Tips to keep you cycling safely this winter

When winter arrives everyone has their own way of dealing with it. Mine is to hibernate and spend as much time in bed as possible. When I do finally manage to get myself out of bed and hop on the bike I end up thoroughly enjoying the winter cycling.

With the change of conditions on the road you do need to change your riding style a little. Here’s some expert tips that can help you avoid those near misses.

winter-cycling-tipsTip 1: Road position

In the winter more than ever you should be taking a dominant road position. Not only is a drivers vision less good due to reduced daylight and bad weather but also there are longer stopping distances. I.e. Danger that can be avoided.

Therefore, whenever you find yourself cycling in the gutter think to yourself: “Why shouldn’t I claim the road! I’m going to make things safer for everyone”. Get into the middle of the lane and force cars to see you.

Tip 2: Keep your eyes 14

This is a Greek saying for keep your eyes peeled. When winter cycling you need to be anticipating road users actions more than ever. Has that taxi seen you? Is that bus about to stop without indicating? As someone once humorously suggested to me: “Treat all other road users as suicidal maniacs”.

Tip 3: Be visible

Bike lights. I’m going to leave it there.

Tip 4: Check your bike

Use Bike Doctor or take it to a Bike Shop. However you choose to maintain your bike winter is a good time to be on top of it. The brakes are one of the most important things. Make sure they are responsive. If when you pull down the lever slightly your bike isn’t coming to a stop quickly then have someone take a look at it. You should also check your tyres more regularly and if possible clean the bike a little more often to prevent rust from the salt on the road.

Tip 5: The winter hazards

Leafy roads, potholes filled with water and icy patches. These are the winter cycling hazards that you need to avoid. This may mean cycling a little more slowly and leaving more space between you and the next nearest road user. Remember the stopping distances are increased due to water between the brake blocks and the bicycle rims.

Also related:

Image via Amsterdamize flickr

Join 9,241 fellow cyclists who are subscribed to the London Cyclist newsletter

Sign up for our free newsletter to get...

  • Advice on the best cycling gear
  • A Friday roundup of all the latest London cycling news
  • Exclusive content not available on the blog

Subscribe today, and get exclusive access forever! (It's free)

*No spam, ever!

As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

, , , ,

31 Responses to Tips to keep you cycling safely this winter

  1. Reuben 15/11/2010 at 6:11 pm #

    I don’t see why in winter its up for us to be more careful of other road users bad driving, its up for them to keep their eyes 14 all year round as much as ours, and to check their road vehicle as much as ours. Anyone using winter, early nights or cold as an excuse to turn without indicating shouldn’t be allowed on the road. This post puts far too much emphasis on winter riding being something dangerous and makes it seem like you have to be extra prepared, when in reality, you should be visible, have good position and be aware of the weather and road conditions all year round. The only tips for winter cycling are watch out for ice and get some good gloves.

    • Andreas 15/11/2010 at 7:08 pm #

      Hey Reuben – sorry if it came across that way. In no way do I believe winter riding isn’t something every can do. I’m just telling people to be a little more cautious and giving a few little tips that might help out ;)

  2. Angi 15/11/2010 at 6:57 pm #

    Steel rims = totally unresponsive brakes as soon as it rains. I’m asking santa for some new alloy wheels for Christmas!

    It’s nice taking things easy during the winter…especially when it snows. Magical.

    • Andreas 15/11/2010 at 7:09 pm #

      Agreed I’m hoping for a little snow this winter again :)

  3. Mary 15/11/2010 at 7:15 pm #

    You can only be responsible for yourself so doing as much as possible to be safe and seen will make it better for all around you.
    I think it’s a very sensible and helpful article! Thank you xx

  4. Lost 15/11/2010 at 8:04 pm #

    I’m with yourself and Mary in that this post clears things up for a lot of cyclists who don’t realise these things are something that needs to be done all year round. I’ve seen cyclists riding shockingly and some atrociously maintained bikes this year.

    As for the snow, I lurve it and love riding in it, but can the dusting please wait until my collar-bone fracture heals ;)

  5. Knit Nurse 15/11/2010 at 9:26 pm #

    Mary and Lost are right – it’s a helpful article especially in pointing out maintenance issues that are more important in winter. Ensuring your tyres have sufficient tread is also vital for those rainy days.

    Can I also point out that it’s not just car and bus drivers you need to watch out for – keep your eyes peeled for the cyclists who think everyone can see them even though they have no lights and are wearing dark clothing.

