Cycling is a year round activity so follow our top winter cycling tips to help you stay safe and comfortable in the saddle through the winter months.
20% of Devon roads are on the Primary Salting Network therefore 80% of the road network will not receive precautionary salting even if icy roads are forecast. The Winter Service Plan states “Major cycleways will only be treated on a reactive basis during periods of prolonged freezing within the available resources and priorities.”
The Snow Warden Scheme provides advice, training and salt to community groups, town and parish councils.
1) Dressing for winter cycling: ‘Be Bright, Be Seen’
During the dark winter nights wearing reflective and fluorescent clothing helps you be visible to other road users. In addition, the following items of clothing will help keep you warm and dry.
Helmet – Consider attaching a red light to the back of your helmet to help make you more visible to other road users. Also a helmet with reduced venting may help to keep your head warm.
Jacket – If you decide to invest in a cycling jacket, get one that has some degree of breathability and with visibility-enhancing reflective sections.
High-viz – Consider wearing a lightweight high-viz tabard over your outer clothing, to make you visible to other road users. A high visibility rucksack cover is also good, though that won’t improve your visibility to those facing you.
Gloves – Should ideally be windproof, waterproof, long enough to cover your wrists and not too tight. Sometimes a couple of pairs of thin gloves work very well,
Layers – A combination of long sleeve tops, that wick away moisture, with a light thermal / warm top a jacket and breathable over-trousers should be fine for most British winters. A neck-warmer / snood will help too on really cold days and you can generally pull them over your head and ears too.
2) Winter riding tips
- Start slowly so that your body can warm up properly
- Leave extra time to cycle more slowly in wet and snowy conditions
- Have a hot drink in your bottle, like hot squash. This may help you stay hydrated during the ride and keep you warm.
- Rain and damp reduces your bike’s braking efficiency. Always allow more time to stop and don’t follow too closely behind vehicles as they may stop suddenly.
- Avoid puddles that may hide potholes or other road hazards.
- Be aware of surfaces being slippery or icy, like painted lines, metal bridges and road plates – try to avoid these or cross them with caution.
- When riding on settled snow, brake often to clear rims. Remember: braking can be up to six times longer when rims are wet.
- If you encounter ice, steer straight, don’t pedal, and try not to brake as this could cause you to skid and fall.
- Try to avoid riding on snow and ice!
3) Winter-proof your bike
Wind, rain, snow, ice and salted roads can be tough on your bike. Following these set up and maintenance tips will keep your bike running smoothly through the winter.
Service – Book a bike service with your local bike shop. It will ensure your bike is in the best condition possible, is money well spent and still cheaper than running a car or second car!
Mudguards – are essential for winter riding. They will keep you and your bike cleaner and drier, help protect it from corrosive salt and will make you a lot more welcome if you ride with a club or group.
Tyres – Wider tyres (28c upwards) with some decent tread will give you a greater surface area to grip the roads with, which may prevent skidding on ice. Check that you have got enough clearance if using mudguards.
Lights – If you’re doing the first half of your journey in daylight, don’t forget to take them with you as it is illegal to cycle on public roads after dark without lights and reflectors. Here is a few of our bike light tips:
- The front light must be white, whilst the rear light must be red
- Get lights with the sides cut out for extra visibility
- Save money and reduce waste by investing in rechargeable batteries or lights with USB charging
- Make sure you remove your lights when you leave your bike locked up.
4) Keep it clean
Rinse the entire bike with clean water to remove dirt and salt, spray water dispersant on the drivetrain, run the chain through a rag and then re-lube the chain. It is only a five-minute job at the most and your bike will thank you for it.
5) Riding and observation
Ride in a confident position well away from the kerb. Ensure you know what other road users are around you. In adverse weather conditions, all road users may have reduced visibility and increased stopping distances.
Remind yourself of the Rules for cyclists in the Highway Code
6) Cycle training sessions
We offer free 1-1 cycle training sessions to all adults in Devon. Even the best cyclists will learn something from our experienced team of National Standard Instructors.
7) Enjoy! There are brilliant benefits of cycling right through the winter and arriving in spring feeling fitter and healthier than ever!