/ Tips for safe commuting in the winter?
Ride home tonight had a distinct Autumnal feel with cloud cover and rain making it dark and wet, though not yet cold. Everything just felt a little harder...my glasses were covered in moisture, visibility generally was worse, pedestrians and drivers seemed to be paying a little less attention, brakes were wet and so a little less effective, cars seemed to be louder and closer...and so on...a lot of little factors stacking up to make it feel just a bit more dangerous.
So would anyone care to share their top tips for staying alive while cycle commuting in the winter? Particularly anyone who has a solution to the wet glasses problem...as per threads passim I need to wear glasses to prevent eye infections from having my eyes sandblasted with crud. Anyone have a recommended lights set up?
For the glasses the following will probably sound terribly obvious but a survey of fellow commuters at work each year suggests it's not - wear a helmet (or hat) with a peak and gloves, track mitts etc with a good wiping area, and then be utterly scrupulous with one hand for glasses and the other for everything else (nose, drips from helmet etc etc).
As I say not earth shattering, but it works...
Your best option is having lots of rear lights so drivers can see you from behind as that’s your biggest risk in low light
Treat glasses regularly with Rain-X or similar
Wet glasses - just wipe them a bit.
Usb chargeable flashing lights, 2 front, 2 back. Hence doesn't really matter if a battery goes flat as you still have a light.
You can put some lights on helmet or rucksack so more visible above cars. Make sure they really are visible and not pointing at sky.
Put the lights on in low bright sunshine.
spoke reflectors or reflective tyres, smother bike in reflective tape.
You might be safer dressed in black and without lights as you will be more cautious! All the hi Viz and lights makes no difference when people are not paying attention.
Give up if you are recovering from a cold. Unless you bounce well maybe give up for a few days per year to avoid frost.
I'm very happy with the cateye volt 800 front and use exposure trace r rear. I've got a see sense icon 2 on order too. I'll compare and contrast. Hope the new light will be here soon...
I don't commute but do ride most days in winter on the road bike.
Watch wet leaves and wet painted parts of the road/metal road coverings when cornering and changing direction.
Neoprene booties keep your feet dry and warm. A thin skull cap under the helmet is nice at sub 4C.
When the sun is behind you and low in the sky you don't exist for even the most conscientious of drivers, doubly so if the road is also wet. I've never worked out a satisfactory solution, apart from not being on the bike. A flashing front blinky or two might help.
Black without fluorescent detailing is for crows and Benedictine monks.
Don't obsess about Strava if possible.
As above, 2 sets of good lights on your bike provides redundancy.
Don't forget to light yourself as well. Lights on your helmet, jacket, rucksack will ensure that you are visible should the worst happen and you part company with your bike.
Proviz jackets are excellent, sweaty but a small price to pay.
Rain-X on glasses. Peaked cap - remarkably good at keeping the rain off the lenses (inside and out). I always get too hot in a cap, so I have a Bontrager helmet that has a peak that fits to the cradle with velcro.
Exposure Tracer-R on the back and another on my helmet (held on with a saddle rail mount and aero post bungee). And a Cycliq camera/light.
Two Exposure Sirius lights on the front - both flashing in built up areas or both on full beam out of town.
Reflective wrist bands with red LEDs on each wrist for turn signals and for the peripheral vision of those drivers who forget that have not yet actually overtaken you
Black reflective tape on the front forks.
I look like a Christmas tree having a fit
Camera on the front too.
I also carry an elastic headband thingy that converts one of the Sirius lights into a headtorch for when I get a puncture in the pouring rain at night.
All lights on, day and night. Same summer and winter
40 miles/day into central London, whatever the weather, although if it's really awful I'll drive the first/last six miles
What everyone else said - 2x lights front and back, reflective straws on spokes and reflective clothing:
Keep an eye out in Aldi - the same things come up there in the bike special events for about £4.
I tend to run MTB SPDs now on my commute bike, as easier to get in and out of and the shoes are easier to walk in. Wear booties over the top and wool socks to keep feet warm.
I've also moved to hi-viz/reflective gloves - Altura NightVision 4 windproof or SealSkinz all weather XP ones if it's wet.
Also have a hi-viz/reflective rucksack cover - £5, also Aldi.
One of my best buys were Shimano winter MTB boots. Still a bit of dampness in heavy rain but much dryer and nicer than messing about with soggy overshoes.
Mudguards. They add weight, can rattle and generally be a bit annoying. But getting covered in gritty water and mud is considerably worse.
And the weather isn't that awful yet.
