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Baby it’s Cold Outside: Safe Winter Cycling Advice

Cycling Blog

Baby it’s Cold Outside: Safe Winter Cycling Advice

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Wintry conditions

January 20th, 2016

We touched on winter riding in November last year but, given the unusually mild winter we had, it wasn’t particularly pertinent. Now with parts of the country finally experiencing snow and icy temperatures (as cold as -12° in some places!)it’s become relevant once again.

Low temperatures across the UK

Cold snap

Instead of wheeling out the same advice as other websites, we thought we’d round up some of the most useful winter cycling resources we’ve come across.

Our top tip is to only ride if you feel safe and to remember that while high-spec cycling gear can make riding in winter a bit easier, it’s not compulsory. As an article from Copenhagenize says, some writers are guilty of over-complicating winter cycling which can have the effect of putting casual cyclists off: the opposite of what they intend!

Tips for safe winter cycling

RoadCyclingUKThe folks over at RCUK have written a great article containing seven tips for safely riding your bike in wintry conditions. To summarise:

  • Assess conditions: check the weather forecast, evaluate the ice risk, make an informed decision on what to wear
  • Prioritise treated roads: roads that are gritted are safer to ride on
  • Avoid gutters: puddles and ice are more likely to form there, and debris is more likely to gather
  • Corner carefully: choose a line, brake in good time, don’t hit it too hard
  • Adjust your bike: drop your saddle to lower centre of gravity, consider knobblier tyres
  • Brake sensibly: prioritise back brake, don’t brake if you find yourself on ice (pedal past and brake afterwards)
  • Be prepared to stay in: no point riding and breaking yourself if it’s obviously too dangerous

An image taken from a BBC article about a polar cycling challenge gives some good tips too:

Guardian cycling tips

What about winter cycling gear

British Cycling logo

There’s a fantastic piece about effectively dressing for winter conditions on the British Cycling website, here. To summarise:

  • Head: things to consider are a Belgian style cap, windproof skull-cap, Merino wool beanie, or a headband
  • Neck and chin: a tube scarf (like a Buff) can cover your neck and chin
  • Torso: layers are important: a wicking baselayer, insulating mid-layer, and windproof and waterproof top layer work well. Zips are good to regulate temperature. Check layers are long enough to cover your back.
  • Hands: keep your core warm and they’ll stay warmer, layer gloves if necessary, waterproof gloves work well
  • Legs: bib-tights to cover your lower back, look for warm lining and water resistance
  • Feet: in another article about keeping your feet warm, BCF give 9 tips: wear overshoes, equip mudguards, warm up before your ride and keep shoes dry between days, choose insulated socks, check for vents in shoes (and tape them up!), pull trousers over socks, loosen your shoes, use foot warmers, and keep your core warm.

The Global Cycling Network have put together a characteristically strong video if you’d rather watch than read:

If you don’t want to break the bank…

GCN’s video ends “so now you’ve got it sussed and you’ve spent a small fortune down at your local bike shop”, which touches on an important point: specialised cycling gear can cost a lot. Buying a full wardrobe of all-new winter kit isn’t an appealing or practical prospect for some people, so we’ve rounded up some more cost-effective tips too:

  • Wrap your feet in cling film to prevent them from getting cold in your regular cycling shoes: this may sound bonkers but it’s corroborated by the BCF’s article about keeping your feet warm!
  • Block helmet vents: this will reduce cold air circulation around your head
  • Calf-length socks: these will reduce the draft between the bottom of your trousers and top of your socks
  • Remember Ebay! Some of the winter cycling products being auctioned on Ebay are much cheaper than if you bought them new.

A few bonus tips

  • Avoid thick socks: thick socks may seem like they’d be warmer, but they also risk cutting off circulation to your feet. Keep ’em thin but insulated!
  • Buy USB rechargeable lights: using lights more than usual in winter can rack up battery costs, we recommend using USB rechargeable lights to avoid this
  • Wear chap-stick: riding in cold conditions can dry out your lips – a quick application of chap-stick before you head out will keep them moisturised

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