With days getting shorter and nights getting longer for the most of us the only daylight we see on the weekdays is from the office windows. However that’s no excuse not to get out on your bike – the crisp morning air, the frosty landscapes and beautiful sunrises/sunsets are worth it. Read on to find out our top ten tips for making your rides safes and enjoyable this winter.
1) Light up the dark
As sunrise gets later and sunset earlier it is incredibly important that cyclists are visible on gloomy winter days, especially at rush hour. Rechargeable lights are best as you won’t have to keep replacing the batteries and most models will give some indication when the power is getting low. Take your charger to work if commuting and that way you don’t have to pay to recharge! We find that USB rechargeable lights are really easy to keep topped up to avoid that mid-ride fade. For urban cycling we recommend the Moon Nebula set which you can find on our website.
For country roads and longer commutes that require a more direct, stronger beam to illuminate the road one of the brightest on the market is the Xeccon Spear 900. It’s USB rechargeable and has a waterproof level of IPX5 so ideal for rainy and dark days. Make sure your lights are fitted correctly, will not be obscured by any clothing and are in the correct position for drivers to see them.
To be safe always ride with at least two rear and two front lights, with one on constant and the other on flash. Be seen and be safe.
The increased rainfall this time of the year means a huge amount of water and mud sits on the road surface, just waiting to be kicked up as you ride along. Mudguards are essential to stop your drivetrain and limbs being covered in mud. They also mean you won’t lose friends on your group rides. Riding behind someone without mudguards fitted in the rain guarantees a cold and muddy shower and a mouthful of grit! We recommend these Tortec reflective mudguards. Simple to attach for bikes without mudguard eyelets, these mudguards are also easily adjustable and extremely hard wearing.
3) Reflective Clothing
It can be difficult to spot cyclists in twilight hours so stand out and announce your presence on the road using reflective and bright clothing. A reflective jacket is a must for commuters. Add strips to your bike frame, your trousers and your helmet to ensure you can be seen. These reflective bands by HUMP are sure to boost your visibility.
If you take a backpack with you when you’re riding/commuting then be sure that it doesn’t obscure your reflectivity. There’s not much point in wearing a bright jacket if a dark backpack completely covers it up from behinds. We think these Provis reflective AND reversible rucksack covers are just the thing to solve the problem.
4) Puncture solutions
There is nothing worse than being caught out in the freezing cold with a fat thorn sticking out of your tyre and no way to fix it. Especially if it’s at the start of a long ride home. Make sure you always have extra tubes with you and a working pump. Even if you are riding in a group there is no guarantee that your fellow cyclists will be carrying enough tubes for the whole of the group, and after braving the cold to go riding you really don’t want to be the one left behind!
Strangely enough the new £5 or £10 notes are also useful should you suffer a spilt tyre as these, or an empty gel packet, can be used as a temporary, short distance liner to get you home or to work.
5) Constant Vigilance
It sounds a little frightening but anticipate that danger is around every corner whilst out on your bike in the twilight hours. It can be hard for motorists to spot drivers at the best of times let alone in dark conditions.
Watch out for leaf strewn areas in times of rain as they can become extremely slippy. Be careful when riding in a group in these conditions and put more distance between you and your other riders in order to prevent a toppling domino effect!
Watch out for wet manhole covers and avoid riding or turning on wet road markings.
Anticipation is key - keep your eyes peeled for unexpected obstacles such as potholes, bumps in the road or even a stray squirrel (the limp and bruises our mechanic Dave is sporting at the moment may or may not have been caused by said squirrel).
Winter lights exaggerate potholes and shadows so reduce your speed if travelling on roads that are unfamiliar.
6) Be prepared for the changing weather
As the hallowed words of the Scouting Movement state you must always ‘be prepared’ when it comes to winter riding. Is it raining now? No? Does that mean it won’t rain/sleet/snow/hail/thunder in the next ten minutes with absolutely no warning? Of course not – this is the British winter we’re talking about!
Good quality winter/windproof gloves and overshoes will keep your hands and feet toasty. There is nothing worse than trying to grip your handlebars with numb fingers. Keep your hands warm and dry with a set of warm, rainproof gloves such as these Shimano ones.
It’s always better to have extra layers to take off than none to put on. You can always take a rucksack with you (especially on your commute) to store extra layers and snacks just don’t forget to make sure its reflective like the Switch Provis one we recommended earlier.
7) Add in a café stop
If you do brave the wind, rain and cold then be sure to add in a café stop on your longer rides to rest and rehydrate. It may not be obvious you’re sweating under all your winter layers but you will be losing fluids. It is true that you burn more calories in colder weather so we reckon you are more than entitled to a steaming cuppa and a big slice of cake at your pit stop. Be sure to check out our list of our favourite café stops round Derbyshire for some inspiration.
8) Avoid National Speed Limit roads with bad bends where possible
It’s always best to avoid roads where cars can come haring round corners at 60+mph and not spot you until last minute but the fading light this time of year means they don’t see you until the last second. Especially if you have your lights on flash the driver could turn the bend at the point your lights aren’t beaming. Obviously avoiding dangerous roads isn’t always possible so listen carefully for cars when taking blind binds so you hear the motorist before they see you (no headphones).
9) Servicing is essential
Bikes tend to deteriorate more quickly in cold and rainy conditions with things becoming loose easily in the wet. Road salt is extra tough on your bike and its accumulation can be really harmful to your moving parts. A bike service will ensure that your components will be thoroughly checked and will help preserve their life. Check out our winter deal amongst our other servicing options to keep your bike in tip top shape.
10) Keep off the ice!
Ice is the only type of weather where it may be best to avoid your outdoor ride altogether. However all is not lost – get out the turbo trainer! Using a turbo trainer indoors is a safe and effective option for interval work in the winter and to keep your legs turning over. In all seriousness it’s just not worth the risk if it’s icy.
Just remember as Alfred Wainwright said, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. So take heed from our top tips and stay out on your bike to enjoy some epic winter riding!