Beginner technique: Stay safe on winter rides

Advice for cold weather riding

Riding in winter can be exhilarating, but make sure you stay safe by following British Cycling qualified coach Andy Cook’s cold weather counsel.

Be seen

You can’t have enough lights, particularly when riding in urban areas, but they need to be in the right places. So often you see riders with a rear light that isn’t pointing in the right direction or is obscured by their jacket.

Make sure your lights are fitted securely and are positioned where drivers will definitely see them. Where you ride on the road is also vital. Take up the primary position and command your space in the road.

This has the benefit of allowing you some space if that driver behind hasn’t seen you and tries to squeeze by. And don’t assume you’ve been seen by cars signalling to pull out – especially on cold mornings where commuters might still be peering through a misted or iced up windscreen, or squinting into the sun.

Avoid hazards

Riding a bike in the wet can be great fun, but make sure you do it safely. As with driving a car, it’ll take you longer to stop when braking in the wet because of a build up of water on the rims between the brake blocks and the braking surface. Make sure you take this into account.

Also, road markings tend to be slippery when wet, as do drain and manhole covers, so remember to take extra care when riding across them, especially when turning. Avoiding them is the best idea, but if there’s no alternative, anticipate your line and speed as a sharp turn over a wet piece of ironwork or painted line at speed could easily result in a fall.

Check your bike

It’s always a good idea to give your bike regular checks for wear and tear, but it’s particularly important at this time of year. Check over your tyres for small flints and pieces of glass that might not have caused a puncture yet but if left will ultimately work through and into the inner tube. Your sidewalls should also be checked regularly because riding an under-inflated tyre will cause the bead to wear excessively and could cause a blowout at an inopportune moment.

Check your brake blocks regularly too, as they can become encrusted with shards of alloy from the braking surface, not to mention grit and gravel, which wears both the blocks and the rim itself. Brake cables need to be checked for fraying too. Give your transmission a regular once-over as well, and remember that running your drive system with too much lube will compromise efficiency as much as running it too dry.

Look ahead

Everyone’s vision tends to be reduced in winter, especially in the busiest, darkest commuter times of first thing in the morning and in the late afternoon. As a cyclist you need to become very good at anticipating other road users’ behaviour. Always try to catch the driver’s eye, as this is your most effective form of communication.

Also watch out for leaf-strewn areas on lanes – wet leaves can create seriously slippery surfaces. If we’ve had a dry spell and then there’s light rain on top of fallen leaves, some of our more rural lanes can be as hazardous as riding on ice. If you’re riding in a group in these sorts of conditions, leave a little more room between you and the guy in front, and try to anticipate any problems that might occur up ahead.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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