Winter cycling gear 101

Winter cycling

Hi, my name is Jon Martin of Rebel Waltz Cycle Solutions. I have been cycling for around 20 years, commuting, sportives and for leisure. I started my own mobile bicycle repair business about 18 months ago based in Surbiton Surrey. Andrew has asked me to write a small article about riding during the winter months. Most of it is common sense but I hope there are one or two things here that will help you.

Firstly clothes, a winter Jacket and gloves should be your first priority. Your jacket needs to be waterproof and windproof, but also breathable and not too thick. As you will soon warm up when cycling even on the coldest days and you can always add extra layers underneath when necessary.

Gloves should be waterproof and windproof as well and should cover your wrist or longer so they go under the cuff of your jacket sleeve so you have no bare skin showing. You can buy dedicated bike gloves but I find ski gloves do the job as well.

The other article of clothing I recommend are overshoes, which come as thin material for light rain use to thermal lined and waterproof for the coldest and wettest rides.

Some people wear waterproof trousers when riding, I find that you get hot and sticky! So I prefer waterproof leggings, as they do dry quite quickly.
I hope this tip is useful, on those heavy raining rides it doesn’t matter how well dressed you are I always find rainwater drips down the back of my neck! Basic I know but it works, I get a tea towel, fold it twice and put it around my neck. It’s amazing how warmer you feel when you know no water can get under your clothes.

The last word on clothing is ‘look bright’ wear bright colours and make sure there are reflecting or hi-vis parts on all your clothing.

Now your bike, if you ride regularly or a commuter, in the winter months I would recommend you get your bike serviced before the weather turns, as bike parts tend to wear out and work loose more easily in bad weather so it’s worth making sure everything is good to start with.

Wash your bike at least once a week not just to look good but to wash off the grit, salt and all the muck your bike picks up from the road, which will eat or corrode some parts of the bicycle especially the chain, gears and brakes and don’t forget to oil your chain after the wash, just one drop of oil on each link then wipe off the access with a rag.

Mudguards are essential especially the full-length style, as they keep your ‘rear’ dry and stop your feet from getting wet from the spray from the front wheel.

Now, this part is slightly technical. Tyres, for grip in the winter, the idea is to get the most amount of rubber to have contact with the road. So to get the best grip on wet roads, you’re looking for a wide smooth tyre, not a tyre with deep tread unless you are riding through thick mud or snow. Tyre pressure I think is a personal preference, as maximum pressure in your tyres will give you less rolling resistance and in my experience increase your puncture resistance but a slight decrease in pressure will give you a smoother ride and more rubber contacting the tarmac.

Lights. For safe winter riding get a good set(s) of lights, as the more visible you are the better other road users can see you. There are so many different types of lights and the prices differ also. Go for the best that you can afford, to save money you can use rechargeable batteries or can get lights that you can charge by a USB cable through a mains socket or a computer. Don’t forget to remove your lights when you leave your bike locked up, as people like to take them for some reason!

Finally, you are not riding against other road users but the dark, make sure you can see and be seen, A good quality helmet goes without saying, it has saved me more than once from serious injury on our roads. Ride with anticipation and be sensible as we have all heard ‘sorry mate didn’t see you’.

Watch out for metal drains, manhole covers, road markings and leaves as all are slippery when wet especially when turning.

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