Cycling in Winter

Below you will find information on cycling safe in winter, including cycling when it's dark, plus some links to winter bike maintenance.

Cycling safely in Winter

Here are some top tips on how to stay happy and safe on your bike when cycling during the cold and icy winter months.

Way to go

Reconsider your route.  Quiet roads that are good to ride on in fair weather are more prone to freezing, particularly early in the morning and bends can be very difficult if icy.  Sometimes a gritted busier road is better than an icy quiet road.

Dress for it

Jacket and gloves should be numbers one and two on your checklist. Your jacket needs to be water and wind proof, but also breathable and not too thick. It's amazing how quickly you can overheat while cycling, even on the coldest days and you can always add extra layers underneath if necessary. 

Service your bike...

Bikes tend to deteriorate more quickly in the winter months with things becoming loose easily in the wet. To make sure your bike is in tip top shape get it serviced at a local bike shop to prevent any nasty surprises during your ride.

...then look after it

Water (particularly mixed with road salt) is really tough on your bike. After riding in bad weather, it's a good idea to give your bike five minutes of TLC to keep things running smoothly.

First, give it a general rinse and wipe-down to remove dirt, salt and grit. Pay particular attention to the chain, gears, brakes and wheel rims.

When you're done, dry it off with an old towel. Disperse any excess water in moving parts with a spray of WD40, GT85 or something similar then add some bike oil to the chain and gear mechanism.

Get a grip

A good set of tyres will go a long way to prevent unnecessary skidding and they will also lessen the likelihood of you having to fix a puncture in the sleet and rain. Inflating the tyres a little less than you would in summer will improve traction in slippery conditions.

Pedal on safely

Pedals get slippery in the wet too. If you’re not comfortable with clip-in pedals, invest in some with extra grip. They’re pretty easy to fit or your local bike shop can give you a hand.

Riding tips

  • Start slowly so that your body, especially your joints and muscles, can warm up properly. 
  • Leave extra time to cycle slower in wet and snowy conditions.
  • When riding on settled snow, brake often to clear rims.  Braking is up to six times longer when rims are wet.
  • Avoid puddles that may hide potholes or other road hazards. .
  • Many surfaces are slippery in the wet, like tram tracks, painted lines, metal bridges and road plates - try to avoid these as much as possible or cross them with caution.
  • Be aware of metal surfaces such as tram tracks and road plates which can be icy when other road surfaces are not.
  • If you encounter ice, steer straight, don't pedal, and try not to brake as this could cause you to skid and fall.
     

Cycling in the dark  

Darker evenings may mean you get caught out on the way home cycling in the dark, so it’s important to think ahead and pack lights and reflective clothing as a matter of habit once the season starts to turn.

The UK legal minimum for riding after dark is one front white light and one red rear light, plus the reflectors that should already be on your bike.

  • rear red
  • orange on the pedals

Many people who commute to work choose to wear a brightly coloured waistcoat which has the joint benefit of making you more visible on darker, rainy or foggy days and after dark.

Cycling in towns and cities means that your main concern is being seen by other road users, so think about making you and your bike stand out. Consider where you place your lights on your bike so that they can be seen as clearly as possible, particularly by car drivers. If you regularly cycle in very busy traffic you might want to consider a helmet-mounted light or an additional rear light or reflector on the back of your coat or bag.

Day or night, if you’re not sure if it’s dark enough for lights it’s always best to put them on!

Once they’re fitted make sure your lights and reflectors aren’t obscured by clothing or bags.

Consider where to put your rear lights where it can always be seen, like attaching a pannier rack light. It’s worth keeping a backup set of lights at work.

If you wear a backpack think about how much of your clothing is obscured, you might want to cover it with a reflective cover or an all in one vest and bag cover.

The above information has been provided by the cycling charity SUSTRANS.
 

Cycle buddies

If you are nervous about cycling alone in the dark you could find a bike buddy (i.e. people travelling in a similar direction could link up to travel together to work rather than cycling alone). The same can be done for walking if there are some people who walk to work.
 

Useful Links

Last Updated: 2 September 2020