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Should I cycle in the winter?

bryanturbryantur Posts: 7
edited August 2010 in Commuting general
I've been cycling to work now for two years but I skipped last winter (picking it up again in April) as it felt quite dangerous especially cycling in the dark and in poor weather conditions. Not least as I have two young kids safety is very important to me.

Last week I bought a Condor Fratello as my Marin Muirwoods hybrid basically wore out so I will have a great bike in a few weeks once it's built.

Basically, should I be riding to work through central London over the winter and how can I mitigate the dangerous aspect of London / winter riding other than staying highly visible? I've no idea if it's statistically more dangerous in winter to be honest but it does feel like it.

Grateful for any advice on this.

Also my first post on this forum.
Condor Fratello
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Posts

  • thel33terthel33ter Posts: 2,684
    As long as you have decent headlights and clothing you will be fine until it get icy, then I wouldn't recommend it, its a scary feeling putting your foot down and just sliding.
    And now you know, and knowing is half the battle
    05 Spesh Enduro Expert
    05 Trek 1000 Custom build
    Speedily Singular Thingy
  • hfidgenhfidgen Posts: 340
    yeah likewise not had any issues commuting through London over winter. Can still be fun, and on a crisp morning is really very pleasant!

    It can be pretty miserable in the rain, but then if it's 7am and properly pissing down you might want to consider the tube anyway. Fair weather cycling in winter is a little more acceptable on the manly scale than being rain-shy in 20 degree June :P

    Hi-vis jacket and perhaps something on your rucksack is a must as are some powerful lights. I see plenty of guys with 2 rears and at least one powerful beam on the front.

    The only other downside is keeping the bike clean and lubed.

    Would be interested to hear from people who ride road bikes over winter though - do you have problems with the brakes and skinny tires?
    FCN 4 - BMC CX02
  • The RookieThe Rookie Posts: 27,756
    I 'fair weather' ride through winter, as I usually struggle to keep cool, I find it quite pleasent, although as others have said good lights and a high visibility/reflective top are essential to being seen, especially as I ride unlit country lanes.

    I use 2 rear lights, one BS legal (and useless) and one multi LED with steady and flash sections for best visibility, likewise at the front I use a decent enough light for seeing and another to be seen.

    Simon
  • gbsahne001gbsahne001 Posts: 1,973
    I ride through the winter and only took 2 days off just gone, mainly because there was 6" off snow and nothing was moving.

    Light yourself up like a Christmas tree with decent lights; I use 1 to see with (country road sections), 1 flashing to be seen and a head torch as a backup and it also gives me the ability to shine (on lo setting) at drivers approaching junctions.

    On the back I have 2 lights; one constant, one flashing + a reflector. The winter bike is also covered in 3M reflective sticky. My bag is also filled with spare batteries.

    The only downside to cycling in the winter I found is spending 4 - 5 months cycling in the dark, well rain aside and even then in reality I probably only got truly soaked a few times, or maybe that's just my mind blotting out the pain.

    I do make a concession to the tyre width though and go up to a 28 from the 25; on the hybrid though, this can go up to the 38 knobblys, depending upon ice / snow.
  • Winter cycling on a road bike? Been there, done that, got the bruises and scratches.
    You have to choose your days for the road bike, and black ice will still catch you out.

    A section of my irregular commute regularly floods and then freezes over leaving 10-20m of ice rink. I used to consider it a challenge to cross it, now I skirt the grassy edge for a bit of traction.

    Nope, road bike winter days are gone, fixed now for last few years; you really get good feedback from the rear wheel and an early warning to pay attention.

    Heavy snow which has gone 'crunchy' overnight is mtb/hybrid territory for me.
    FCN16 - 1970 BSA Wayfarer

    FCN4 - Fixie Inc
  • thel33terthel33ter Posts: 2,684
    I rode 3 days a week all last winter, apart from when there was proper snow. I used a high viz yellow jacket, 1 main headlight (a cheap £30 from some online shop) and 2 little cateye flashers on each end. This was mainly unlit b roads, with crappy 23c tires that give you no road feedback at all. Only had one crash on black ice, lowsided on a corner. Once I got used to riding it it was ok but not fun. I only really survived because of the 10kg of panniers on the back.

