It’s December, which means that while the mulled wine is flowing and the seasonal good cheer is brewing, it’s also blinkin’ horrible out there. Bitingly cold, horribly drizzly, mournfully grey and dark before you leave the office – ’tis the season to be jolly, but ’tis also the season to feel thoroughly grumpy at the prospect of your daily commute.
While it’s tempting to pack your bike away for the winter and make the switch to public transport, boarding buses, tubes and trains at 7.30am is its own kind of misery. Yuckier weather means more passengers, which means spending 40 minutes with your face firmly in a stranger’s armpit – no fun whatsoever.
Out on the roads, however, sticking with your bicycle over the winter means you’re avoiding the woes of public transport and getting some decent physical exercise beyond tapping your toes impatiently as you wait for a delayed train. Taking the bus is likely to make your blood boil, but getting on your bike is great for increasing endorphins and decreasing stress, too. In short, cycling is great – even in the murky depths of winter.
If you are braving the roads, however, it’s important to bear in mind that there are many more practical concerns to consider during the winter. From clothing which will protect you from those perishing winds, to reflective attire, powerful lights, mudguards, winter tyres and more eagle-eyed bike maintenance, winter means you need to step up your game somewhat.
Here are a few things to bear in mind as a “winter cyclist”…
Lights, lights, lights
With sunrise happening sometime after you begin the daily grind and sunset taking place long before you clock off, a decent pair of lights is essential. Invest in a set with powerful battery life and remember to remove them from your bicycle as you park up to avoid theft. A backup pair of lights is also very useful just in case.
Feel the glove
They say that you lose the most heat from your head and inner thighs, but when you’re on your bike it’s your mitts which will feel that icy blast the most. Clenched on the handlebars, your fingers will need a very decent pair of cycling gloves to feel comfortable. Choose something very warm with great wind resistance and good dexterity to make winter rides feel immeasurably better.
Lights are essential, but showing up in the dark is important for cyclists too. Invest in highly reflective winterwear to ensure you’re as visible as possible in the winter gloom, drizzle and sleet.
Get your guard up
Many people (especially city cyclists) remove their mudguards for aesthetic reasons, but come winter you’ll really miss them. Puddles and mulch splattered up your back don’t feel good or look good, so consider reattaching your guards to keep yourself nice and dry.
Bigger is better
Your skinny road bike tyres may help you zip through town at lightning speed, but they’re not the most stable in wet and slippery conditions. To enhance your safety on winter roads, you might want to consider switching to a thicker, grippier tyre for the season.
With more challenging conditions on the roads, your bicycle is likely to take more flak during the winter, which means it will need more regular maintenance. Plan more regular cleaning, pumping and greasing to keep your machine in great nick. You might also want to arrange a bike checkup to ensure it’s in good condition and ready for winter roads.
Do you ride your bike in winter? Do you have any tips for staying safe and comfortable? Share your ideas and pointers with other cyclists below.