The days are warmer, the bulbs are bursting into flower, the sun is shining, skies are blue and yes – you can definitely feel it in your bones – you’re feeling more frisky (I didn’t mean like that! – but good luck if you are!) and itching to get out on your bike. A long summer of glorious cycling stretches out ahead but, for the moment, let’s have a look at some Spring cycling essentials to get you into the cycling flow again.
The main consideration when cycling in Spring is that the weather will definitely be changeable. Having been out on the bike six or seven times in the last two weeks or so I’ve gone from wearing shorts and sweating like a pig on a brick to wearing my full winter gear again and freezing my nuts off in the biting wind.
And, of course, everything in between – often within the same bike ride as the weather changes almost as quickly as my teenage daughter’s current boyfriend. So, bearing in mind that the weather requires infinite versatility and adaptability to all circumstances within a very short time scale (just like being a said teenager’s parent) let’s start by looking at leg warmers!
Spring leg warmers
That’s a cozy and comforting sort of heading that conjures up images of stocking wearing grannies sitting in sepia bathed warmth knitting by the fireside with steaming mugs of tea and scones– or is that just me?
It also creates a bit of a problem because, despite my middle aged adversity for any form of discomfort I also have a strange genetic desire to look hardy and tough and wearing leg warmers really doesn’t sound like it’s a cool thing to do.
I always say to my partner that if ever buying a nice pair of comfy slippers or thinking that pyjamas look like a sensible option becomes the thing then “shoot me now!” Are leg warmers not dangerously close to being in the same category?
However, despite my concerns above they are extremely versatile in that you can start off with leg warmers on and then “hey presto!” half way round your ride whip them off and stash them in your pocket if the weather gets a bit warmer.
A couple of caveats……..
Firstly, don’t try and “whip ’em off” whilst on the bike – OBVS! – you can unzip them at the bottom and then un peel them in a very sexy-less sort of lycra striptease at the side of the road!
Secondly, whatever you do, please make sure that the leg warmer tops go under your shorts – it’s a small point but it looks like you’re wearing stockings and suspenders otherwise. You might have some sort of weird stocking fetish (actually I probably do as well if the truth be known) but your own legs aren’t the right place to be acting out any sort of stocking fantasy so you have been warned.
Having said all of that though leg warmer are great! I’ve actually worn a pair all the way through the winter and they do in reality look fine and keep you nice and toasty and they are also incredibly versatile for wearing through the Spring.
You can buy arm warmers in a similar vein as well, again if you wear a short sleeved top at the same time they can really help with temperature regulation and are quick and practical to take on and off and keep rolled up in your back pocket.
Changeable Cycling Glasses
I always wear some sort of eye protection on the bike and I’m always a bit surprised to see that I’m probably in the minority. Primarily, I tend to get very watery eyes if I don’t and, despite looking like I’m crying with joy and elation at the effortless speed and level of fitness I’ve achieved, it’s basically just uncomfortable. Wearing glasses also protects my eyes from dirt and grit and potential flying stones and objects so it’s really a no brainer as far as I’m concerned.
Glasses also look pseudo cool.
…and the best type of glasses for Spring are the incredibly fun ones where you get to change the lenses according to the prevailing light conditions. How awesome are they! You can set off in dull weather with the clear or yellow lenses in and then, as the sun (inevitably!) comes out you can change to the darker lenses to keep glare at bay.
What a great idea apart from the fact that it’s another set of decisions to make, another set of “stuff” to carry on the bike and an added layer of complication but the versatility makes them perfect for Spring riding.
Staying with the theme of versatility for a while let’s have a look at another item of super versatile cycling clothing – the gilet. This is a sort of vest or body warmer and basically what we would have called a “tank top” back in 1975 but made for cycling rather than impressing glam rock band groupies and they come in two flavours – lightweight and thermal.
The thermal ones are more for winter wear instead of a winter jacket and the lightweight ones are perfect for Spring and Autumn cycling when the air has a bit of a chill to it. A good gilet will have some wind cheating features such as a zip wind protector and maybe a high neck. It also needs to be snug fitting and have some sort of wind protection around the arm holes to prevent cold winds from getting in.
Also look to see how waterproof the gilet is. Some are shower proof, some have a higher water resistance rating. The problem with this is that you also need some level of breathability to avoid the sort of “boil in the bag” effect so it becomes a balance between letting the cool air in and the hot air out. Not an easy task so make sure that you are looking for ventilation possibilities in the design and are aware of the items limitations. To a certain extent the more you pay the better the quality and the more versatile the gilet becomes in terms of keeping a good balance of warmth and waterproofness and breathability.
Look also at how small the gilet will pack down as, when the sun comes out, the gilet will go from being your best mate to being the boring sensible uncool hanger-on-friend that you can’t wait to dump and you’ll want to stuff it into your pocket pronto. The smaller it packs the better so it’s worth checking this out before buying.
