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Top tips for cycling in winter

While the arrival of winter can present a number of challenges for cyclists, from slippery roads to decreased visibility, the season change shouldn’t prevent you from continuing to ride.

Around half of Slough’s cyclists ride all year round, no matter what the weather conditions. Many of the borough’s riders also use their bike as their main form of transport.

So to help all you keen cyclists during these colder months, read our tips and advice for staying safe and prepared while on your bikes in and around the borough. While some have a bike they specifically ride during winter, kitted out especially for the season, you don’t have to necessarily do that, as the below changes can be just as effective.

Bike maintenance – winter proofing your bike

A graphic showing bike maintenance tips

It’s important to maintain the condition of your bike throughout the year, but particularly in winter, where you may need to carry out more frequent checks. You will also need to pay special attention to your brakes, pedals and tyres; as well as moving parts, such as the chain, gears, cables, hubs and bottom bracket.

Top tips

  • Salty water off gritted roads can affect exposed parts such as your cables, so it’s worth checking those regularly, and also keeping your chain well oiled.
  • Your stopping distances will greatly increase on wet and icy surfaces, so you’ll need to ensure your brakes are kept clean and are adjusted, if necessary.
  • During these months, you’re more likely to get a tyre puncture. Replacing your current tyres with wider ones pumped up at a lower pressure, can offer added grip and safety while cycling on wet roads. Carrying a tyre repair kit might be handy too.
  • The rain, wind and snow can all contribute to slippery conditions while pedalling. Be sure to check your pedals have a good enough grip to get you through these months and beyond.
  • Mudguards are also worth investing in during this time, to help to stop the spray of water and dirt hitting you or your belongings while out and about.
  • Lastly, one of the simplest tips and most effective, is ensuring you regularly wash your bike and tyres, to prevent any build up of dirt and ice that could potentially affect any parts. Keeping it as clean as possible will hopefully help to keep everything working smoothly.

Being seen – don’t blend into the background

A graphic showing tips for being seen

As the days become shorter, the reduced sunlight can make it harder for motorists and pedestrians to see you. Throw in the potential for rain, fog, and even sleet and snow, and it could spell disaster for anyone not properly lit up.

Top tips

  • Lights are not only a must, but also a legal requirement between sunset and sunrise. A front and rear light is fine, but you could also consider adding some to your helmet, bag and wheels. It’s good to make sure the lights have a long battery life as well, so they’re bright enough for people to see you.
  • Reflectors will additionally help you be seen, and are also a legal requirement between sunset and sunrise. They can be added to the front and rear of your bike, as well as your pedals.
  • Investing in hi-vis gear, such as reflective clothing, bags and slap bands are another effective way to make sure you stand out in the dark.

Clothing – dress for the occasion

A graphic showing cycling clothing tips

Staying warm and dry is vital while cycling, as you’ll likely encounter some very cold conditions and that can be dangerous in itself. The layers will protect your health and wellbeing, and as a result, help to keep your attention on the road.

While it can be tricky to get the layers just right between being too warm and too cold, it is advisable to be warmer and perhaps riding a little slower, so you don’t get too hot and sweaty (and then end up cold anyway) rather than struggling to be warm at all as you have too few layers.

Top tips

  • You’re likely to encounter rain, so investing in some waterproof clothing will help to prevent you from getting soaked and cold. You can get waterproofs, not only for your body, but also for your helmet and to go over your shoes.
  • Gloves are worth investing in, as your hands could quickly go numb, if exposed while cycling for long periods. You could also wear a hat or headband under your helmet if that helps.
  • Your pedals can become slippery when wet, so it is important you wear shoes with good grip.
  • Protective glasses will protect your eyes from dirt, and anything else that could be kicked up from the road. If it’s dark or wet out, you might want to think about getting clear lenses with a hydrophobic coating and vents to ensure you don’t struggle with steamed lenses. Or maybe yellow or orange tinted lenses, which can help boost contrast, helping to make the road surface and obstacles easier to see in low light conditions.

Be prepared - riding for the conditions

A graphic showing tips for being prepared

The weather plays a big role in determining how fast you can and should ride. So, ensuring you alter your pace accordingly, especially when the road gets twisty or hilly, or there’s anything left over from heavy rainfall, like mud, silt and gravel, is very important.

Top tips

  • Adapting your style and route may mean taking a safer route, braking a bit more in advance, reducing your speed and generally cycling with a bit more caution so you’re adjusted to the unpredictable nature of the winter weather. You should also check the weather before heading out.
  • Giving someone a head’s up on your plans is worth doing, just as a precaution. Or you could make sure the live tracking functions on your cycling app are on. Having rides with someone else or a group during this time might also be worth considering.
  • Making sure you’ve eaten and drunk enough is a matter of safety, as you need to keep your energy levels stable, especially as your body will be working harder to counteract the cold. Perhaps you could carry a snack with you or integrate a planned food stop as part of the route?