French Gran Fondo racer Paul Foulloneau (@polphe) still remembers his most challenging winter ride. Four hours of continuous rain around his French base of Aix-les-Bains under dark afternoon skies. To cap it off, his backlight ran out of battery.
Paul approaches the winter with a different mindset than the rest of the year. “For me, winter is all about comfort and safety. I don’t need speed. It’s a mental game to not push so hard on the pedals in winter. We must build endurance in winter and accept that we don’t have to be fast. I keep the same bike as the summer, which is important because of the position. But I know some people raise the stem for more comfort.”
When the days get shorter, Paul tends to take the opportunity to check his bike over thoroughly. He can take it to a Shimano Service Center and run through everything with an experienced mechanic, providing precision and peace of mind. “I can bleed my own disc brakes, but I’m more confident if they do it,” he says.
Paul generally makes a few changes to his setup when winter comes around. His lightweight summer wheel selection, the DURA-ACE C36 or C50, is swapped for the carbon tubeless SHIMANO 105 wheels. “The E-TUBE App helps a lot with that and works really well. Without the cables, it’s easier to set up the bike when you need to make micro-adjustments or change other elements. Mostly, I make them to the rear derailleur if I change tires, pads, or wheels.
“When changing a rear wheel with the same disc and derailleurs, sometimes there is still a little difference between the two wheels. And I make sure I don’t miss any updates, as they improve the battery life.”
Another concession for colder, wetter conditions is switching disc brake pads from organic to semi-metallic. “It’s better for braking in rainy conditions and more durable. Also, I put on wider tires and go from 28 millimeters to 30, running tubeless with sealant inside. That makes riding the bike more pleasant. Because I’m also putting less pressure in the tires, there is more grip and comfort.”
Paul lives in Aix-les-Bains, nestled near the Alps, and clever kit choices are crucial given the challenging conditions. “If it’s not raining, but it’s cold, with snow on the climbs, I just use the S-PHYRE long-sleeve base layer and the S-PHYRE wind jacket. It’s windproof, thick, and warm but doesn’t feel bulky. I can train in that from two to eight degrees. If it’s raining, I add a gilet or even a long-sleeve rain jacket. With quality clothing, you’ve almost beaten the rain already.”
Paul’s S-PHYRE kit has reflective detailing, and for added visibility, he uses an extra light that fits onto the seat post. “I’m really into safety when I ride my bike. If I don’t have the time to train in the day, I’ll go on the home trainer. Night riding is too dangerous for me, even with lights and a reflective kit.”
Whatever time of day you choose to ride, winter presents a regular battle to keep your bike looking presentable. After a ride, Paul opts for a quick recovery meal and shower. Then, it’s time to tackle the muddy machine.
“This is the second part of winter training! I live in a flat, so I put my bike in the bath. I clean it with hot water. I’ve got brushes and some specific bike-care products for washing it. Mostly, it’s cleaning the groupset and oiling the chain. I do that after every ride. That’s very important. Then I’ve got to clean the bathtub itself! But I’m a clean person. I like it when it’s generally clean at home.”
After all, a clean bike is quick; that’s how Paul finds his fast. “Mentally, it’s an asset. I may not have the pro watts, but I have a pro cleaning attitude!”
The colder months don’t have to mean a total revolution in your riding routine. For example, Paul doesn’t change his DURA-ACE groupset or put on fenders. “Here in France, we don’t use fenders a lot. It’s not a cultural thing. We don’t have such snowy conditions or much salt on the road. But it was mandatory when I lived in Denmark – or else you’d be excluded from the group ride!”
When ready for winter, rides in crisp air and blue skies are far more rewarding than they are testing. Plus, the holiday season is always perfect for winter-ride gifts (so you can keep your friends out riding in every season!). Paul knows exactly what he would buy a friend who loves cycling. “Shoe covers or winter gloves. You can find good, affordable ones in the Shimano range with reflective, fluorescent colors. That’s a good one for my father, for instance.”
Bio and bike
Paul Foulloneau is a former mountain bike racer turned road rider based in France. He is a racing and performance specialist, cycling culture advocate and photographer. He loves exploring new roads and meeting new people.
Groupset: DURA-ACE Di2 12-speed
52/36 crankset / 172.5mm
11-34T ULTEGRA cassette
DURA-ACE C36 or C50 wheels, depending on terrain and RS710 46mm for training