Top tips for safe and comfy winter cycling
It’s quiet, cool and crisp and there is so much to see - winter really is a wonderful time to cycle.
And without jumping on your bike regularly, you might miss the season altogether, staying inside or on public transport until March. But if you cycle you’ll see more of the season, keep your exercise up and catch some vital vitamin D whilst you’re at it.
Here are the five things you need to know to cycle happily and safely in the winter:
Be seen: Get some strong lights and get yourself a back-up that stays in your bag in case you forget them and are caught cycling home after sunset.
Reflective is also great. Get a reflective jacket, or add a band or gilet over your jacket, and it is worth considering permanently attaching some reflective details to your bike. It’s easy to forget how hard it is to see cyclists until you are in the driving seat of a car with headlights from oncoming traffic shining in your eyes.
Coping with ice: There are still some leaves left on the road and they might look innocent, but they aren’t. In the winter months the remaining leaves get slippery and icy.
Ice is also more likely to congregate at the side of the road, so cycle carefully near the gutter.
If you are on the backstreets it might be quiet enough for you to cycle closer to the middle of the road which in the early morning is worth it, as any ice will have melted away towards the centre. If it is icy or there are lots of leaves on the road, cycle in a lower gear for better traction.
Avoiding winter back sweat: In the winter, you will definitely end up wearing more so if you are not careful you won’t escape the back sweats. You warm up quick, and with a windproof jacket on and even a rucksack you’re on the fast lane to back sweat alley. So, don’t overdress. And invest in a pannier bag, not only will it keep everything dry, but as you can attach the bag to your bike (instead of carrying it like a donkey) you will avoid that sweaty back.
You’ll be warmer than you think: There might be frost on the ground and your breath is condensing in front of you but as soon as you start cycling you will get hot. So, don’t overdress from the outset or you will get sweaty and the rest of the day you will be drying off (and warming up)!
A lightweight but windproof jacket is perfect to keep you snug and trust me - take off that extra jumper, you won’t need it on the bike. Pop it in your pannier bag until you get to work – that’s exactly what they’re for. You just need to brace yourself for the first 10 minutes, but it will fly by and its good for the immune system.
Give your hands the love they need: If you have ever forgotten your gloves and cycled for longer than 15 minutes in the winter, then you know exactly how important gloves are to enjoy cold weather cycling. That searing pain in your fingertips as the warmth at home tries to resuscitate your hands back to life virtually guarantees that you will never forget your gloves ever again. So, get some good gloves; they should be water-resistant or wind proof. Don’t go mad and buy ski gloves – you will get too hot. You simply need a windproof layer to keep your hands happy and dry.
It’s also worth having a back-up pair stowed safely in the bottom of your pannier bag, which you can gleefully whip out when you have forgotten your first pair!
There are so many things that can be a little more challenging in the grey winter months. But, by investing in the right gear and not wrapping up too warmly before you start, you’ll find that winter cycling can be a great way to get outside, see the season, soak up some vitamin D and keep fit.
Catherine Ellis is from Hill & Ellis, which produces a range of high quality, stylish cycle bags.