The depths of the winter are no time to be cycling, but the few weeks pre and post the big freeze can actually be downright irresistible times to get out and about. At the same time however there are of course certain additional precautions that should be taken when cycling around the colder months of the year, which for the most part come down to your own choices of gear.
Winter Health Checks
Before even thinking about getting out, it’s a good idea to assess your bike’s worth and readiness given the weather at the time. For example, you’ll of course need to check the essentials like your breaks, gears and lights to ensure all is working, but at the same time don’t forget to look at your tires. Now’s really the time of year to think about investing in special snow tires, or at least remembering to let a little air out to increase grip. By contrast, those slick racing tires really have no place on winter roads.
Light Up, Light Up
The law is very clear on bicycle lights, but in the spirit of safety you’re better off going a little further than just ticking the necessary boxes. Invest in a premium set of cycle lights that are both highly visible and reliable, not to mention a spare set of batteries just in case you run out of juice at the worst possible time.
Test Your Mettle
If winter cycling is new to you, think about heading out for a few trial laps of the block before planning that 85km hop to another city. There’s a certain knack to staying safe on slippery surfaces and it might take you some time to get used to handling hidden icy patches.
In terms of clothing choices, there’s a ton of options out there to choose from in order to keep warm in the winter, but when looking to head out on a bike you’re always better off layering up. The reason being that not only are layers more effective on the whole, but after a while you’re going to generate quite a bit of heat and might need to remove a few. By contrast, big bulky jackets and the like should be avoided.
Never underestimate the worth of reflective clothing and accessories in the winter as when the snow begins to fall, it can be very difficult for motorists to spot you. Ideally you should be visible from all sides, as opposed to the usual front-and-back focus.
Line it Up
You might be tempted to wear an insulated woolly hat to keep your head warm, but as this is the time of year you’re most likely to hit slippery ground, leaving your helmet at home is a bad idea. Instead, try lining your helmet with a skullcap or specially made liner to give you the best of both worlds.
Heed the Warnings
Last but not least, it sounds like an obvious tip but it’s all-too often overlooked – if the weather forecast talks of incoming blizzards and sub-zero ice storms, it’s really not worth taking the risk going out at all!