    • K 16/11/2010 at 10:28 am #

      The conventional wisdom is that a tyre with a tread in it will do better in the rain, and it’s certainly true for cars, but does that apply to bicycles? I’ve ridden in the rain on slicks and my own body weight keeps the wheels from floating and aquaplaning… the tyres just ‘cut through’ the layer of water. In the wet, is there any other advantage to having a tread on the tyres?

      • Filippo Negroni 16/11/2010 at 10:46 am #

        I think bicycle tyres with a tread in the centre are meant for slightly rough roads where slick tyres can have trouble digging through the layer of muck on the top.

        On my racer I previously had Continental GP4000S which were outstanding in the wet yet completely slick. But as soon as the road was covered in muck (light mud, debris) they would feel a bit skittish.

        I now run Vittoria Open Pave’ tyres now which have a slightly ribbed centre tread, giving some extra grip on so called white roads and cobbles and such.

    • wee folding bike 16/11/2010 at 6:16 pm #

      The late Sheldon Brown has some comments:

      http://www.sheldonbrown.com/tyres.html#tread

  6. Mike Smith 15/11/2010 at 11:27 pm #

    @Reuben – ‘I don’t see why in winter its up for us to be more careful of other road users bad driving, its up for them to keep their eyes 14 all year round’ – this attitude won’t stop the pain when a taxi takes your back wheel and most of one leg away from you! (Happened to my buddy!)
    Andreas, I too was given the tip to “Treat all other road users as suicidal maniacs”, only the guy who gave it to me wasn’t being in the least bit humorous.
    A lot of what you say in this post should be obvious to all of us – but sometimes its good that someone points out the obvious to us – it gets the ol’ grey matter ticking over.
    Keep up the good work.

    • Andreas 16/11/2010 at 10:53 am #

      Thanks Mike :)
      I’m finding establishing plenty of eye contact is working well for me at the moment to deal with the “suicidal maniacs!”

  7. Steve 16/11/2010 at 6:26 am #

    The lights are a must, and still so many cyclists are without them.
    Last night I was behind a cyclist wearing a black coat, black hat and riding a black bike. No-one could see him.

    • Filippo Negroni 16/11/2010 at 10:49 am #

      I especially remind that both rear and front lights are a must especially when the sun is low and also in foggy conditions (such as this morning in Berkshire).

      Yellow hi-viz tops in fog are near invisible unless from short distances. Powerful LED lights front and rear are far better.

      • Andreas 16/11/2010 at 10:54 am #

        Filippo – the fog is pretty intense out there today so yep a good set of bike lights is essential for winter cycling

    • Andreas 16/11/2010 at 10:53 am #

      Was it a Ninja cyclist?

  8. Alan 16/11/2010 at 11:58 am #

    drivers vision “less good” due to reduced daylight.

    Dude, that’s some less good english. Though i completely agree with road position. Good road position is more good.

    • Andreas 19/11/2010 at 12:25 pm #

      Haha I must admit I did put the post together in a rush. Struggling to find time for the blogging these days.

  9. FirstWinterCycling 16/11/2010 at 10:43 pm #

    Sound practical advice for someone like me who is riding during winter for the first time. Took my first fall today due to an icy patch..ended up eating the floor! Confidence took a bit of a knock but I picked myself up and just cycled a lot more slowly. Reading this article assured me that riding slowly helps and that I shouldn’t lock my bicycle up for the rest of winter. It seems like simple advice but I really hadn’t thought of it before today.

    • Andreas 19/11/2010 at 12:25 pm #

      Pleased to hear it. Think a lot of people give up on cycling around this time but it’s really not necessary.

  10. Corin 17/11/2010 at 2:56 pm #

    Having read that Sheldon Brown article I’m more confused than I was. I run Bontrager race lite tyres which have no discernible tread. However, in wet conditions I have come off twice in the last couple of months, so I was thinking of changing to something with tread for the autumn/winter. SB reckons it makes no difference on road.

    Maybe I need to drop the pressure a bit, down from 110 psi.

    • Corin 17/11/2010 at 3:00 pm #

      Actually, having re-read a bit it’s a bit clearer:

      “Tread for off-road use

      Treads can help improve off-road traction in two ways: On hard, irregular surfaces, the knobs of the tread can hook onto projections of the road surface, reducing the tendency to slip.”

