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11 top hacks to keep cycling and save money this winter

Cheap alternatives to expensive winter kit and bike maintenance

You can spend a fortune on winter cycling kit if you want, but we’re here with some top hacks to save you some money and help you tackle the rain and cold and keep your bike in tip-top condition. If you've got any top tips do feel free to share them in the comments section below.

- Cycling cheap tricks: everyday alternatives to expensive bike products

Newspaper down the jersey

Here’s one straight from the good old days of bicycle racing. Stuffing a few pages of the local newspaper down the front of your jersey is a cheap but surprisingly effective way to stop the chill of the wind on a long mountain descent.

newspaper

Admittedly, this trick works better in the mountains and with a soigneur handing you up the paper, and for non-racing cyclists, the sensible thing to do is carry a lightweight windproof gilet or jacket. But if you’re ever caught short in changeable weather, especially if you’re in hilly terrain, it could make all the difference.

- Essential wet weather cycle clothing and gear

Plastic bag over socks

Keeping your feet dry when the roads are wet is tricky and you could spend loads of money on overshoes, or you could use some cheap plastic bags to wrap around your socks before you put your shoes on. Sometimes it’s nearly as effective as overshoes and doesn’t look nearly as strange, but it can lead to sweaty feet as plastic doesn’t allow excess heat to escape.

The small sandwich bags work really well and they aren't a single-use item. No, we're not talking about using the same bag to take your lunch to work on Monday - you can use the same bags a few times before you reach for a new set.

Surgical gloves

latex-gloves

Applying the same idea of adding a layer of plastic between body and elements, surgical gloves are relatively cheap and can be worn underneath your cycling gloves to provide a bit more protection. Just be warned that you might get sweaty hands if it’s mild.

This is a great tip if you'd like to wear thinner gloves for maximum dexterity in cold weather. So if you're giving a cyclocross race a go this winter, give this a try.

- 21 of the best cycling winter gloves — keep your hands warm and dry

Clear Safety Glasses

medium_cd0547_020_090717_1997_48_3_Spectacles

You could spend £200 on the latest trendiest cycling glasses. Or you could go to a builder’s merchant and spend a couple of quid on a pair of safety glasses with clear lenses. We found these for just £1.99.

They certainly aren't the most stylish option, but if you need to protect your eyes from the freezing winter winds, lashing rain, or just have a clear lens option for night rides, these are a sensible buy.

- 11 of the best cheap cycling sunglasses — protect your eyes without spending big

Plastic bottle mudguard

Got a load of old water bottles collecting in the back of the cupboard? With a few minutes and some creative cutting, you could fashion one into a mudguard.

alberto contador mudguard 1

We first saw this years ago on Alberto Contador’s bike. Granted, it's not going to provide a huge amount of protection from road spray, but it's better than nothing.

Check out the video above for Dave's best Blue Peter impression. You might want to take a bit more time over your creation than Dave did, but this trick really works.

- 16 of the best mudguards for any type of bike — keep dry when it's wet with guards for race bikes and practical bikes

Vaseline

Vaseline has many uses, but did you know it can provide an extra barrier to the elements.

Some cyclists have been known to slather it on legs and bum to prevent water spray making you feel damp and cold. You can also use it as a wind barrier on any exposed skin on your face. Some cyclists even use it for chamois cream.

Getting it off can be a little tricky, so be ready with the wet wipes if you're planning to use this at an event like a sportive or race.

Embrocation warming creams

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Embrocation used to be an old pro favourite before technical clothing got really good. Many bike brands offer tubs of expensive embrocation but you can buy the same stuff from your local chemist under the more common name of Deep Heat and bring back memories of the school changing room.

Just be sure to apply after you've done your chamois cream.

