Thursday 18 December 2014

Cycling through the winter

As it gets colder and more unpleasant outside, I worry about cycling through the winter. I've always loved going for a ride when it's beautifully sunny and warm, with just a slight breeze, stopping at a pub for lunch - the very definition of a fair weather cyclist. But getting out there in plummeting temperatures and driving rain is not my idea of fun on a bike! When you're riding through an arctic wind, it's so much more unpleasant than running, and the prospect of icy roads certainly doesn't fill me with confidence about staying upright.

So, a couple of weeks ago, Francis set up the trainer in the living room so I could try biking in the comfort of the house. It worked pretty well, and I've done it a few times...but cycling in front of the TV really isn't the same as getting out on the roads and although it'll be a great substitute for those days when the snow is a foot deep, the fact remains that I need to just prepare properly so riding outside over the next few months doesn't seem so scary.

I was approached recently about doing a blog post for the insurers LV to share some of the advice they've put together about winter cycling, and it seemed like a great idea - I need that sort of help more than most! There's all sorts of information on their website but I love the below infographic that they've put together which includes a Winter Checklist, and "Wise Up", "Light Up" and "Wrap Up" sections.

I think my biggest concern is cycling on icy roads and LV Q&A section on winter cycling has this to say:

RW: Cyclists should always be aware that braking distances are increased in wet conditions. In icy conditions it’s a good idea to reduce tyre pressure a little, as this gives you a bigger contact area with the ground.

I suppose the key thing to remember is to be careful and to be aware of any suspicious looking puddles or shimmers in the road.

The other advice my husband always gives me is to be particularly careful riding over drain covers - they can be particularly slippery even in the rain. In fact, it's best to cycle further out from the pavement so you miss them entirely. If you position yourself at least a meter from the curb, not only do you also avoid all of the ddetritus that gathers in the gutter of the road waiting to puncture your tyre, it makes a big difference to your relationship with other car users if you control your space. They are forced to wait until there's a gap in the traffic on the other side so they can overtake safely, as per the highway code, instead of squeezing by.

If you're a relative newbie to winter cycling, like me, take a look, be prepared, and hopefully cycling through the winter needn't be too scary...we just need to make sure we're all safe!

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