      I think quite a lot of London ‘roads’ count as hard off-road.

  11. thereverent 17/11/2010 at 6:08 pm #

    The tip about road position is very good.

    Clean and lube your chain and running gear more often.
    Check your waterproof jacket is still waterproof! (better than finding out on a dark rainy night).
    Think about gettings mudguards.
    Watch puddles as they can hide some nasty potholes after a cold snap.
    Try some new batteries in your lights even if you think the ones in there are fine. If the lights look alot brighter, you probably should change them. I do this at the start of the winter and often with lights that I think are OK, become twice as bright.

    Enjoy the less crowded roads!

    • Andreas 19/11/2010 at 12:26 pm #

      Very good advice! And yep the less crowded roads are a pleasure..

  12. hugomac 19/11/2010 at 11:02 am #

    If you want to know why to take extra care – Get into a car on a cold and or wet morning. Drive off with the radio on and the windows fogged up, even when they clear look at the areas that the wipers don’t clean obscuring your vision. Maybe text or call someone. Put the fan on full noise. Then ask yourself whether as a cyclist you should be extra careful in the winter….bright flashing lights (helmet mount alows you to aim it at the drivers – not to blind just to notify), reflectives, more lights for when batteries run low in one, eye contact, prominent road positioning, use the lights in anything other than bright sunshine. All good stay alive advice as the cyclist will be the loser whoever makes the mistake….

  13. Andy P 19/11/2010 at 11:11 am #

    In addition to points above think about suitablity of your bike, especially skinny tyres.

    After a heavy crash after going over wet leaves on my road bike (fairly bloodied but pride damaged more!) the roadie in now swapped out for my heavy touring tank instead. Wet man hole covers are no longer like ice rinks. Best thing is it has mud guards. No more soaked butt! :)

  14. Amoeba 19/11/2010 at 12:03 pm #

    One of the things that I suspect is frequently forgotten in discussions about cyclists’ road safety is the effect of low-sun on visibility. At this time of year late sunrises and early sunsets can lead to drivers being dazzled and the resulting danger to cyclists. I make sure to turn my lights on when the sun is low in the sky.

    A very bright rear flasher / strobe is a very good idea, as is fluorescent clothing.

  15. Cait 19/11/2010 at 12:20 pm #

    I follow the general rule of being lit up like a Christmas tree – so your yellow jacket but also:
    1) Reflector stickers – several on the back (traditional) mudguard and basically covering the back of your helmet and a few down the handlebar stem
    2) I have – and you may well laugh, a bright back permanent light on the back on my panier rack & a flashing led on my under-saddle bag PLUS a front light on both forks plus one on my handlebars PLUS! my wowee new helmet what I won in Andreas’s competition has built in LED’s front and back

    Utterly agree in terms of “don’t ride in the gutter” – whilst not making yourself a pain in the backside to other road users, on the days to come which are snowy, no one can see a damn thing. Screw others getting annoyed, you don’t want to be on that icy slush hidden from view.

    Also, the general advice – signalling etc, assuming that both drivers and pedestrians around you are monumentally stupid so you must tell them EVERYTHING you are going to do next. But also, if anyone, pedestrian or driver is decent, lets you through or waits for you, *always* thank them, or morph your signal arm in to a thumbs up sign. ALWAYS. Spread the positive. It will help everyone and makes you feel nice too.

    • Andreas 19/11/2010 at 12:29 pm #

      The extra bike light is a good idea. I’m considering having one that hooks onto my back so drivers can see me.

  16. Phil 19/11/2010 at 12:20 pm #

    I treat all motorised road users as suicidal/homicidal maniacs- it’s a fundamental survival trait. High-vis is also a necessity, although spring-autumn I use a 2″ wide Sam Browne rather than the full on vest. Lights are also a necessity- B&M Stoplight D Plus come payday, then an IQ CYO Fly in January. Until I have good dynamo lights, fresh rechargeables go in the Cateye lights every four weeks ( my commute is 45 minutes ). Keeping the drivetrain clean is an absolute must, winter grit and crud causes chain breakage which isn’t fun when it happens on a 1 in 9 slope halfway to work. I have 2.2″ tyres at 40psi so traction isn’t a problem. Brake pads wear down three times more quickly, so I generally end up fitting new sets in November and February

  17. Amoeba 19/11/2010 at 12:50 pm #

    I also put my lights on when it’s raining.

Leave a Reply