The PoP team talk about staying on your bike this winter, and talking to your regional politicians about keeping bike paths clear in wintery conditions.
The clocks have gone back. The mornings will be lighter for a wee while, but evenings are drawing in. It’s coming up to that time of year again where people in the office will look at you sitting down at your desk with your rosy cheeks and bright eyes, and ask sleepily …
“Did you cycle in?!”
Many people consider cycling to be a spring/summer/autumn transport option but for many it’s the only option, and for just as many, it’s the preferred option! Keeping your weight steady through the mince pies and Christmas parties, and getting you to work on time even when the traffic is at a standstill because of the rain/wind/snow/leaves.
This ability to battle through adverse conditions and make it to work on time, and studies showing that cyclists already take half the sick days of co-workers, should mean that businesses, and local councils, are excited about getting behind pro-cycle campaigns.
But one thing that can delay winter cyclists and cause issues, is badly maintained off-road and on-road cycle routes.
Leaves, black ice and snow are a major worry for many commuting cyclists. Whether because leaves are piled up at the side of the road taking away space from the precious little that is already allocated, or because cycle paths and bridleways are not gritted, cyclist can be delayed, or come a cropper.
This is why we believe that this is the perfect time to approach your local councillors and MSPs, and ask them to ensure you that the cycle paths will be gritted, swept and kept clear of detritus. Perhaps ask your employer to voice their concerns as well. After all, a healthy workforce means productivity!
photo by SRD
Edinburgh has had some great success over the last years, and indeed been praised for having mini gritters laying down grit on busy commuter routes, by not piling leaves on cyclepaths (sometimes), and by ploughing busy pedestrian and cycling areas.
However this didn’t happen without some pressure. Campaigning from various organisations made this happen.
So if you want to see change in your local area get involved by writing to those with the power and tweeting to your local council or area teams about problem areas.
We’ve also compiled a short list of ideas, resources and thoughts about winter cycling that you might find useful!
These are a legal requirement, as well as an excellent way to see what’s coming up on the ground ahead of you.
There are many lights out there and you will be able to chose the ones that are right for you based on where you ride. There are many types of inexpensive LED lights that can easily be clipped to your bike so that you can be seen, which is the most important thing. These are usually sufficient if you only ride along lit roads and paths. However, for those who travel along unlit tracks or just want something a bit brighter, there are many sites that allow you to compare beams, like this one from road.cc.
It is a good idea to check your light from ahead and make sure that it’s not blinding to those approaching from in front of you. Also remember that you really don’t need flashing lights on off-road paths. Switch to a solid beam if possible as a courtesy to other users.
You don’t need a separate set of tyres for winter especially if you already ride with grippy types on a mountain bike or hybrid, however it might be something to think about if you use slick tyres and/or your route is often muddy, icy or covered in leaves. Many members of the City Cycling Edinburgh Forum swear by their Schwalbe Marathon Winter tyres as a good winter all rounder, but check out forums like City Cycling Edinburgh or City Cycling Glasgow for advice from experienced commuters.
If you have road rims you could get something a bit bigger with more tread (a 25-28mm tyre perhaps) or even look at whether your bike can use cyclocross wheels which could take larger tyres still!
For your comfort, preserving a dry posterior, and for when there are other cyclists around you it might be worth thinking about mudguards. These needn’t be expensive as a quick google search will show you how to fashion mudguards out of milk bottles or plastic and cable ties. Here is a good example on Singletrack forum.
What people don’t often think about (beyond protecting yourself from a wet bottom) is that full mudguards can be an excellent way to provide protection for your chain, front derailleur and other moving parts, otherwise they can quickly become caked in road salt and corrode easily. Something to think about!
There are many opinions about what sort of gloves you should wear. I tend to rotate between 3 pairs – a woolen fingerless set, a pair of cycling gloves and a thick pair of wind and waterproof specialist gloves.
POP stalwart and Brompton enthusiast Sally Hinchcliffe has very cold hands and had this to say about gloves:
As someone who suffers from very cold hands (and to a lesser extent cold feet) I disagree that a pair of gloves you would wear for a walk will do! It’s one area where you need slightly different (not necessarily cycling specific) equipment from just walking – I would say go one layer up for hands and feet than you would for a walk.
Getting my gloves and my waterproofs right have been absolutely key to year-round cycling for me & it’s taken me about 5 years (and I’m still tweaking it). Also worth mentioning merino base layers and socks – probably more important (for me) than overshoes might be.
Tin foil inside your shoes and over your toes, buffs over your ears or around your neck, windproof or waterproof overshoes. There are many different things you could wear to stay warm. At the end of the day you are best placed to decide how hot you run while riding. Try different items of your everyday clothing, or clothes you use for other sports, to get the right balance between warm and not too warm!
There are many options when it comes to technical clothing and we advise checking out your local cycling forums for advice.
Edinburgh Cycling Forum
Glasgow Cycling Forum
Stirling bike club
Aberdeen Cycling Forum