> I also carry an elastic headband thingy that converts one of the Sirius lights into a headtorch for when I get a puncture in the pouring rain at night.
Scwalbe Marathon plus are awesome tyres to avoid punctures. I have just ordered anew one for my rer while. Its the third successive one i have worn out before getting a puncture!
> brakes were wet and so a little less effective,
Once again UKC does the business, thank you everyone for your thoughts! Some great gems here.
I wear glasses all the time. Misty or wet lenses are rarely a problem as I wear a peaked cycling cap under my helmet and that manages to keep the moisture down to a minimum.
> Scwalbe Marathon plus are awesome tyres to avoid punctures. I have just ordered anew one for my rer while. Its the third successive one i have worn out before getting a puncture!
I hear people say good things about them. I, however, hold a deep-seated prejudice against Scwhalbe after my sustained and disastrous efforts to go tubeless. If they weren't spraying sealant everywhere they were trying to put me into a ditch. You had one job.......
Michelin Pro4 for me
Never heard of this. Just checked it out, is it any use for walking/climbing? I have to wear glasses and if it’s wet my view is either blurry as I’ve taken my glasses off or blurry cause my glasses are covered in rain. Drives me nuts!
Drivers are always EVEN worse around cyclists in rainy weather, for reasons I don’t understand.
> Never heard of this. Just checked it out, is it any use for walking/climbing? I have to wear glasses and if it’s wet my view is either blurry as I’ve taken my glasses off or blurry cause my glasses are covered in rain. Drives me nuts!
Assuming you're talking about Rain-X - to an extent. It makes the water bead and so it runs off more readily, especially if there's wind as there is on a bike (and indeed car windscreens for which is intended). You can tap your glasses against something and the water pings off. Perfect it is not.
I was, thanks. Might give it a try.
> Scwalbe Marathon plus are awesome tyres to avoid punctures.
They are indeed! And they even can come with a reflective band round them to help headlights see them.
I wore a high viz gillet, as it helps when you are stopped at the lights and a truck is behind you. I got to see the effect once when the police were doing a 'try to see what it's like type thing for truck drivers and cyclists.
> I wore a high viz gillet, as it helps when you are stopped at the lights and a truck is behind you.
Not that handy when carrying a rucksack on the commute though.
One of these will mitigate that
> I wore a high viz gillet,
Good alternative for light rain or moderately cold.
> One of these will mitigate that
Quite, although I went for this (much cheaper) option
Nice, looks like a great option!
Came off my bike in November 2 years back...completely lost the front wheel turning...
3 months limping and driving to work followed so I promptly ditched the so called “4 season” tyres and fitted some with a bit of tread. OK so they’re not cool and they are supposedly heavier and slower but I really do feel safer.
Mind you I’ve stopped taking corners too quickly when it’s a bit slippy under foot and that probably helps
> They are indeed! And they even can come with a reflective band round them to help headlights see them.
Best tyres I’ve ever used. One puncture in over a decade using them and that’d floored an elephant.
> Came off my bike in November 2 years back...completely lost the front wheel turning...
Leaves compacted into slimy mulch and a dirty puddle dried into slippery muck have been my downfalls.
As has an impatient kid opening car door rather than wait in traffic jam. You can get doored from both left or right.
How far did you ride to wear out a Marathon Plus? I'm on a second pair. I only got rid of the first pair because the sidewalls were cracking a bit. I think I had had them for maybe 6 years and had probably done the best part of 10,000 kms on them.
I've just taken the second pair off my bike because I caved in to fashion pressure and bought some Panracer Gravel Kings to have tubeless on my bike. Everyone moans about Marathon's being hard to fit, but FFS! I was fighting with the Gravel Kings for what felt like hours! Total 'mare. I've got one set up tubeless successfully now but the other one still has a tube in it, hoping that after its been seated and inflated that way, I might actually be able to get it to seat tubeless.
I was about to recommend something similar. I've got one of the Hump rucksack covers and it's great. It fits my rucksack or on my pannier, depending on what I'm using on the bike, an I get visibility and protection from rain/road muck.
As per other, Marathon Plus tyres. They work.
Mudguards and winter boots. You’ll not regret it.
Thankfully I’m lucky enough to do all bar the last 500m of my commute on canal. Cyclocross tyres 80% of the year which get switched for studded Marathons when it gets icy.
Having been almost knocked off my bike twice riding to work in the spring evenings with a low sun. I've fitted a helmet light, adjusted it to point where I look and set it to strobe.
