Hello Autumn! And yes, winter, I can see you’re not too far behind. The clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in. Hibernating is an option, and as tempting as it may be, there is still a lot of fun to be had during the winter cycling season. We just need to make sure we put a little bit more time into our ride preparation.
So, here’s my top tips to ensure safe winter cycling so you can have as much of a blast at this time of year as you can during the summer months.
Top tips for safe winter cycling
1. A Good Set of Lights – During the winter months and for winter cycling, you really need to be thinking about making yourself as visible as possible. Be seen. By everyone. Enough said, right!
2. Hi Vis Clothing – Hi Vis may not typically be the most ‘on trend’ of cycling attire, but who cares about that when it comes to being seen and keeping safe on the roads. Come on people, it’s a no brainer. Check out this review of a hi vis jacket from Trespass. It doesn’t cost a lot and will really help you to be seen by everyone who needs to see you out on the roads.
3. Layering – cycling whilst wrapped in your duvet is obviously not an option, so layering yourself up is essential. I may be teaching my granny to suck eggs here, but be mindful of the weather forecast and remember that the forecasters have been known to get it wrong (just like a million gazillion times)! So base layers, a long sleeved jersey, and a good waterproof and windproof shell jacket should be on your list of must-wear items.
4. Gloves, Socks, Overshoes – Don’t forget that extremities can suffer a lot in the colder weather, trust me I know just how much it can hurt! Invest in a good pair of winter cycling gloves, some neoprene overshoes, some snuggly soft socks (make sure they’re not too thick that they restrict the movement of your feet in your cycling shoes though) and a hat to go underneath your helmet. Keeping your neck draft free will really help too! You can take layers off but you can’t add them if you don’t have them with you.
5. Regular cycle checks – for safe winter cycling, you should be carrying out regular ‘M’ checks on your trusty steed, before every ride ideally. It consists of 11 easy checks. Check out the Sustrans website for details of what exactly the ‘M’ check consists of. I promise it doesn’t take long. Familiarise yourself with it and make sure you do it.
6. Winter tyres – yes, they really do make a difference. If you haven’t got a specific winter tyre on your bike, now is the time to invest. And then once they are fitted, make sure you check them regularly.
7. Carry essentials – I know this may sound a little melodramatic, but carrying water, snacks, a puncture repair kit and a small tool kit is a really good idea. You never know when you might need them. And, well, it’s just best to be prepared.
8 A charged mobile phone – there is nothing worse than needing to use your phone and finding you don’t have it with you or it has no battery charge. Check that you have it before you set out and make sure there is enough battery on it to last your journey and a little bit longer.
9. Program in your next of kin contact number under ICE (in case of emergency).
10. Carry a portable charger. Keeping a portable charger in your kit bag is a good idea. They’re light weight and you can pick them up quite reasonably. I took one away with me cycling in Catalunya recently. The one I took was pretty rubbish, so another top tip would be to invest in a decent one rather than stopping at the local supermarket and picking up their cheapest version! Mine started making a buzzing noise and stopped working after the first re-charge!
11. Let someone know you’re heading out, roughly how long you’ll be and where you plan on riding to – Yes, OK, I know it all sounds a bit much, but keeping safe in winter…well, it’s just better to protect yourself.
12. Use these tips all year round – Keeping ourselves safe should be top of our cycling preparation list whenever we ride and it shouldn’t really be weather dependent. Following these tips all year round, no matter what the weather, will mean they’ll soon be part of your everyday natural cycling routine and you’ll be all set for safe cycling, no matter what the weather or the season.
What have I missed? What are your top tips for safe winter cycling?