Get into... winter cycling
Published 29 November 2012
Your idea of a nice bike ride might involve the sun beating down on you and the gentle summer breeze in your face. If, however, you cycle on more than a couple of choice occasions a year, you’ll know about the importance of being ready for the weather. Winter cycling can be wonderful – you just have to be a bit more prepared. Check out our top tips for getting the most out of it...
1. Don’t believe the hype
Think you’re guaranteed to end up cold, wet and miserable if you pull your bike out of the shed any time between October and March? Don’t believe it. Cycling on crisp winter days can be gorgeous – and if you’re planning to ride to work, don’t forget that the UK’s cycle commuters actually have a 97% chance of staying dry.
2. Stay warm, dry and breathable
You don’t need a whole wardrobe of specially designed cycling gear (unless you want one, of course), but a few general principles apply. Outer layers should be waterproof, breathable and not too thick. Having an inner layer of something like merino wool will keep you warm and sweat-free.
3. Look after your fingers and toes
When the weather turns, your extremities can be vulnerable. Waterproof and windproof gloves are a great idea, especially the ones which are long enough to go under your jacket cuffs and over your wrists. Take them with you even if you don't think it's that cold - if your fingers go numb you won;t be able to steer or brake properly! And think merino wool socks for keeping those tootsies toasty warm.
4. Be bright
Wearing a bright colour is always a good idea for visibility if you’re riding on the roads – especially if the light’s poor. That doesn’t have to mean neon yellow or lurid green – bright red is a good option; or white if it's not snowing. Or get a few removable reflective cuffs or a rucksack cover to make yourself hard to miss. Or should that be easy to miss...?
5. Mudguards – do what they say on the tin
If your bike hasn’t already got mudguards, you can attach and detach a pair without too much trouble, and it’s definitely worth it if you want to avoid getting covered in... well, whatever you’re riding through.
6. Tread carefully
Consider changing your tyres if they don’t have much grip. You don’t necessarily need the full knobbly mountain bike jobs, but increased grip means less chance of slithering over if conditions get wet or slippy – which has to be a good thing.
7. Light up
It’s well worth investing in some decent bike lights. There's no such thing as overkill with lights – the more the merrier. Just as important, don’t forget to take them with you even if it’s not actually dark when you set off – winter evenings have a habit of descending all too abruptly. Reflectors on your wheels are important too to make sure you're seen from the side.
8. Look after your bike
The combination of water, mud, and road salt can take their toll on the working parts of your bike. A few minutes here and there spent keeping it clean will pay dividends. Don't forget to re-oil your chain if you've washed it off. Booking in a service at your local bike shop just to make sure everything’s in good working order is a good idea too.
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