Winter is approaching. You don’t want to miss out on the fresh air and exercise that you get from riding your bike because of the weather. The good news is that with a little planning, you can carry on cycling throughout the winter. Here are my top tips for staying on your bike throughout the winter.
- Clothing – You will need a cycling jacket that is insulated and waterproof but breathable. Waterproof trousers are a good idea, because there’s nothing worse than wet thighs, and rain splashing from the rear wheel that somehow manages to find its way into your underwear. Thermal gloves are essential in cold weather. I like to wear a cycling snood – I am mildly asthmatic, and find that a snood prevents me from breathing in cold air, and keeps my ears warm.
- Be seen and be safe. Good quality lights for the front and rear of the bike as a minimum. The more lights the better – it makes it easier for you to be seen if you’re riding on the road. If you use more than one set of lights, then not only are you easier to see, but it gives you a backup in case one of your lights stops working. If the lights are rechargeable, then plan ahead to make sure they are fully charged. If they are battery powered, make sure you have a supply of batteries where you need them – at home, in your desk drawer at work. If you park your bike in a public place, then remove your lights and take them with you. Even a £1 set of lights from Aldi is fair game for thieves, as I have found out to my cost. Reflective clothing and accessories are also very useful – in addition to reflective clothing, I have a set of reflective armbands that I wear on my wrists to make them visible when I give hand signals.
- Make sure your bike is in good working order. If you haven’t had it serviced recently, then do so. I recommend a specialist bike shop such as Birmingham Bike Foundry (a workers’ coop) rather than a high street chain. Every time you go out on your bike, you should carry out an M Check to make sure it’s safe to ride.
- If you find yourself riding in windy conditions, then avoid wearing baggy clothes. If you’re cycling into the wind then you may need to choose a smaller / lower gear, and slow down, as it’s tiring to cycle into a head wind. If you get out of breath then stop for a rest. Some people hunch over the handlebars – although be aware that this can affect your balance.
- It is possible to cycle in snowy and icy conditions. Cycle as smoothly and predictably as possible. Slow down and use a smaller / lower gear if necessary. Don’t make sudden moves. Don’t cycle in the gutter, because you are more at risk of debris concealed by snow. Brake early – remember your stopping distance is greater – and use your left brake (rear wheel) to slow you down. Don’t overuse the right brake (front wheel) as this can make you skid. Some people wear goggles when it’s raining or snowing.
- Plan your route carefully. Think of any places you might need to avoid. Some of Birmingham’s canal towpaths, for example, are difficult to ride on in icy and snowy conditions. In severe weather, some of the cycle paths in Birmingham’s parks are impassable, as are pavements. In these conditions, if you need to cycle to work, then gritted roads are more passable. If you are planning to cycle on the road then we strongly advise that you get some cycling tuition to make sure you can cycle safely on the road.
If you need some help to prepare for winter riding, then why not book some cycling tuition with us? Whether you’re riding off-road or commuting to work on the roads, we can help.