Cycling doesn’t need to end when the clocks go back, but with the days nearing their very shortest it’s smart to pay special attention to safety during these darker months. With a little planning, you can get a lot out of riding in winter so resolve to pedal year round.
Here’s how to stay safe when cycling in winter.
1. Go off road
If you’re worried about slippery roads, ditch the tarmac and head for the woods. Chunky tyres and low pressure give good grip out on dirt tracks and paths. Plus you’ll hone your bike handling skills at the same time.
2. Look ahead
Look ahead and moderate your speed as you navigate your route, anticipating what’s coming. Leave a bit of extra space between yourself and any other vehicles as stopping times are slower in the wet.
3. Consider changing tyres
If you usually whizz around on skinny 23mm tyres, you might want to switch to something wider because you’ll get more traction on wet terrain. A tyre with a light tread pattern will be good if you encounter any gravel. Look out of tyres that offer puncture protection as you’re more likely to get a flat tyre when it’s wet or if there’s dirt on the road.
4. Fit mudguards
Getting a bit wet is one thing, but dealing with a giant plume of dirty brown water spraying at your backside is another. Fit mudguards (or have a bike shop do it) and you’ll remain so much drier. Plus you won’t spray your buddies in the face when they ride behind you.
5. Avoid hazards
Steer well clear of potholes, manhole covers and painted white or yellow lines, as all can be slippery when wet.
6. Brake gently
When you need to brake, squeeze your brakes gently rather than sharply to avoid any unwanted skids.
7. Take care of your bike
It’s really important to spend time cleaning your bike after grubby winter rides to ensure your components don’t wear out and that your brakes can work efficiently. Give your bike a good look over whilst you clean it and if you’re in doubt about anything, book a service at your local bike shop.
8. Fit some lights
In winter, you might like to use your bike lights during the day as well as the evening to ensure you’re seen on those grey, miserable days. USB lights are a great choice, as you never have to replace a battery.
9. Be bright
Wearing bright, colourful clothing is a great mood booster, so treat yourself to something cheerful and make you visible to other road users.
10. Stay at home
If you’re worried about ice on the roads, make yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up and save riding for another day. Or get yourself on the turbo or to a spinning class. If ice is likely, it’s best avoided.
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My final tip for riding in winter is less to do with safety and more to do with pleasure, because let’s face it, sometimes those cold, dark rides don’t seem as much as fun as when you’re free wheeling through the countryside on a glorious summer day. But something as simple as riding with other people can make all the difference.
Dressing up and battling the elements with some friends feels a lot more enjoyable, plus you’re far more likely to get out on your bike if you’ve made plans to meet someone! If you can’t convince your buddies to leave the sofa and have some fun with you, winter is a great time to make the most of your local cycle club by joining some group rides.
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