Along with your normal shorts, shoes and helmet the three items above give you a huge amount of flexibility and adaptability to try and attain the perfect temperature and to cope with a wide range of fast changing weather conditions. You might want to add a pair of lighter spring fingerless gloves to the list and I always find it more comfortable cycling in gloves whatever the weather – they also have the added reassurance of hitting the road before the skin on the palms of my hands should the worst occur. Over shoes can also be a good idea for helping to keep water out and keeping your feet warm and again these are quickly added or removed as the need arises.
Spring cycling essentials for your bike
Ok, so that’s you kitted out but what about your bike? You might have been riding it all the way through the winter, it might have been stored whilst you took a well earned break or perhaps you have been riding your winter bike for the last few months?
Whichever is the case we all respond well to a bit of TLC, your bike is no different and some care taken now will reward you with many happy Spring and Summer miles of cycling joy.
First a good clean
Winter roads are usually filthy and even if the bike has been in storage a good wheels off clean will be a good start. Use an ample amount of degreaser all over the drive train and any parts that are splattered with oil and use an old brush to really scrub as much of the bike as clean as possible.
This is a great outdoor job on a crisp sunny Spring morning and is particularly pleasant when accompanied by lots of freshly brewed coffee and thoughts of forthcoming cycling healthiness, training and good intentions!
Once everything is clean then (as with most things) thorough lubrication is required for best results and you can read more details in a rather filthy post I wrote here. Make sure that your chain and cassette are particularly clean and well lubricated and it’s also worth sparing some protective WD40 on other exposed moving parts to try to keep moisture at bay and everything moving. On my bike the gear cables run through a guide right underneath the bottom bracket for example and keeping this area greased does help keep it clean and moving.
It’s probably worth saying at this point that this whole process is infinitely more civilised if carried out using a maintenance stand rather than kneeling on the driveway like a teenager again and you can find some very helpful information on one of the best maintenance stands right here.
After cleaning the bike then a basic health check is a must which should include checking all nuts and bolts, checking the tyres and brakes for wear and adjusting if necessary. If you want to take things further than checking the indexing on your gears is a good idea as is checking all of the bearings and greasing or replacing as needed.
All of this stuff is great fun to do yourself and leads to a greater understanding of how your bike works. There’s also nothing quite like the intimacy of knowledge of really “knowing” you bike and if you have been fiddling around with her bearings or greasing her under carriage then you will be pretty intimately acquainted!
However, if this getting your hands dirty approach really isn’t your kind of thing getting your bike professionally serviced is laughably cheap when compared to getting your car serviced and the peace of mind is reassuring. Spring is the perfect time for a pre season service so go for it!
Get Some New Cycling Gizmos
You deserve some cycling treats. Yes, the pleasure of new stuff and the thrill of choosing, perusing and buying. It will give you cycling inspiration, get the season off to a good start, give you the kick up the bum you need to get going…….
Ok, well how about spending some money on your bike to make it look and go better – great idea!
Let’s start with one of the best “bang for your buck” investments you can make with buying some new cycling bar tape. Yes, even the most expensive luxury padded ad hand caressing tape is cheap so you can probably afford the best without breaking the bank – go on, you know you deserve the best!
And the other thing is that it’s quick and easy to apply and you bike looks so much better and feels so much better immediately afterwards than it did with that old dirty greasy unpadded tape that you had on it before!
The next way to make an instant upgrade is to buy some new, better quality, probably lighter more roll resistant summer tyres. This will make a noticeable difference, particularly if you splash out on some better quality wheels as well. Ok, it’s money but bike manufacturers generally supply off the shelf bikes with good all round wheels and tyres which are relatively easily and sort of not that expensively upgraded when the time is right. You are usually much more interested in frame materials, group sets and other much more alluring components when you are looking for a new bike and, knowing this, bike manufacturers do skimp a little in this area.
Go for lightweight and aero dynamic features as well. Your wheels and particularly tires are the prime components that connect your power output to the road and upgrading in this area does generally make a noticeable difference.
Finally, what about a new bike computer? The one you had last year might have been good with it’s basic readouts and functions but what about taking it a step further this year and getting one with navigation or maybe heart rate or power output monitoring? These things might seem a bit “serious” but it can be seriously inspiring to be able to track your progress, set and smash your cycling goals and look at some number crunching facts and figures after every ride. A new computer could give you just the boost and inspiration you need to really get going this season and take your cycling to the next level. Have a look at my post here for your options. You could also combine this with really taking the bull by the horns and making a cycle training plan. All the information you will need for making a realistic and personalised plan is here.
So, whether you just fancy getting into leg warmers, wrapping some new tape around your bars or going the whole hog with a new computer and a training plan this Spring I hope that this post has given you some ideas and inspiration.
What are your cycling goals and aspirations this year? Can you think of any must have cycling essentials for this spring that I have forgotten? Let me know what you think I the comments below.