As the nights draw in and temperatures plummet, the roads can become an increasingly dangerous place for cyclists. To help keep you safe this winter, we share our top tips for winter cycling.
Stay Warm, Dry and Protected
It goes without saying that your helmet is the most important piece of cycling kit you can wear. It can be tempting during the cold winter months to leave the helmet at home, opting instead for a cosy woolly hat. But don’t. Your helmet is an essential piece of safety equipment which is more crucial than ever during the winter.
If you need some extra warmth, the best thing to do is wear a thin layer that fits comfortably under your helmet. There are plenty of products available which can keep your head and ears warm without jeopardising your safety.
It’s also important to consider the age of your helmet. Any time a helmet suffers an impact it should be replaced immediately but even without suffering impact, helmets will only last so long before being degraded by UV. Most manufacturers recommend that you replace your helmet every 2-3 years for this reason. Check the manufacturer’s guidance on your own helmet to be sure.
Keeping the rest of your body warm and dry is equally essential. Cycling in the rain is never much fun, but windproof, waterproof outer clothing will at least make it bearable! It’s a good idea to get a cycling-specific waterproof jacket and layer up underneath. Waterproof trousers and overshoes will also make for a far comfier journey in the wet weather and a waterproof backpack or pannier can ensure you’ve got a dry change of clothes when you arrive.
Having cold hands while cycling can be dangerous as well as deeply unpleasant. You could find that you lose dexterity and aren’t able to brake as effectively. Good quality, waterproof winter gloves will make all the difference.
Be Seen in the Dark
Having good quality bike lights will give you the best chance of being seen during the darker months. Make sure that your lights always have plenty of battery as they will become dimmer as they start to run low. Many bikes lights now are USB rechargeable, so you can top them up at home or in the office.
A lot of cyclists opt for two sets of lights so that they are even more visible. You could get a set to mount on your bike and a second set to mount on your helmet - this would help drivers sitting at different levels to spot at least one set of your lights. All bike lights come with various modes. Some cyclists choose to have one set flashing to distinguish them from other static lights, but if you need to illuminate your path then a static light could be better for this purpose.
You can also get lights which fit to the spokes of your bike and light up your wheels as they turn. These can be an eye-catching addition to help you stand out, but shouldn’t be relied upon in place of proper front and rear lights.
A lot of cycling gear will have some reflective patches and there will usually be a hi-vis option available. Your coat, helmet and bag (either backpack or panniers) will be the items that stand out the most so it can be a good idea to get hi-vis versions of these, particularly if you’ll be cycling in the dark. Wearing big blocks of the same colour will also help you to stand out from your surroundings, so buying a jacket that’s all one colour (even if it’s not hi-vis) and a matching bag will help you to be seen. In addition, you can buy reflective tape and attach this to kit that you already own.
Take Precautions in Icy Conditions
Take some time at the start of the winter season to make sure your bike is in good working order and is kitted out for the cold weather. In addition to fitting good lights and reflectors, make sure you service your brakes and gears (or get them serviced by a professional). Also fit good quality winter tyres, which will provide you with better grip in icy and wet conditions.
When cycling in the rain or in freezing weather, give yourself plenty of time to stop. Don’t brake suddenly or apply your brakes too hard as this could cause you to skid. If you find yourself rolling over ice the best approach is to gently pedal through and avoid braking if possible. If you do need to slow down, avoid using your front brake and gently apply your rear brake instead. Most main roads should be well gritted, but bear in mind that some cycle paths and country lanes may not be.
Heavy rain and cold weather can cause potholes to appear, and these can be tricky to spot in the dark. Look out for potholes and give yourself plenty of time to avoid them safely. If you need to move to avoid a pothole, check your blind spots and indicate your intention to other road users.
What to Do if You Have an Accident
You can take any number of precautions to reduce the risk of being involved in a cycling accident, but you can never eliminate the risk entirely.
If you have been involved in a cycling accident, it’s a good idea to take details of witnesses and anyone else involved, assuming you’re able to do so. This may not always be possible and can easily be forgotten if you’re in shock, but it will make matters easier down the line if you can.
Many cyclists now choose to mount a camera on their helmet or handlebars, which can capture footage if an accident occurs. This footage can then be used to help prove who is at fault.
Every year our Personal Injury Solicitors secure millions of pounds in compensation for people injured across the UK in road accidents. If you have been injured in a cycling accident, you can contact us for a free claim assessment. We will answer your questions without using legal jargon, and we’ll assess your claim free of charge.