It's saved me a few times as drivers come whizzing up to junctions or roundabouts, blatantly not seeing me until I look directly at them and they get 'strobed' by my helmet light and they immediately notice me jumping on the brakes. I've surprised myself as to how noticeable it's worked.
I also have a light on the bars set to constant, there's a rear red light on the helmet light, 2 rear lights on the bike set to strobe and 2 of the hi vis yellow bands with flashing red lights on it on my rucsac.
Conversely, the other morning I had my first encounter of the season with an idiot cyclist with a small supernova strapped to his forehead. Be seen, be safe, most importantly cycle defensively, but don't blind oncoming cyclists and other road users. It's effing selfish.
Enjoying these replies. Mudguards (properly fitted ones rather than plastic clip ons which always rub) and a very bright front light as none of the roads I commute on are lit are my tips.
I like the idea of the proviz bag - does anyone have any recommendations for a properly waterproof one that is durable? Had some alpkit and expeed ones which died quick. Would be even better if it were reflective too!
I've been using an ortleib courier bag with additional solas reflecting tape.
With the brakes I would suggest tapping on them when approaching a bend, this gets rid of the water on the rim of the wheel (presuming that you are using rim brakes).
I've been using one of these:
Proper waterproof (so far), very hi vis and I can clip little LED bike lights on front and rear for extra flashy action.
There is a guy I see cycling around with a plastic stick that sticks out from the side of his bike in to the road with a light on the end. It's maybe about 500mm long. I certainly find it makes him more visible and I managed to chat with him once and he said that most people leave extra room when overtaking him than they do if he doesn't fit it.
Cycle defensively. Always presume that the vehicle on the side road or at the roundabout has not seen you. Risk is a % game. Wear bright clothing, cycle on cycle paths when you can, minimise roads with lots of traffic, be assertive when you have to be, bright lights, mudguards, marathon plus tyres, don't cycle when its icy (I came off 4 x in one winter before I learnt that one). Buff for your head and ears, buff for your neck, warm gloves, overshoes, change of socks at work....see it as some light training for Scottish winter climbing.
This is going to be my first winter as a cycle commuter. I've got two front lights (one stobe, one constant), two rear (both flashing) and a Proviz gillet that I can wear over whatever I've got on.
Don't be that douchebag with their front light on strobe when you are riding on an unlit bike lane!
Unless it's snowing! Cycling through heavy snowfall in the dark with the front light on strobe is magical!
But that also reminds me it will soon be time to break out the studded tyres
Buy a Bus Pass
Moisturiser! Something to protect your face from sleet morning and evening on a bad day.
> Moisturiser! Something to protect your face from sleet morning and evening on a bad day.
Definitely, and Burt's Bees pomegranate chap stick for lips and nose, and two tissues, one up the hem of each side of your jersey.
I find this air horn to be very effective at getting people to notice me, Hi Vis and flashing lights are great, but they can depend on people being on the ball enough to look all around them. An airhorn like this means that people who aren't looking can be alerted that you're actually physically there (rather than just spiritually, ha).
Seeing drivers heads spin around in alarm after I've pressed it is something of a guilty pleasure.
I leave it switched to 'full' and just gently tap it for pedestrians. At 115db it really does cut through the noise of traffic.
Somebody has already mentioned spoke reflectors, but I would stress the benefit of these. They make a massive difference to your visibility from sideways on. Get the Scotchlite 3M ones, which stay in place and are highly reflective, unlike some others.
> Moisturiser! Something to protect your face from sleet morning and evening on a bad day.
That reminds me I need to get my mountain orientated Mtn Eqip waterproof re taped for winter. As I teenager/early 20's person, I used to like cycling back from the Peak with the sense of having had my face scrubbed clean by the hail.
Read this back, it seems like a masochistic thing to enjoy - maybe I'm going soft?!
Ay that sort of thing yes.
> Usb chargeable flashing lights, 2 front, 2 back. Hence doesn't really matter if a battery goes flat as you still have a light.
I used to use USB lights but then it would come to winter and I had forgotten to charge them, or after the weekend and I had forgotten to charge them. Now I use battery lights and carry spare batteries.
i agree the more lights the better.
> hi Viz and lights makes no difference when people are not paying attention.
Amen to that.
I keep my road commuting to a minimum. We have cycle trails and canals although low bridges can be a problem in the dark winter mornings.
If snowing I use my mountain bike although I find snow easier to cope with than hard frost.
Depending on where you live, a second wheel set with spiked tires can make sense.
Takes me a couple of rides to get used to each winter, but with ice or hard packed snow on the cycle path it makes all the difference. Brake or lean into curves just as normal, and don`bother about ice patches. Just don`t forget you cannot corner as hard on dry tarmac!
