Bicycle Network: Skill Up
Tips for surviving those cold, wet and miserable winter months.
Wintertime. It is wetter, colder, and there are less daylight hours, resulting in a noticeable drop in cyclist numbers. For those of you who are struggling for motivation during the winter months here are some tips to keep you warm, dry and comfortable while you ride all year round.
- Dress in plain, bright colours. Yellow, green, white or orange are best. Avoid red. It is hard to judge its distance and it looks dark at night.
- A lot of cycle specific clothing has reflective piping or strips on it, this will make your even more visible.
With shorter days and cloudly skies, staying visible can be more urgent in winter. For rules, guidelines and tips on finding the best bike lights, check out our bike lights section, as well as Ride On's recent bicycle lights tests and other info sheets.
Some suggestions for those frosty winter mornings. Remember that you will warm up during the ride. There is no point dressing for arctic conditions when you start if you will end up feeling as though you are in the tropics when you finish.
- Use layered clothing – rip it off as you get warm.
- Purchase a windproof/waterproof cycling jacket – try to get one that opens down the front and has cooling vents (armpits and back). As you warm up during the ride you can open the front of the jacket and the cooling vents.
- Try using long lycra leggings to wear over short cycling knicks or under normal shorts.
- Experiment with using lycra arm or leg warmers. These can be pulled down (and even right off) while you’re riding.
- Wear gloves – choose a pair (or pairs) that have the right balance between warmth and dexterity. Try a Windstopper brand or experiment with 2 pairs – a thin polypropylene pair plus a larger outer pair.
- Head protection – Fleecy headbands will keep your head, ears and part of your face toastie warm. Choose a material that will keep the cold air off, but will not make you too hot, or make your head too big for your helmet.
- Invest in a set of mudguards to prevent water splashing up from your front and rear tyres. Nothing is more uncomfortable than a wet, muddy stripe up your back after riding along wet roads.
- A waterproof/breathable jacket or a plastic poncho will keep the rain off and allow sweat to escape. Ponchos are cheap and will cover a backpack but they flap around and don't provide the same protection from the rain as a jacket.
- Waterproof pants and booties are also available to keep your legs and feet dry.
- Braking - Just as in a car, stopping distances can increase dramatically in wet conditions - it need not be raining. Test your brakes and adjust your speed accordingly, to provide you with adequate stopping distances. Generally, disk brakes will outperform rim brakes in wet conditions. If you are riding an older bike with steel rims (generally have a 'chrome' look to them) be very wary of wet conditions as they can be remarkably ineffective when wet.
- Tyre choice can make a difference when riding on different surfaces, but slick or near-slick tyres still provide the best grip on a road surface. Deeper grooves and 'knobbies' aid in clearing mud etc.
- Road surface - watch out for metal fixtures on the road (access covers, tram tracks etc) as these can be much more slippery than the standard bitumen or concrete surface. Even large expanses of paint (eg: arrows signalling turning lanes) can be slick. On ultra-cold mornings, watch out for ice, which can sometimes be seen as darker patches on the road/concrete surface (hence the term 'black ice').