Autumn is a lovely time to be riding your bike, but winter is just around the corner… so prepare now and you’ll have no excuses to hang up your commuting wheels when the bad weather arrives.
The secret to enjoying riding your bike all year round is feeling comfortable and safe in the saddle. In the winter months, this does get a bit tricky as you have the extra challenges of dark evenings, rain, hail – even snow – and cold, unpleasant temperatures.
However, if you invest in the right kit now so it’s hanging up ready to go, you’ll have no excuse to take a break from riding, no matter the weather. In our experience, when you stop because of the dark or bad weather once, it’s much harder to get going again.
Here are our top picks for year-round kit essentials you need to own:
1- Lights and reflectors
Riding in the dark can be fun and enjoyable – familiar streets and country roads take on a completely different perspective at night – and with the right lights, you definitely don’t need to fear the dark! Covering bike lights is a whole blog in itself, but here are a few quick tips to think about before purchasing.
At a minimum, you need one continuous front and one continuous rear light. There are two fundamental purposes for bike lights: so you can be seen and so you can see where you are going. In most environments, unless you only ride on well-lit city streets, you’ll need a combination of both.
A bright handlebar light with a wide flood beam is great for illuminating what is just in front of you, but if you’re riding fast on a very dark country lane, you also need a beam with distance to pick out the hazards up ahead.
Make sure your rear lights are not obscured by your saddle, rucksack or even your own bottom! Lights on wheels and pedals are eye catching because of the movement and allow you to be seen better side on when passing junctions.
How much can you afford to spend? Rechargeable lights are more expensive initially, but you have no further cost as they are generally more powerful and as long as you remember to charge them, you are much less likely to be caught out in the dark.
Mudguards prevent splashes on your clothes, keeping you both cleaner and drier. There are mudguards for every type of bike… Some styles of bike have mudguard eyelets for bolting mudguards onto, whereas others you need separate attachment brackets (bought with the mudguards) to fix them in place.
Mudguards really do make a difference – a dry bottom on a wet winter’s day is heavenly! They also protect your bike from the corrosive grit and grime of winter roads, and help it to stay cleaner.
3- Warm and waterproof clothing
When it comes to your clothing choice, your speed and distance of commute is an important consideration. For slower, shorter rides where you won’t be building up much of a sweat, heavy duty waterproof jackets, ponchos and over trousers can be worn over your office wear. However, if you are pedalling a considerable distance or like to get to work fast, waterproof outer layers will leave you very hot and damp on the inside.
For fast cycling, there really is no way of staying dry – you either get wet from rain or wet from sweat! Instead, your priority is keeping a good consistent body temperature. There are some brilliant jackets on the market for wet weather riding, but they don’t come cheap. However, if it keeps you on your bike and pedalling all year round, they are well worth the cost. Let’s face it – if you live in Britain, a wet weather jacket will see plenty of use!
4 – Winter shoes
Your feet tend to get wet even when it’s not raining, from spray and splashing through puddles. If you normally wear your ordinary ‘civvy’ shoes, a change when you get to work is always a good idea.
If you wear specific cycling shoes, there is the option of overshoes – often made of neoprene and designed to help protect your feet from getting wet and helping them to stay warm on even the coldest of days. If you are happy with the shoes you have, these are a cheap way of looking after your feet through the winter.
A more expensive purchase is a fully insulated, waterproof winter boot – these are the ultimate in comfort in cold or wet weather. If you are serious about getting the miles in, these are a great choice.
5 – Waterproof bag
If you commute with a rucksack or messenger bag, be sure to have some way of protecting your change of clothes, work equipment and lunch! Some rucksacks are already water resistant, with taped seams and high visibility rain covers that can be pulled out when needed. Alternatively, waterproof ‘dry’ bags are great for separating out items within your big bag and make sure everything gets to the office dry and clean.
6 – Tyres
There is nothing more annoying than fixing a puncture with wet and cold hands. Sadly, wet roads and grit during the winter make it a likely scenario, which is why we choose to change to winter tyres at the end of autumn. A good winter tyre has extra grip for slippery road surfaces and is a little bit heavier, with extra puncture protection.
You can also look at solid or foam inserts to protect your inner-tube, or ‘tubeless’ tyres where a latex fluid is used inside the tyre to seal up any small holes as they happen. Speak to your local bike shop for some suggestions for your style of bike.