Look! That strange burning orb that’s suddenly appeared in the sky – what is it? Could it be… the sun, heralding the end of winter and the beginning of a season bathed in light?
Of course, by the time you read this is will be raining, freezing or blowing a gale. Possibly all three. That’s spring in London – and that’s why you need to consider your kit carefully if you are to nail riding through the next few unpredictable months.
So what are the essentials for happy riding? Read on…
We’ve written our essential guide to layering for cyclists and it’s a solution to the age old problem of starting off a ride and feeling cold, to getting to work and being sweaty. The same principle applies during spring, although hopefully with less layers. The key is to have layers you can quickly remove as you get warmer during your ride.
Spring is a popular time to cycle with a packable windproof cycling jacket such as the dhb Aeron Super Light Packable Windproof (£30). These offer some level of rain protection, but are mainly a barrier preventing wind from chilling your skin. They are good for when the weather is slightly cooler – such as a on a late commute home when the sun is going down or first thing in the morning.
As they are so packable, they stay out of your way most of the time when you don’t need them. For more on windproof cycling jackets, take a look at Emily’s full roundup.
It’s easy to get caught out by the dying of the light on bright – but still short – spring evenings. So if you’re talked into a quick half in a sunny spot after work, make sure you can ride home safely as night falls by slinging some spare lights in your bag. Something cheap, cheerful and easy to attach without special clips will do the job: check out the Knog Strobes, for example. The key is to find something that can live in a pocket until needed. Remember though, these are no substitute for your main bike lights.
T-shirt and shorts
We couldn’t write this post without giving a shout out to long time sponsor of London Cyclist Cycology gear with their great range of t-shirts – just right for a sunny day!
Arriving at your destination with a streak of brown street scurf running from bum to shoulders isn’t the strongest look. Plus, no one on the cycle superhighway will thank you for copping a roostertail of filth square in the chops.
If your frame isn’t drilled for mudguards, go minimal with an Ass Saver. They’re cheap, cheerful, and work well. Plus they come in a range of colours so you can accessorise to fit your ride’s paint job. Fitting one is easy – just unroll it and wiggle it into position between your saddle rails. One watch-out though: London’s rougher roads can shake it out of position and off your bike if you haven’t placed it securely, leaving you out of pocket and covered in muck.
If you do have the right fittings, SKS Raceblades are a solid way to stay dry. They come in a variety of widths, so you can pop them on your skinny-wheeled road bike or chunkier hybrids for a more permanent bit of protection. We’ve been using a pair of these on a fast tourer for about eight years and they’re still going strong. Make sure you periodically clean the crud from between the mudguards and your tyres to avoid rubbing.
Other brands are available – pick whatever fits your frame and tyre width.
For keeping rain and sun out of your eyes as you bowl along London’s roads, you can’t beat a trusty casquette. Or cap, as we like to call it. If, like your correspondent, you have a big head then consider a generously sized banana cap from Look Mum No Hands! We also like this duck-themed offering from Essex-based newcomers Blackmore. Either way, they’ll fit under a helmet if that’s how you ride. Chapeau!
Air quality app
London’s air quality hasn’t been great so far this year. And that’s bad news for all of us – around 10,000 people die in London every year from causes linked to pollution.
Check pollution levels before you set off with an app like Plume – on the days things get really bad, it could save you a wheezy ride. If you want to get more involved in helping the city breathe easy, you can pop one of Plume’s trackers on your backpack and help generate data that could save your fellow Londoners’ lives.