We all know the score, after the clocks go back, the nights get shorter, the wind more brutal, and the roads more treacherous. Despite all of this, we continue to cycle, commuting to work in an unbroken routine, out for a leisurely ride at the weekend, or even battling the elements with a winter tour or two. To help you stay safe on the road when conditions take a turn for the worse, we have put together some tips, so strap in and enjoy the ride.
First and foremost, as the temperature drops, we need to wrap up warm. It’s essential to stay dry, and to be prepared for any weather conditions. Regular clothing such as a fleece or mac can work as an immediate solution, but they will encourage your body to sweat, which can make your clothes and you wet and clammy. It is essential to wear cycling-specific clothing, which offers breathability, alongside being waterproof and thermal. A jacket that offers these characteristics can be looked at as a long term investment, while thermal leggings, thick pairs of gloves and socks, and waterproof overshoes can be combined to great effect. Always aim for your clothing to feature reflective strips and hi-visibility – it is essential when light is low, and will help drivers to see you.
As the weather and road conditions change, it can make a large impact on your bike. Make sure to check your brakes regularly, the wet, and potentially icy conditions can make stopping a lot more difficult, and the last thing you want to do is skid. Make sure to keep an eye on your tyres. You seem to be more likely to get a puncture during the winter months, as sharp debris such as thorns and shards of glass seem to congregate on wet roads. If you are looking to venture out on longer trips on the road, perhaps change your skinny 23mm racing tyres for something a bit more robust, grippy, and wide. Make sure to keep your bike clean, washing off the grime and mud, always keep your chain well oiled. A smooth running bike will make for a happier you!
Traffic seems to go somewhat berserk when its dark and cold, and this can make the roads perilous for cyclists. It’s vital that you make sure to plan your route carefully, even if it is one you have ridden on countless occasions. When it’s wet take it down a notch, and stay vigilante, always slow down for junctions, and don’t hug the curb – you want motorists to be able to see you. Be wary of puddles, they can conceal cavernous potholes, while patches of ice can be nigh on invisible, but will be instantly felt. Check the weather forecast before you head out, it’s not great being caught in a snow storm, and make sure you’ve got your phone on you in case of an emergency.
Alongside clothes that get you seen, are lights. These are essential component for all cycling between the period of dusk until dawn – while some riders use them at all times to make motorists more aware of their presence. There are many options available, with compact but powerful rechargeable LED lights a smart choice, and one that fits into most budgets. Most easily clip on and off, so you can always put them in your pocket if you lock up and don’t want them to go missing. Always check that your lights are charged, and offer a full beam, although you might be able to see your light at half charge, other road users might find it more difficult to do so.
Motivation is key to riding during the winter months. When the weather offers nothing but cold, dark days, it’s difficult to shun the car or public transport commute to work. The hardest part, really is stepping out of the house. If you can make it out with your bike, then you’ll enjoy the ride, and will feel more awake and refreshed when you reach the office. Do go out for that longer ride, and enjoy the crisp conditions – there are blue skied days alongside those murky overcast ones during winter. Plus when it comes around to warmer weather, you’ll still be at full fitness, and thinking what was the fuss about?!
So there you have it, five of the best! We hope that these tips have offered some encouragement and guidance for winter cycling, and that you stay safe on the road.