It’s cold, roads are slippery, it’s getting dark too early… many consider biking in winter as something absolutely impossible, but it isn’t! I’d like to share some tips that can make a winter cyclist’s life easier, and you’ll see that there’s nothing scary about winter cycling.
Cold and onion layer tactics
First of all, you need warm clothes, shoes and gloves. The more layers of cardigans and sweaters you have, the better. Don’t worry if they look weird all together; you can take some off at your destination. Woollen tights under jeans will keep your legs warm. The most freezing parts of the body are nose and hands. Buy a pair of good winter gloves and protect your face with a scarf. Definitely buy, no matter whether you’re boy or girl, moisturizing lip balm. Even the cheapest one will protect your lips against chapping in the cold, dry air.
When it’s very cold, like -10°C (heh, we have -30°C in Russia), even wearing your warmest clothes you may not be able to ride for a long time. And you don’t have to! In Luxembourg, you are allowed to take your bike on any public transport, train or bus.
Darkness: bike lights and reflective elements
Night falls very early in the winter, and it’s normal to leave work when it’s already dark. Therefore, you need to be visible on the road. According to the law, cyclists must have front and back lights, as well as a pair of reflectors or a reflective stripe on each wheel. Apart from this, you can also buy a reflective vest, toys to hang on your backpack, etc. in supermarkets or in any bike shop.
From a conversation with a driver:
“At night we can see cyclists pretty well on the road, at least within 100 metres. The most visible parts are reflective elements. Bike lights are visible too, but it’s easy to mix them up with something else like lamps in the areas of road works.”
What kind of light? It should be well-visible in darkness and fog. There are many fantastic LED offers starting from 20-30€. For urban cycling you don’t need a very expensive one — the roads are lit pretty well, and the light will be more about being seen than seeing. But don’t buy the cheapest one. It’s your safety!
In winter, even without snow, the roads can be covered with a thin layer of black ice, and the cold will make the rubber on your tyres harder and less sticky. Especially early in the morning, be extremely careful! Don’t ride too fast; keep in mind that at some point you’ll need to stop or turn. If you try to do it on a high speed, most probably you’ll fall down and continue your trip gliding on the ground, hopefully ending in the nearest bushes. That’s not good, as I found out recently! Brake slowly and carefully, and everything will be fine.
The Road Code and cycling style
In winter we all lack energy. Both drivers and cyclists, on the way home after work we are tired, and sometimes it’s difficult to concentrate fully on the road. Try to adhere to the road rules as much as possible. Being tired, other participants of traffic are doing lots of things automatically. For instance, if a driver sees a green light, they assume that they can move, and don’t take into consideration that a cyclist can cross the intersection, or be in the bike lane on their right. Another important thing: indicate your turns with hands. If you don’t do that, drivers expect you to continue moving straight, and you can cause an accident. Long story short, whenever you want to do something on the road, let the others understand it clearly.
Winter bike maintenance
The rain and road salt can be hard on your bike. Don’t leave your bike outside. In order to avoid rusting, regularly lubricante your chain. Be careful, only on the chain, avoid the surface of the wheel rim which contacts the brakes! You can find “wet” chain lubricant, designed for cycling in wet weather, in any supermarket or bike shop. Don’t use WD40, it will clean your chain but be evaporated in one day. At some point you might have to clean your brakes and shift cables. The chemical substances from the road creeps into cable housing, and you can experience difficulties in shifting gears.