Winter Safety Tips for Active Travel
10th November 2021
Top 5 Winter Cycling Tips
Active travel (getting from place to place by walking or cycling) is a great habit to get into and leave those car keys at home a tad more. Cycling is a great habit with many benefits: improved mental and physical health, cheaper travel costs, and reduced road congestion and air pollution. It’s a habit we can benefit from all year round, but there are extra precautions you should take in the winter to keep yourself safe:
1. Plan ahead
Check the weather forecast before you travel so that you can dress and pack appropriately. Winter weather can be very changeable and you don’t want to be caught out! While you can theoretically cycle in any weather, very wet or icy conditions can be dangerous and are best avoided altogether if possible.
While it might be tempting to brave these kinds of conditions, especially if you’re already out, a bad experience can put you off cycling altogether, lead to a serious injury or worse. There’s nothing wrong with locking your bike up where it is, using public transport to get home and then returning for your bike when the weather improves.
2. Dress appropriately
When it’s cold you need layers. That’s because when you start on your journey you can feel incredibly cold, but once you get going you can warm up quickly and significantly. Adding or removing different layers allows you to easily control your temperature as needed.
Merino wool is a great choice here as it’s soft, hard wearing and it has natural temperature regulating properties which can help you from over heating as well as keeping you warm. A thick hat is also super useful, as it will really warm you up, but is very easy to whip off if you start to over heat!
Pay special attention to your feet and hands, as if they get cold or even worse: cold and wet, cycling quickly becomes miserable. Thick socks and non-slip, water proof shoes are best for your feet. But you can also find waterproof overshoes that you can wear on top of regular shoes.
Decent gloves are also important, as your hands will be exposed to the worst of the elements, and you need those fingers working properly for braking and changing gears! Again, choose a waterproof material if possible.
A waterproof jacket is a must, because even it’s not raining when you set off, it could be by the time your heading back. And don’t forget: it gets dark early in the winter so the more visible your clothing is in low light, the safer you’ll be on the road.
3. Ride carefully
Whether, it’s icy, wet, dark or your body’s just little bit stiff in the cold, cycling in the winter can be more challenging. So ride with care. Don’t rush, don’t lean into turns and don’t break suddenly, all of which can lead to nasty slips.
For the same reason, be careful on wet leaves and manhole covers! If you do find yourself skidding, try to steer straight ahead, don’t pedal and try not to brake as it could make the skid worse.
Also be aware that motorists will have reduced visibility in dark, wet conditions. So take extra care on roads. Reflective strips on your clothing and accessories, plus lights and reflectors on your bike will help you be seen.
We recommend that you always wear a helmet, whatever the season, but if you usually don’t, perhaps consider one for the winter months when accidents are more likely. It will also have the added benefit of keeping your head warm!
4. Look after your bike
Winter weather can take an extra toll on your bicycle. Water, salt and grit will get onto your bike’s components and will cause damage and corrosion over time, shortening their life considerably. So after each ride try to give your bike a quick clean.
A wash or even a simple wipe down with a rag can make a big difference. Pay particular attention to the chain, gears and brakes here. Then, once it’s dry, lubricate the moving parts with a decent Teflon based lubricant.
This will keep everything working well for the next winter ride, and extend the life of your bike significantly.
5. Enjoy yourself!
Winter cycling is great fun. It will blow away the brain fog that can descend when we spend too much time indoors during the colder months. It will get your body moving in healthy and invigorating ways. And it’s a fantastic way to see parts of Kent that you might not otherwise see at this time of year. Enjoy!
Sometimes poor weather might make it difficult or impossible to complete your usual journey. In that case, consider a few other options. Could you use public transport and walk to the nearest bus or train station? Could you park a short distance away from work or school and walk the rest of the way? This helps reduce congestion in busy towns and around schools. It also means you don’t miss out on your daily exercise completely!
The most important thing is that you stay safe while walking or cycling. Check out our expert Tom’s Quick Bike Maintenance Tips:
Visit The Best Bike Lock website for more top tips from Carl.
Visit Cycling UK for more bike safety guides.
Download the Kent Connected App to plan your journey by active travel or public transport.