Thanks for the tip
> You might be safer dressed in black and without lights as you will be more cautious! All the hi Viz and lights makes no difference when people are not paying attention.
That's why this is cool. It's very gratifying to see driver's heads spin around in alarm.
Cycling stuff at Aldi, Sunday 29 September.
Sheesh, just found your compilation clip on NMOTD. Man am I glad I don't cycle in London! Take care fella.
Yee olde pedal reflectors are one of the best as the movement is very distinct. Unfortunately they don't fit on most clipless pedals.
Alternatively shoes/socks/leggings with reflective trim.
Can you buy reflective tape to stitch onto clothing/packs?
Well I got the see sense icon 2 and don't really like it. Not as controllable by the app as I would like, and the o ring attachment is not great. My wife likes it though. So she has it.
I prefer my exposure rear light.
Did get a puncture a couple of weeks ago, and have upgraded the tyres to continental grant prix gt and put in better tyre levers to the repair kit... As I broke two trying to change the tyre. Gave up! And just pumped up the wheel several times.
Also fixed my castelli perfetto jacket where the glue failed. Sewed it up. Looks quite good I think.
You can get Albedo100 Textile reflective paint, which was the Volvo Life Paint of a few years ago
Don't be tempted to ride in the gutter. This time of year more than any other time, you're more likely to get a puncture with less visible nasties lurking there.
> Don't be tempted to ride in the gutter. This time of year more than any other time, you're more likely to get a puncture with less visible nasties lurking there.
And lots of wet slippery leaves in the gutters / sides of the roads, hate this time of year for that
Well, we're into it now with the clocks gone back and a bit of a baptism of fire. Lots of rain, leaves and it seems a surge in people trying to kill me. At the end of my ride home last Friday I was almost in tears as I'd felt at serious risk 3 or 4 times which was capped by some dick of a van driver being a complete arsehole on the high street of my home town at the end of my ride and then giving me a punishment pass just to show me who's boss. After that I bit the bullet and forked out for a Fly 12 and Fly 6 from Cycliq which I'm very pleased with - I'd underestimated how hard it is to read the road surface under street lighting, and a big light on the front is very comforting. I'm also taking things very, very carefully in the dark. Since then I've mostly had good rides. Long may it continue.
Keep safe everyone.
As above don't ride in the gutter all the crap gets washed in there. I have conti gatorskins they have been consistently good over the years. Fit mudguards keeps you much dryer on bottom half. I have a selection of extra bits for my head from headband to buff to full skullcap I get ice cream headaches if I have cold ears. Accept winter rides will be slower than summer. I ride down a canal most of winter despite the mud to keep off the roads as much as possible. Don't expect any sympathetic drivers and if you find some kind soul then wave thanks. Say hello to other cyclists. Keep safe.
Conversely, I think its a great investment to really aknowledge the courtesy of other road users. Im convinced the good ones far outnumber the wankers and its something that can be reinforced by cyclists.
> Conversely, I think its a great investment to really acknowledge the courtesy of other road users. Im convinced the good ones far outnumber the wankers and its something that can be reinforced by cyclists.
Absolutely. I always try to make a point of thanking people who give way to me, in the hope that they'll do it again for someone else and that it will do something to repair the cyclist/motorist relationship.
> Conversely, I think its a great investment to really aknowledge the courtesy of other road users. Im convinced the good ones far outnumber the wankers and its something that can be reinforced by cyclists.
I agree, although, last night I left the street lit town, onto the unlit single carriageway road for the second part of my commute, to be overtaken by a BMW 4x4 who then promptly braked and blocked the road, forcing me to stop - when I tried to get past the window was put down and an elderly lady then started asking for direction - no apology or anything for stopping and blocking the road, no attempt to get out, just straight in to asking directions.
I asked if she did not have sat nav and could put that in to guide her - the response was that she didnt know how to work it so could I just give her directions to the town she was looking for.
I was in two minds by now as it was cold, windy and I was pissed off.
I gave her directions, got round her, shook my head and continued my commute home - no strava sections were won last night
Following a tip I think I picked up on this thread I bought myself a thin wind proof hat to wear under the helmet in place of the buff I’ve previously used, and it has been much, much better. Stops the cold, keeps the ears from freezing but doesn’t make you sweaty once you get going.
Just wanted to reinforce the point that I think I’ve made in an earlier post that every single time I’ve replaced a generic bit of outdoor wear with cycle-specific stuff it has been genuinely better. Little comforts like that make a big difference when you’re heading to work on a dreary, dark morning and the car keys start calling to you..
