Winter Comfort – part 1

Tongwynlais and the surrounding area

Cycling is a popular pastime in Tongwynlais; either for commuting, pleasure or training. Although best known for being on the popular Taff Trail route, Tongwynlais is the ideal spot to start a ride, have a break or to take in the scenery while out and about.

The Lewis Arms pub and Castle Kitchen cafe are popular meeting points for a pre/post ride pint or coffee and cake. Numerous mountain bike clubs (such as the Tons Trundlers), road clubs and groups of friends make these their meeting places for the convenient outside or inside seating and tasty treats.

If you fancy dabbling in the increasingly popular sport of mountain biking, there are plenty of trails within easy access of the village. The most well recognised start near the entrance to Castell Coch. Some trails can be found on maps, others are best found through a little exploration, but you can’t go too far wrong. If you choose to continue a little further up Caerphilly Mountain, there is access to the Ridgeway bridleways and trails that can take you as far as the off-road nirvana of Cwm Carn.

There are also lesser known trails that take you in the opposite direction. The Garth offers fantastic views and can be accessed from Taffs Well or other routes through Gelynis Farm and the Ty Nant pub area. These trails are ideally for walkers, but with a little imaginative map reading, a lot of road can be avoided.

With winter close upon us and the weather getting wetter (if that’s possible after our summer!), many cyclists choose to stay at home. Well, why not kit yourself out and embrace the dark and rain! Cycle kit has developed at fantastic rates and offers greater comfort and protection against the elements than you may imagine. Lights have also become extremely bright and you needn’t spend a fortune to enable off-road night riding. Here are some kit suggestions and tips based on my experience.

Clothing

Base layer – Merino wool is a superb natural material that’s comfy, warm (even when wet), wicks sweat very well and crucially, resists the stench of sweat with amazing success. Most outdoor shops, such as Go Outdoors sell Merino wool clothes and you don’t need to get anything cycling specific. Online retailer, Embers, also offer a funky range of Merino clothes.

Mid – A simple fleece will help trap warm air nicely, but you will get hot. Save for the really cold days!

Outer – A good cycling specific coat is a worthwhile investment. You needn’t get dayglo (practical, but a bit funky perhaps), but most jackets have reflective features to aid visibility. Look for a jacket that’s waterproof, but also allows sweat to wick away (breathable). A good bike shop (such as the Bike Shed in Canton or a host of others) will be able to offer advice. Expect to spend upwards of £50 for something that works.

Legs – Sorry, but lycra really does rule in the wet and cold! However, many cyclists complement this with baggy over shorts, some of which are waterproof (a good idea if you can afford it). If you want to save a bit of cash, you can buy shorts for summer use and wear these with leg warmers for winter. These cover the lower 2/3rds of your legs, leaving the shorts to do the rest.

Extremities – Merino wool under gloves are a good investment, but make sure your outer gloves are loose enough not to restrict blood flow. Although tight fitting gloves can be more comfortable, in the winter, this traps little warm air and restricts blood flow. Even low cost fleece gloves can be a good option, but more expensive waterproof ones are a good option for the really cold days. I find Marmot XT gloves great, especially if worn with thin under gloves. Shoes can be tricky. If you use clipless pedals (eg. SPDs), either invest in waterproof ones or some overshoes. Beware though, on really wet days, waterproof boots tend to fill up and weigh about 2 tons each. For overshoes, look for side opening versions – back zips clog up with mud and can dig into your calf.

In part 2, I’ll be covering maintenance and lights.

About The bike guy

I'm the resident cycling enthusiast.

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