    Probably only doing fair weather this year. Last year I had no choice.
    And now you know, and knowing is half the battle
    05 Spesh Enduro Expert
    05 Trek 1000 Custom build
    Speedily Singular Thingy
  • surreyxcsurreyxc Posts: 293
    ice and frost are the devil, when these are about I go off road to work, where grip is fine. to my surprise the snow when compacted but not too compact had good grip, plus falling on a good few inches of snow at speed is okay, and there are few cars. Wet weather on slicks, I would be to nervous, I run 35mm CX and would even consider running larger in the winter, I reckon I can squeeze 42mm in. But perhaps I am feeling delicate as I have just stacked twice on the ride into work, CXing off road.
  • hfidgen wrote:
    Would be interested to hear from people who ride road bikes over winter though - do you have problems with the brakes and skinny tires?

    Been commuting in London for 5 years all-year round, including the icy/snowy winters. I think there's been good advice here. The only time I don't ride is if I think theres a chance of black ice.

    Hi-Viz of some sort (jacket, stripes etc..)
    Good lights (usually two on the rear and HID and the front)
    Keep the bike clean (you need to spot if somethings on the way out)
    Mud guards (if you can't MTFU)
    Clear glasses (You still need to see when it gets sh*tty)
    Goooooood brakes (that's brakes not breaks, :roll:)

    Can't emphasise good brakes enough. If you don't want to splash out (get it...?) on SwissStops, then a good option are KoolStop salmons. They take a little time to bed in but worth it.
  • I cycled through the whole of last winter apart from the 2 or so weeks where it was really bad up here.

    Things i learnt were, I had to get a decent hat/under helmet cap that covered my ears and i bought decent all weather gloves to keep the cold out of my fingers. I also used one of those neck things (cant remember name. Is it a snood?) that you pull over your mouth. Easy to pull back down when you get hotter. I put my shoe covers on no matter what as they defo kept my feet a lot warmer. You have to remember tho that last winter was really cold for a prolonged period.

    I never felt the need to change tyres. (running 32mm Schwalbe marathon pluses on a dawes horizon). My roads, altho really bad for pot holes are gritted frequently.

    Your bike will get dirty and your moving parts will clog with grim and grit. Chain and gear cleaning and maintainance is a weekly, if not daily, must.

    Good lights are a must also and Ive never felt that it was more dangerous but you instinctivly change your riding style to suit without even noticing. I work shifts so im already riding to work in the dark (5.15am for a 6 start) and when im backshift going home at 10pm.
    If your not used to riding in the dark why not try to get some dark rides in befor the winter sets just to see how you feel?

    I say go for it.
    If i aint riding it, then im thinking about riding it.
  • MrChuckMrChuck Posts: 1,663
    Last winter was an exception but usually, with decent clothes and lights, there's no need to get off the bike for the winter. If there's snow on the ground the range of riding conditions is huge- sometimes it's fine and you can crunch along happily, the next day the same bit might be pretty much unrideable, you need to just judge each snowy day on it's merits really. Ice is the real show-stopper IMO but again it's rare that main-ish roads are iced.

    Obviously care and a bit of common sense is needed but it's rarely a real problem.

    When it is icy I sometimes see people teetering along at walking pace, concentrating furiously, and personally I can't be bothered with that. There's no prizes for riding every single day and it's not really worth the knocks.
  • Just though I'd add... establish a well known route during "good" weather. Somewhere where you know the traps and road conditions. In particular where you known the most likely places and times that pedestrians and motorist like to exercise their talent for f*cking up other people. Try not to deviate fron this route during the bad weather. But don't get complacent, knowing the route in this way gives you a head start not a garantee!

