Ideally, you should leave your bike(s) safely locked up in the garage until the summer, as cycling in the winter is absolutely minging but, if you’re like me and live far far away from the train station or somewhere else you need to get to and you don’t drive, you’re going to have to get on your bike. However, there are a few things you can do to make your journey slightly more a) comfortable and; b) safe, and I list these, in no particular order, below.
- Lights. The absolute most important thing. I’m being serious here (yes, honestly). I see so many cyclists riding without lights and they’re fucking idiots and they really annoy me and if they get splattered by a car or go to prison for knocking over a pedestrian who didn’t see them on their lumps of metal then they deserve all they get. Lights don’t even have to be expensive – I’ve got my main lights on my mountain bike that I use most of the time to get me around but I’ve also got some of these cheapy cheapy lights (at the time of writing, they’re £1.43 including delivery – how cheapy cheapy can you get?) that work perfectly well and are small enough to carry around if I’m out on one of my bikes that don’t have lights and it’s a possibility I’ll be coming home in the dark.If you don’t have lights, you’re a dooby dooby nutjob.
- Hi-vis jacket. Yes, there’s a possibility you’ll be mistaken for a builder but hey ho, it’s all about being seen and keeping safe – it’s not a fashion contest. If you really don’t want to wear hi-vis (but you get used to looking like a builder, honest), you could get one of the Karrimor Reflekt jackets I blogged about the other day. They look like a normal jacket until light shines upon them, then they light up like a simile for things that light up that I can’t think of right now.
- Hi-vis rucksack cover. If you don’t want to wear any kind of hi-vis/lighty-up jacket, then hi-vis rucksack covers are available. You’re not so vain you wouldn’t put hi-vis on your rucksack, are you? As well as making you more visible to motorists, it’ll also keep your rucksack dry. Win-win, as saddos say.
- Wrap up warm. I’m still seeing some people in town wearing shorts and flip-flops but they’re hard and probably from Newcastle or something but if you’re not a) hard; or b) from Newcastle, you’re going to need to keep your bits warm while you’re on your bike. No, you mucky-minded lot, I’m talking about other bits that stick out like your fingers and your nose. Wear gloves and either a scarf or a buff that you can pull up over your nose and chin. Although, if you’re like me, you can only breathe through a buff for about three seconds before you suffocate and have to pull it down and get cold again. But, buffs are cool and keep your neck warm and they come in all different patterns and can be worn in lots of different ways.
- A toolkit. I bought a toolkit from Amazon for about £11 including delivery. It’s great. It attaches to your bike, so there’s no chance of you forgetting to take it out with you and contains levers, a pump, a puncture kit and other things I don’t know how to use.
- A carrier bag. Yes, a carrier bag. Take a carrier bag out with you and tie it over your bike to keep the seat wet in case it rains while you’re away from it.
- Learn how to fix a chain. Okay, so I don’t know how to use the toolkit or how to change a puncture (I’ve been relying on the ‘someone else will do it for me’ method, but luckily I haven’t – touch wood – had a puncture yet, but I have fallen off in the ice and the snow when I came to a sliding halt at a crossing (damn you, person in wheelchair; next time I’ll make you wait until I’ve gone past before you can cross the road) and my chain came off. I didn’t fancy wheeling it home two miles in the snow so I phoned Shaun and said, ‘Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp, my chain’s come off, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa’ and he said something about putting the bike in third gear and turning the wheel, which worked and I cycled merrily home instead of trudging along at 2 miles an hour in the sludge.
- Ass savers. No, I’m not talking about the carrier bag again but someone on my cycling group’s Facebook page brought to our attention Ass Savers mudguards. These are great. They don’t need tools, come in lots of different colours and will save you from getting rain and mud up your back. You can get them on eBay for about £5.
- Money/charged phone. Bit obvious really, but make sure you have a charged phone with you so you can call for help if you need to, and money for a taxi/train/bus/cup of tea while you wait for someone to fix your puncture.
- Don’t cycle drunk. You might not have a friendly policeman willing to lock your bike up for you and give you a lift home after seeing you unsuccessfully try to ride your bike in a straight line. No, of course this isn’t a true story. (Okay, it’s totally a true story. Wasn’t in London though, obviously.)
If you’d like some more cycling safety tips, there’s a pretty infographic here, but these are my JogBlog Guide To Cycling Safely In Winter ones.
Any tips you’d like to add?