How to be a winter cycling warrior
Winter isn’t all rain, sleet, and biting wind. Last year was, in fact, the second sunniest winter for the UK since records began in 1929, according to the Met Office. With just a little forward planning and the right kit, you can be a winter cycling warrior and use your bike all year-round.
1 See and be seen
This is rule number one of winter cycling. The more lit up you and your bike are the better. Lights with 100-200 lumens is plenty; you don’t want to dazzle other road users with more powerful beams.
Attach red flashing ‘be seen’ lights to your rucksack and the back of your helmet. These can be found on most online cycling stores or in any bike shop for a few pounds.
If you plan to cycle to work, USB charging lights are great. You plug these into your computer at the office and they are fully charged by the time you go home.
When buying new kit, choose fluorescent colours or reds over black or grey. Better still, get some reflective gear. You can buy whole garments, as well as helmets and rucksack covers, made by brands like Proviz, that make you shine like a beacon on the road.
Reflective socks or waterproof overshoes will obviously move as you pedal, so these can be great for visibility.
Read more: How to be more confident on a bike
2 Ready your bike for cold weather
Don’t over-inflate your tyres. In winter conditions you need a lower pressure to give you more grip against the icy road. Some hard-core cyclists will buy ice tyres with metal studs for grip, and some people use cable ties wrapped at intervals around their tyres for the same purpose but, if you’re having to do all that, it’s probably safer not to cycle.
Use weather-specific oil to lube your chain. Wet oil is much stickier so it won’t come off in the driving rain. Clean your bike as much as possible during the winter, degreasing and re-oiling the chain whenever possible to remove grit and debris from the road.
3 Real winter warriors stay dry and warm
There is nothing worse than putting on wet clothes and shoes. Unless your employer offers onsite drying facilities (some do!), you’ll need two sets of waterproofs – tops and bottoms – one for the ride into the office, and the other for the ride home. These don’t have to be expensive, they just need to keep you dry.
In wet weather, you can either use overshoes to keep your feet dry or plastic bags. Simply wrap the plastic over your socks before putting your shoes on. Even top of the range waterproof shoes will get wet in heavy rain. Stuff newspaper inside your shoes to draw the water out.
Finally, never cycle without gloves, for warmth and protection if you fall off your bike. Neoprene is best: it gets wet through but still keeps you warm, much like a wetsuit.
4 Switch up how you ride in wet weather
You know the limits of your bike when cornering, so don’t push your bike in harsh weather and ride with more care.
Stay well away from painted road markings and manhole covers. These are going to be very slippery.
Read more: 5 top tips for cycling to work safely
5 Never leave home without these things
Always carry a tool kit, a spare inner tube and a puncture repair kit. Road debris sticks more in wet weather, so punctures are far more likely.
Eyewear is so important, for winter sun glare reflecting off wet roads and to stop grit, mud and rain getting in your eyes. You can buy cycling glasses with several different types of lenses you can swap in for different conditions, year-round.
Read more: How To Get Started Cycling
By Steve Edgell of cycle to work scheme provider Cycle Solutions