Cycling in the autumn and winter can be more of a challenge with darker mornings and evenings, plummeting temperatures and inclement weather conditions.
We have some advice to keep you cycling safely through winter.
1. Be Safe Be Seen
Darker evenings mean poorer visibility as you use the road.
The Highway Code has some advice on clothing and lights for people who cycle.
Rule 59 (clothing)
You should wear in the correct size and securely fastened:
- a cycle helmet which conforms to current regulations
- appropriate clothes for cycling – avoid clothes that may get tangled in the chain, or in a wheel or may obscure your lights
- light-coloured or fluorescent clothing which helps other road users see you in daylight and poor light
- reflective clothing and/or accessories (belt, arm or ankle bands) in the dark.
Between sunset and sunrise your cycle must have white front and red rear lights lit. It must also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 24 January 1996). White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen. Flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp.
It may also be worth keeping a backup set of lights at work or a spare set of batteries.
2. Be prepared for all weather
Make sure you check the weather before setting off and dress appropriately for the conditions. Waterproofs including jackets, trousers, hats, snoods, gloves and overshoes will keep you dry and warm despite the weather. Wearing lots of thin layers might be more comfortable and mean you arrive less hot and bothered.
3. Plan and know your route
Consider changing your route to one that is well lit. Bear in mind that some routes may have more hazards such as fallen leaves which can hide potholes and road markings and can be slippery when wet. Consider a test run in day light if you’re thinking of changing your route to familiarise yourself with it.
4. Service Your bike
Make sure your bike is in good working order; it will reduce your chances of any breaking down while on the road. Have your bike serviced – the wet weather and road salt can be hard on your bike and things can loosen in the wet. After riding in bad weather, give your bike a rinse to remove dirt, salt and grit, paying particular attention to the chain, gears, brakes and wheel rims. Remove any excess water in moving parts and add bike oil to the chain and gears mechanism.
5. Get a grip
A good set of tyres is particularly important in poor weather, they’ll help prevent skidding. Consider fitting winter tyres. Inflating tyres a little less than you would in summer can improve traction in slippery conditions. If you encounter ice, steer straight – don’t pedal and try not to brake as this could cause you to skid. Regularly check your tyres for nicks, cuts and road debris. Avoid cycling in the gutter as this is where most debris that cause punctures can be found. Remember pedals get slippery in the wet too.
6. Take extra care
It’s always important to be aware of your surroundings when cycling and even more so in the dark. Go slower than you would in the daytime and keep your eyes open for unexpected obstacles, bumps in the road and stay alert to other road users. If the conditions are too treacherous, there’s no shame in postponing that ride until the weather improves.
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