Foot and hand warmers

hand warmers

If you suffer from poor circulation, heat pads for your feet and/or hands can be a good way to stave off the winter chill on a longer ride. They're reasonably cheap and the small pads can be placed in your gloves and inside your shoe or overshoe to steadily release heat over the course of a couple of hours. ​

- How to keep your feet warm while cycling through the winter

Waterbottle with a nozzle cover

Camelbak Podium Dirt Series water Bottle Review-1

Country lanes are typically covered in mud washed out from the ditches or dragged along by tractors, so you'll inevitably get plastered with mud unless you've got some good full-length mudguards. There's not much worse than grabbing your water bottle and the nozzel being covered in mud and god knows what else. Some water bottle brands sell bottles with integrated mud caps, or you could make your own for pennies.

Silicone spray to keep the frame clean

silicone spreay

It's inevitable you'll spend a lot more time washing your bike through the winter, but there's one easy trick to save time: cover the frame with silicone spray. Many bike brands sell it but it's not cheap, so instead head down again to your local hardware store and pick up a can for a couple of quid. We found this one for £2.79. Bargain!

If that's too expensive, you could always raid the kitchen cupboards for the furniture polish and use that instead. Just be careful not to get it on the braking surfaces!

- How to winterproof your bike — protect your ride from the wet, salt and crud

Washing your bike

You might think you have to use dedicated bike cleaning products when washing your bike, but inexpensive washing up liquid does the job just fine. Some people will tell you the salt content can damage your bike, but you’ll be washing it off before it has any chance to do any harm.

paraffin

For degreasing the chain and drivetrain, instead of the very expensive cycling-specific products, a regular degreaser from a hardware or motor store will be just as effective. Some cyclists swear by using paraffin or white spirits to clean chains.

Café wisdom: road.cc readers' top budget winter hacks

It turns out you lot are pretty resourceful at turning household items into crucial cycling garments and accessories too. We've had loads of helpful tips over the years in previous versions of this article, and a growing collection over on our YouTube channel! Here's our pick of the best: 

ktache said: "One to keep your thinnish winter gloves going a little bit longer - I caught a finger on the worn chainring whilst locking up my bike, small hole, got larger with time, very cold as it was where the finger met the metal brake lever. I didn't want to buy a new pair quite yet, they were still newish. So, I cut strips of the sticky bit of Elastoplast's Fabric, Extra Flexible and Breathable plasters, ones that you cut to size, and stuck them over the hole. It will last many washes, more than you think. It's better if it's stuck to itself too, so a thin strip loosely around the finger helps. They are still very grippy on the levers. Looks a little bit Hoboish, but keeps the gloves going. Worked on my full finger summer gloves too."

hobbeldehoy added: "I never buy cycle specific cleaning products. Marketing rip off."

bechdan said: "I don't understand why you'd put surgical gloves under your own gloves, sometimes I use disposable type gloves (black nitrile) over my usual gloves if its cold/windy/wet. They give good grip and prevent the inner glove from getting cold, yes a bit clammy but warm and clammy."

alg's top tip is this: "Blow dry your bike. Makes cleaning your bike in winter very much quicker - it takes so long to drip dry or rub down and you can never get the dampness out of all the bits. Here then is a good use of the most useless piece of gardening equipment - the leaf blower. Harmlessly blast the dampness off in moments ready to silicon spray, oil and whatever, and get an early cup of tea."

Redvee said: "I use vaseline when I'm wearing my waterproof socks to form a seal on my calves. I've found the socks regardless of size don't make a decent seal all the way round on my claves but applying Vasleine solves that problem."

Toon Army advises: "These resolved my cold issues -

Feet - Northwave Flash TH Winter thermal shoe ( +1/2 size ), thick woolley socks and overshoes.  
Hands - DHB winter gloves and thin merino wool gloves underneath.
Body - Gilet underneath penultimate layer. More effective than being the outermost layer.

And underpants stuffed down my bib tights to protect my prized possessions. I have never looked back and happy to ride in -5c conditions when the road surface is safe enough."

TheScotsman added: To keep my feet warm back in the distant days of last winter when I was still working in the office (rather than from home) & biking the 10 miles there & back each day, I did this: put on a thinnish pair of cheap Planet X socks, then put a plastic sandwich bag over each sock, followed by a Planet X Thicky Merino sock. Worked an absolute treat, even down to -7C."

Have you got any more top winter hacks? Let us know below.

David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes

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