Winter Cycling Safety Tips
Cycling over fresh snow adds more grip for cyclists but don't be fooled in thinking that cycling in the harsh winter weather conditions is easy. If you can, avoid cycling in icy weather and instead think about walking, taking public transport or staying indoors. If you do want to ride your bike during the winter, keep safe by following these safety tips.
Wrap up warm
Add additional layers of clothing when the weather is colder. If the weather is icy, you will need to ride slower meaning your body won’t produce as much heat. It is vital to make sure your hands and feet are kept warm so wear thermal gloves and thick socks. To prevent the snow, rain or low sun light getting in your eyes and restricting your view of the road, wear cycling glasses or a peaked cycling cap.
You should already be wearing a helmet all year round but if not, make sure you definitely wear it during the winter. You are more likely to come off of your bike during the winter so wearing a helmet will help to protect you from a serious head injury.
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Making sure you are seen by other road users is vital in staying safe as a cyclist, not only in the winter but in all weather conditions when it is dark. It’s not only a safety precaution, but it’s also a legal requirement. Having adequate lighting will ensure you are easily seen by other vehicles, allowing them to give you more room where necessary. You should have a white light on the front, a light to the back and a rear reflector. You also need two amber reflectors on each pedal. To find out the full legal requirements, visit http://www.cyclistsdefencefund.org.uk/cycle-lighting
You should also wear light-coloured or fluorescent clothing as this will also help you to be seen more easily.
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Look after your bike
Keeping your bike in a roadworthy condition will help to ensure your safety when cycling during the winter. Check that your gears and brakes are working properly before setting off and consider changing your tyres. You can buy tyres specifically made for the winter that are studded to help grip better when the roads are icy. It is also recommended that you get some wider tyres or lower the tyre pressure as this will also increase your grip.
If you are riding on roads that have been gritted, wash your bike down after cycling to remove any salt residue. If salt gets in the chain, this can cause problems when cycling and changing gears which could potentially lead to an accident. It is important to keep the chain well lubricated. You should also consider fitting your bike with mudguards to help keep you dry by guarding you from any spray from your wheels.
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If you’re wrapped up warm and ready to get out on your bike, you should change the way you ride when out in the harsh winter weather. When driving in foggy conditions, visibility will be seriously reduced for both yourself and in particular other vehicles. You should always be at least 50cm away from the kerb, but in these conditions, this should be increased. Ice and slush builds at the side of the road where the roads have been gritted and cleared so avoid these areas. Give drivers extra room and remain vigilant as they may not stop where you would expect them to. You will get more traction if you ride where car tyres have previously been however beware of these areas if they have re-iced over. If it is icy, take extra care when driving over wet leaves and manhole covers as these will be extremely slippery. Avoid them where possible and watch out for black ice.
Don’t tense up when riding over ice as this will increase your risk of slipping. Keep your weight back to try and prevent your front wheel slipping from under you. If you lower your saddle slightly, it will be easier for you to touch the ground and steady yourself using your feet should you need to.
Avoid sudden changes of direction and don’t brake over ice unless it is absolutely necessary and if you do need to, use your back brake. Only use your front brakes when you are cycling in a straight line. Your stopping distance will be considerably increased when riding over ice so brake early at all times. Avoid braking and steering at the same time and make smoother turns when going around corners. Prevent your wheels from spinning by riding in higher gears than normal on flat roads and lastly, plan your route so that you stay away from off road cycle lanes, small side streets and any other areas that are unlikely to have been gritted.
To find out the rules of the road for cyclists, visit https://www.gov.uk/rules-for-cyclists-59-to-82/overview-59-to-71
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