    Oh, did I mention good brakes? :lol:
  • rjeffroyrjeffroy Posts: 638
    Cycled all through winter on a road bike in London for the last 5 years. In general ice and snow are not really a problem in London on the main roads - sometimes I had to walk the last 500 yards or so from my house.

    Were about 10 days in that time when I rode my crosser with knobblies because of snow, otherwise 23mm road tyres coped with everything.

    Heavy winter rain is miserable. I usually take one rest day a week because I race at weekends so time the rest day for the worst weather.

    Get good lights - I've got lumicycles on the front and a dinotte on the rear expensive but plenty bright enough, I don't bother with hi vis.

    Brakes - keep the rims clean and check for wear - winter really is hard on wheels. I use mavic open pros and reckon a front rim will last 2 winters.
  • wgwarburtonwgwarburton Posts: 1,863
    hfidgen wrote:
    ...Would be interested to hear from people who ride road bikes over winter though - do you have problems with the brakes and skinny tires?
    Nope. I ride a fixed road bike through the winter. It's fine. I could use my (geared) tourer, as it also has mudguards etc but I don't want it to get trashed by the salt & grit.

    Cheers,
    W.
  • MickyAMickyA Posts: 4
    Agree with what's been said above, but one thing to add:

    If you are going to ride your bike through the worst of the snow, think about the pedals - I have old Looks which are big enough to ride with trainers on as if they were flats, and that meant in the snow last year I could keep riding my road bike as normal, but slow down and put my feet down where it got hairy. On SPDs and similar I think this wouldn't work, so worth getting a pair of flats maybe?
  • wgwarburtonwgwarburton Posts: 1,863
    MickyA wrote:
    Agree with what's been said above, but one thing to add:

    If you are going to ride your bike through the worst of the snow, think about the pedals - I have old Looks which are big enough to ride with trainers on as if they were flats, and that meant in the snow last year I could keep riding my road bike as normal, but slow down and put my feet down where it got hairy. On SPDs and similar I think this wouldn't work, so worth getting a pair of flats maybe?

    Yeah- good point- I use toeclips, not clipless, and it's easy to whip your foot out quickly if you need to.

    Cheers,
    W.
  • gbsahne001gbsahne001 Posts: 1,973
    Yeah- good point- I use toeclips, not clipless, and it's easy to whip your foot out quickly if you need to..

    Really, I was a long time user of toeclips but am now using SPD's and find it easier to disengage from them
  • Clever PunClever Pun Posts: 6,778
    I rode fixed all through the winter including the snow. Min 13miles each way

    If it's wet be careful when leaning esp on manhole covers etc. Get good winter clothes that can stand up to the very cold mornings as well.

    a smattering of lights and the odd reflective thing on your bag/clothes and a good portion of MTFU and you'll be fine

    Winter miles = Summer smiles etc
    Purveyor of sonic doom

    Very Hairy Roadie - FCN 4
    Fixed Pista- FCN 5
    Beared Bromptonite - FCN 14
  • solsurfsolsurf Posts: 489
    As long as you make your self seen and don’t take risks you should be fine, I find that in the dark a good set of lights makes you more noticed than in those periods when it’s dusk.
    As for the cold the biggest challenge is cleaning the damn salt off your bike. Otherwise yes defiantly cycle in the winter, one of the best feelings is the challenge and watching the seasons change.
  • R_T_AR_T_A Posts: 488
    Everything that has been said above is good advice. I've done it in exposed country lanes for the last 2 winters, and biting wind is a major factor. Anything with windstopper material is your friend. Yellow tinted glasses are good too to protect the eyes (I've got £6 safety glasses!).

    I've run my bike with 28mm semi-slick tyres (disc brakes was something I wanted for this purpose too). I wear High-Viz and my lights are back-up for the local football ground.

    As with most things, it's personal choice. I reckon it's significantly more dangerous on Public Transport with all those germs about :wink:
    Giant Escape R1
    FCN 8
    "Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life."
    - Terry Pratchett.
  • mmukmmuk Posts: 398
    I ride all year - rain, snow, ice whatever - just need to choose your steed with care!
    Wide tyred hardtail mountain bike for ice and snow (great fun overtaking cars on snow!)
    Racer for those beautiful sunny days (wherever have they gone!)
    big old bike with mudguards for rainy days.

