As the colder, darker and wetter months move in, it is sometimes all too easy to pack the bike away for another year in favour of the car. Fortunately, there are many small changes that can be made to make winter cycling more accessible to all.
1. Visibility is everything
Whilst always hugely important throughout the year, being visible to other road users is even more important in the winter. Less hours of daylight, heavy rain and road spray from passing vehicles, ice, snow and decreased visibility are all significant factors to contend with. Here are some tips to help you stay more visible:
- What's better than one set of working bike lights? Two sets! Hopefully, you will never need them, but as well as helping to keep you and other road users safe, you'll enjoy your ride more knowing you have a plan B should you need it. Making sure your lights have sufficient battery power the night before a ride is a valuable addition to any cyclist's routine. There is a large range of affordable, USB rechargeable LED lights available which are ideal as spares. These are typically very small and so can be easily carried with you.
- Clothing and accessories are also extremely important. Waterproof jackets made with glass-bead woven fabric are an excellent choice as they are designed to provide an unparalleled level of reflectivity and can be seen very clearly - even from long distances. Pairing this with a good set of bike lights is a very effective way to ensure you remain as visible as possible.
2 - Rain rain, go away:
One of my favourite sayings is "there's no such thing as bad weather - only inappropriate clothing". Cycling in wet clothing is no fun. Arriving at your destination soaked through and freezing cold is hardly a motivator. Fortunately, by making some small changes, you can help avoid this:
- Waterproof socks and/or overshoes are a great way of keeping your feet dry and warm. Arriving at the end of your ride in the same condition as you left home is a great motivator to continue cycling through the winter months.
- A set of durable sunglasses with interchangeable lenses are essential for not only protecting your eyes, but provide useful options during changing light conditions. A wide variety of sets can be purchased with clear, yellow, orange and blue lenses which can be changed quickly and easily. Having a set of these will help ensure you have the best visibility of the road ahead.
- A set of mudguards are an absolute must have and significantly cut down on the amount of water and mud that you'll have to contend with. Cycling in the wet without them is a quick way of making your ride much less enjoyable.
- As well as a waterproof jacket, socks and/or overshoes, gloves and leggings are excellent investments and offer additional layers of protection in the cold and wet conditions
3 – Keep on top of maintenance:
Your bike will unfortunately, require more regular cleaning and maintenance to see it through the winter months. One of the most challenging things about arriving home in the dark and wet is cleaning your bike.
Whilst it is tempting to leave it in the garage until the next day, a quick five minute clean will help to keep you on the road and save time. Try to remove loose mud and grit with warm water and a sponge and wiping down your chain and applying some fresh oil will help to keep your transmission smooth and in good working order. From experience, cleaning your bike the next day always takes a lot longer.
- Getting your bike ready the night before makes it so much easier to stay motivated and less likely to be tempted by taking the car or bus
- As the weather conditions can vary a lot during winter, wearing several thin layers of clothing is so much more effective than one or two thick layers
- Cycling on the roads in bad weather and lots of traffic can be unpleasant and a slightly scary prospect at times. Apps such as Komoot, are a great way of discovering alternative routes to and from your destination. This helps offset boredom which can come about through cycling the same route day in, day out.
- Staying properly hydrated and fuelled is just as important in the winter and so don't forget your water bottle and snacks to keep your energy levels up and help you to stay alert.
- Keep a close eye on your brakes. Winter cycling often wears components much more quickly than usual and so keeping a spare set of blocks or pads is advisable.
- A set of winter tyres can help to avoid punctures and can help make your ride more comfortable
- Don’t forget your puncture repair kit and spare inner tubes!
- Enjoy it! Whilst it's a far cry from the warm and bright summer evenings, winter cycling can still be fun when you have the right equipment. As well as helping to keep you fit, you'll be doing your bit to help combat climate change and helping provide a boost to your mental health
Darren says: "Now that the evenings are drawing in, and the weather is getting colder, it’s all too easy to stop cycling and use the car instead. I challenged myself a couple of years ago to try to keep using my bike (where feasible) by making some small changes and it worked really well. If this article helps to keep one person out on their bike this winter then it will be worth it!"
For more advice and support around Winter cycling, be sure to check out the following:
- British Cycling - Winter Cycling Guide
- Cycling Weekly - Winter cycling survival guide: 10 helpful tips to keep you riding
- Bicycling - 10 Expert-Backed Tips for Winter Cycling
- Bikes.org.uk - 66 tips on how to prepare for Winter cycling