It is surprising just how much the movement of pedals screams bike in a way other movement and lighting doesn't. One effective solution I have found is led/reflective bands often found nominally designed as armbands for runners, but worn around the ankles. Also good as cycle clips for restraining wayward trouser legs near cranks/chainrings should the need arise.
Something along these lines:
Feel free to do some product placement, the top of my head got cold last night!
The best reason for not cycling in the gutter is that if that's where you ride, that's where drivers will think you belong.
> Feel free to do some product placement, the top of my head got cold last night!
I dare not. I bought it on Amazon, had it delivered the next day (so that I could wear it) and in doing so directly and unavoidably killed a puppy, as far as I can tell from the other thread.
edit: I looked it up - it was 'VeloChampion Thermo Tech Cycling Skull Cap'. I got a small/medium and I'd say it's just about the perfect size for my 59.5cm-circumference head. You'd want the next size up if you were much bigger than that thought.
> The best reason for not cycling in the gutter is that if that's where you ride, that's where drivers will think you belong.
More practically it also removes your contingency space to swerve left if required, too.
I agree and you even see the odd smile if you give them a formal salute, or at least a thumbs up backed up with a big cheesy grin. Some times some one will drive behind me and slightly out (meaning they could push past if they wanted but they don't) up a hill, basically guarding me from any more aggressive drivers behind. How nice is that?
Today's top commuting tip from S Yorks/N Derbyshire borderlands is - yes that flood is deep enough that your waterproof boot is going to be under the water at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Turns out my great winter boots aren't actually submarine-waterproof!
This outfit makes me laugh, but actually the trousers might be useful..... the top not so much.
https://m.shein.co.uk/Reflective-Bandeau-Crop-Top-p-805922-cat-2223.html?scici=productDetail~~RecommendList~~1~~You May Also Like~~shein_pwa_product_detail_YouMayAlsoLike_matcgroup~~0~~0#goods-img
Wow, I'd look good in that! On the crimbo list!
For that price you could take a punt and repurpose the top somehow.
I used to wear a proviz reflective jacket, then have a red light on the handlebar shining towards my jacket, to make me visible from more of fa distance.
Huge amounts of rear lights at variable levels - helmet, seat, chainstay.
Proviz back pack cover!!!! An absolute must for road commuting in busy traffic. Small reflective strips arent enough.
Can't help with the glasses, sorry.
Courtesy of Friday nights commute home:
Avoid crossing wet tram tracks at an angle if you have skinny tires.
28mm and above have been fine for a few years. Switched to 25mm recently, and there's been the odd sideways shimmy crossing them in the wet. Friday the shimmy was a bit too far.
One from the sixties, (I suspect much older) I’ve never tried it but would love to hear if anyone has - cut a potato in half and rub the moist surface over your glasses. Allegedly once they’re dry, rain, spray etc don’t wet them out.
Strange the things folk managed with back then.
> Courtesy of Friday nights commute home:
> Avoid crossing wet tram tracks at an angle if you have skinny tires.
> 28mm and above have been fine for a few years. Switched to 25mm recently, and there's been the odd sideways shimmy crossing them in the wet. Friday the shimmy was a bit too far.
Sheeeid... I did the same a while back, hitting the thick painted white line dividing a cycle lane from footpath a few years back. Touched it with my front wheel and was down hard within milliseconds. Can't just have been me either, as they removed the lines a few years later.
> Cycle defensively. Always presume that the vehicle on the side road or at the roundabout has not seen you. Risk is a % game.
Cycling further on quieter roads is something I tend to do more than I used to, it's probably better for the lungs as well as potentially reducing the risk of being in a more violent accident. Even if it's another third added onto my journey if my head is boggled at the end of the day it feels much safer to use roads which don't need as high a level of alertness.
Tyre levers like these metal ones can be good during the winter, due to plastic being more likely to snap when it's colder, quite handy for peace of mind during the dark and wet in any case, when one doesn't want to be hanging around for long. There's the obvious increased risk of surface scratches, but that's probably not as much of a factor on commuting wheels. These levers are actually decent modern metal ones in having rounded tips which taper, like Brooks levers used to. Old school but good school.
Edit: Remove the space between 'e' and 'bay' I needed to put in to get it past the UKC filter...
Lake District-based runner Kim Collison has set a new speed record on the Bob Graham Round in winter. Kim completed the round in just 15 hours 47 minutes, knocking a big chunk from the previous fastest winter time of 18:18 set by Jim Mann in 2013.