way through winter this year!
In this volume, we’ll be looking at Winter Routes, following the success of our Local Loops page, we wanted to tailor some old favourites and throw out some new routes that are perfect for this time of year! We also take a look at how to plan the perfect winter route, which roads to pick and why.. We’ll provide links to our favourites for you to try yourself, simply hit the links below to find them on strava and download them to your Wahoo (something we highly recommend when navigating new roads). So grab a brew and follow our top tips for picking the best routes this winter.
Where to start…
As Danny has already alluded to in Vol.2 of this blog series, when planning routes for winter, there are two key things to consider - road conditions and cafe stops! The simplest advice we have for planning routes this winter is to pick familiar roads that are more major roads than we love to use when the weather is perfect. These more main roads provide a few benefits, with less grit, standing water and muck as well as more salting throughout the deepest winter months to prevent ice and less dark, gloomy patches you get from tree cover. This tends to mean avoiding the toughest hills as well which is great for many flowing miles and having fun, with no treacherous descending to tackle when roads are greasy, and covered in leaves. With a bit of planning to avoid the worst conditions and some good kit, you can head out whatever winter throws at you and have a much better time than staring at your wall on zwift!
Of course, being a cafe ourselves, we do also advocate planning your route around a morale boosting, cosy cafe stop! A hot chocolate and a blanket can be a welcome and deserved addition to any winter bike ride. A G!RO stop should always be on the cards and throughout winter we can keep you fuelled. We also are well stocked to supply emergency repair kits, extra kit and a cosy place to take a welcome break from the elements all alongside our delicious Coffee. It’s also the perfect place to arrange a meeting time with your riding mates, one of the simplest ways to motivate yourself this winter, when getting out the door is just that extra added struggle. Once the pre-ride coffee is locked in, getting out of bed on a cold winter's morning gets that little bit easier. *Despite the current lockdown we remain committed to the above and will be here for you throughout lockdown, with hot takeaway drinks and treats; and of course as soon as lockdown is done and dusted we’ll be BACK doing cafe stops BEST!
When conditions aren’t perfect, no route is perfect, and whilst picking sensible routes can negate a lot of the risk factors - it’s important to be aware of particular hazards that wet and cold weather can emphasise.
Standing water, ice, drain covers, road markings and general winter muck all require extra caution. Whilst ice is limited only to the deepest winter it can be the worst of the winter hazards. If temperatures drop below 3 degree’s we recommend taking extra care to avoid shadey patches and wet, or shiny looking road surface as that can often be an indication of ice. If temperatures fall below freezing, the best advice is to sit tight until the sun comes up and the frozen areas begin to thaw. Ice is an invisible and something those skinny, slick road tires can't do much to fight against. We do not recommend taking the chance if black ice could be around. Road rash, ripped kit and damaged bikes can all be prevented by holding off until the afternoon to ride on those coldest days.
As for the other hazards, these won’t just be limited to the coldest days and anytime the roads are damp it's important to be more vigilant to a few hazards. Standing water is best avoided, not only to keep you, and your bike as dry as possible but also to avoid any hidden potholes that may be hidden under the surface. A pothole (very common on our local roads) could cause you a puncture, or worse still damage your wheel and cause an accident. Drain covers, white paint, grit, gravel and leaves, like ice, create a traction issue for those skinny slick tires, so these are best avoided where safe, especially when cornering. Hit any of these hazards too fast and whilst turning, you could end up having a little lay down and causing some easily preventable damage. If you can go round them safely, we would fully recommend this, however if you’re forced by cars or other hazards to ride over them, do so slowly and carefully and avoid sudden changes to direction.
Safety and comfort first…
As you can see then, the best routes for winter are all about safety and comfort. The less treacherous the conditions, the safer and more comfortable your ride will be and for that reason a lot more enjoyable. So with some smart route planning and a vigilant eye for these particular hazards, you should be able to enjoy a stress free winter bike ride, to get the blood pumping and the endorphins flowing. Much like preparing your bike to be as safe and as versatile for the changing conditions was key in Vol. 2, all these simple steps make winter riding less stressful so you can get maximum benefit from the winter KM’s, and set the perfect foundations for a Summer of glorious fitness in 2021!
GET OFF ROAD
Alternatively, maybe it’s time to try something new this winter! Maybe it’s time to get that gravel bike you’ve been pondering for a while now or wheel out that dusty old mountain bike and start hitting the trails! The trails are car free and packed full of fun, and you’ll be honing your bike handling skills and building strength as you pedal around on something a few kilos heavier than what you’re used to in the high summer!
Here at G!RO we’re big advocates of taking your riding off-road in the winter - before covid struck, we were getting an awesome Tuesday morning crew together and tackling our Belgie loop (route below) before work. It set up the day perfectly, with a good, quick pedal and plenty of laughs, before warming back up over a bowl of G!RO PB Porridge and a batch brew. There’s something about getting caked in mud and skidding around off road that makes getting wet and cold a lot more enjoyable and almost a forgotten part of the ride. You come back covered head to toe in mud and smiling from ear to ear. All the Belgie regulars will vouch for the above and insist you try it for yourself. So why not make this winter, the winter you head off-piste!
As well as our Belgie loop, which is a short loop taking in some of the finest gravel Esher and the surrounding areas has to offer, we also have a few other bigger off-road loops for those wanting to change up their long weekend rides. We feature a few in the next section. So go back in time and experience the childlike joy of getting covered in mud, testing yourself and learning new skills with some mudslinging madness this winter.
So now we’ve explored a little bit about what makes a wonderful winter route, here are some G!RO Sunday and staff ride favourites for the winter, all starting and finishing at the cafe. So layer up, get your bike prepped, download the route and away you go! Now’s the perfect time to check out some new roads and expand your local route knowledge, so have a look through the below and let us know if you have the chance to get out on a ride using them by tagging us on social media!
THE INFAMOUS BELGIE
G!RO Windsor Classic
The Leith Hill BELGIE
Box Hill Winter Loop
Surrey Winter Lanes