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Laura was previously the editorial assistant on Healthy Food Guide. She is now a freelance journalist specialising in health, wellbeing, food & travel.

Victoria Pendleton, cycling Olympic gold medallist and world champion, shares her best advice on preparing for your winter cycling commute – no excuses

 

How to… get your kit right

Having a comfortable commute in the winter starts with the right clothing. ‘Wearing clothes that are going to make you cold, wet or uncomfortable are going to work against you,’ says Victoria. ‘Having the right kit is a big first step – and half the battle.’

Invest in a good-quality waterproof ‘Preferably either one with reflective strips or a fully reflective jacket, which I’m a big fan of. Some of the fully reflective items are very, very eye catching. You want to choose something you can comfortably fit over your clothes and which isn’t going to make you too hot, so make sure the jacket has plenty of vents.’

Choose cycling shoes ‘I would always commute in cycle shoes anyway, but for winter get yourself some overshoes. They keep your feet warm, clean and dry, and your shoes clean.’

Fit mudguards ‘You need mudguards during winter if you don’t have them already, or get mudguard flaps that fit easily to your wheel with a clip. This will protect you from puddle and mud splashes.’

Lights, lights, lights ‘Lots of them. Ideally you want to look like a Christmas tree! When I used to take my bike into service they used to laugh because I had at least three back lights and two front lights, and maybe some LEDs on my helmet and my bag. You can’t have too many lights to be perfectly honest.’

Boardman ladies’ waterproof reflective jacket, £59, halfords.com

 

How to… prep your bike for the ride

‘It’s important to keep on top of the maintenance of your bike,’ says Victoria. Riding in the wet and winter means you’re coming into contact with a lot of grit and dirt.’

Grease up ‘Make sure there’s plenty of grease on your chain and gear cassette. They both need to be degreased and regreased often, otherwise the dirt causes excess wear and tear.’

Adjust your seat ‘If you’re uncomfortable you’re never going to get the best out of yourself. To adjust your seat, sit on the saddle and balance against a wall. Put your heel on the reverse of the pedal (imagine your foot is at 6 o’clock). You want a very slight bend in the knee. Your saddle angle is a really big factor in seat comfort too, for instance tilting the seat forwards or backwards may be more comfortable for you. Ultimately it’s not about sticking to exact guidelines and measurements because everyone is different and saddles vary. They’re generally effective, but if you’re not comfortable change it and don’t strive for a position that’s anatomically incorrect.
 

How to… use your commute for training

Even if your commute is relatively flat, Victoria says there are things you can do to keep pushing yourself to increase fitness and stamina. ‘Just changing the pace of how you pedal outside your comfort zone can be really good,’ says Victoria. ‘Everyone has a natural cadence they fall into so you try and ride outside of that.’ Here’s how:

Incorporate intervals ‘Set yourself an interval at speed and for a duration that’s safe and convenient along your ride,’ says Victoria. ‘Try and pick up the pace and go your hardest and maintain it for a short period. Ideally, find a hill – that’s the best way to build stamina.’

Experiment with gears ‘If you haven’t got a hill, utilise your gears. That can be either changing down and spinning at as high an RPM as you can, or riding in a bigger gear from a standing start and force yourself to get up to speed really quickly. Or try seated acceleration: rather than standing in the saddle and using your body weight, staying seated through a particularly hard bit of track is a great way to build strength and core stability.’

Try an electric bike ‘I was very sceptical about electric bikes at first because it seemed like cheating,’ says Victoria. ‘But I quickly realised they allow you to access areas you might not be able to on your own, to go further, or to attempt routes you might not have otherwise, for example if it’s particularly hilly. Electric bikes remove barriers and they actually mean you’re more likely to get out on your bike on the first place. My mum who’s 70 has one and loves it. It gives her a bit of extra power in places where her fitness hasn’t quite developed yet, but at the same time gives her the reassurance and confidence to cycle.’

Pendleton Somerby Electric Bike - White & Navy Pendleton Somerby Electric Bike - White & Navy Pendleton Somerby Electric Bike - White & Navy Pendleton Somerby Electric Bike - White & Navy Pendleton Somerby Electric Bike - White & Navy Pendleton Somerby Electric Bike - White & Navy Pendleton Somerby Electric Bike - White & Navy Pendleton Somerby Electric Bike - White & Navy Pendleton Somerby Electric Bike - White & Navy Pendleton Somerby Electric Bike - White & Navy Pendleton Somerby Electric Bike, £750, halfords.com
Pendleton Somerby Electric Bike, £750, halfords.com

 

How to… stay motivated

Once you’ve got your kit sorted and you know it’s there and laid out ready to go, you can get on with it!’ says Victoria. ‘The best way to stay motivated is to remove as many obstacles as possible. I’m not saying it’ll always be easy and you’ll be going: “yes! I want to go out today, it’s dark and raining!” but at least you’ve got everything necessary and you don’t have to overcome any unnecessary obstacles. I used to love cycling in the rain. If it was particularly torrential I always used to wonder who else is crazy enough? You just have to do it, it’ll never be fun, but knuckle down and you’ll feel proud of yourself.’