    MM
  • prawnyprawny Posts: 5,421
    I ride my boardman all year round, no winter mods at all.

    Only time I don't ride is in the snow, mainly because getting pelted with snowballs gets on my wick and could be very dangerous. Those days I just ride down to the train station on my MTB.
    Saracen Tenet 3 - 2015 - Dead - Replaced with a Hack Frame
    Voodoo Bizango - 2014 - Dead - Hit by a car
    Vitus Sentier VRS - 2017
  • Like a lot of the others on here, I ride to work all year round. Even this last year, with the period of snow, I still cycled to work (and found it much more reliable than public transport). Key tip from me is to hang on to your Marin if you have the room and use that when the weather is really bad. I fell off a few times during the snow - all very low speed slides where I just picked myself up and carried on - and I was very pleased to have been on my old MTB with fat tyres than on my Fratello.

    I still remember the pleasure I got from cycling up Camberwell Grove on the way home after the snow had been falling all afternoon. The cars were at a standstill going up the hill as several of them couldn't get traction (all the rear wheel drive BMWs and Mercedes). I just cycled slowly past in the granny ring (giving plenty of space for sliding on everyone's part), with my weight on the saddle to get traction. Beautiful feeling.
    Never be tempted to race against a Barclays Cycle Hire bike. If you do, there are only two outcomes. Of these, by far the better is that you now have the scalp of a Boris Bike.
  • biondinobiondino Posts: 5,990
    Should a bear sh!t in the woods?
  • Yes
    If you see the candle as flame the meal is already cooked.
  • HeadhuunterHeadhuunter Posts: 6,494
    I haven't missed a day in almost 4 years (except when I've been ill or on hols etc). Even when it snowed, the main roads in London are well salted and ice free. In fact of all my near misses (peds walking out, bad manoevures by cars ahead etc) only 1 has happened after dark, most of my hairy moments occur in the morning when the sun's up, the morning rush hour is somehow more hectic with more people trying to get to work on time at 8.30-9am or whatever, whereas the evening rush hour is more spread out.

    Just get some decent lights, some reflective straps, jacket. Reflective stuff on your ankles is good as they bob up and down in front of drivers as they approach you.
    Do not write below this line. Office use only.
  • Big solid bike is fine with winter big powerful lights clear a path, I find traffic gives a wider gap as I have the big lights on most of the time, wide tires soak up potholes etc, as for snow etc well it's coped so far, always have the mtb which makes short work of such stuff.

    Main thing is drive chain and brakes both take a beating.
  • Thanks, lots of great advice here - I will go for it
    Condor Fratello
  • shouldbeinbedshouldbeinbed Posts: 2,660
    what is is it about London.

    a bit of rain and its the end of the world, dangerous in the winter - really - more so than anywhere else, more so than steep rural area with less traffic and therefore higher speeds possible in the commute, the capital city & a major heat island snarled up by snow as bad as elsewhere? a city with a far bigger tradition and expectation of cyclists than many bits of elsewhere

    I've got kids, family,people I love and a good medical incentive not to crash, but cycle all weathers and from way early to way late in the day and on roads that don't get anywhere near the attention of gritters and traffic to shift the muck.

    decent clothes, double up your gloves if its really cold (-15 a few morning round here last winter - I got a skiing pair), a buff or two for warmth and to keep the edge off the exhaust fumes, plenty of hi viz, lots of lights on different heights on you & bike, set your bike up to cope - decent brakes, grippy tyres - studded if needs be and lower the pressure when it gets more regularly wet or chilly and learn to feed the grip and braking in so you don't over do it and lock up or spin out into a crash, accept that it'll be slippy in places and don't horse it, keep your ears and eyes open for a mad revvy engine or cars around you fishtailing to give you an extra warning if you might need to avoid a low speed sideswipe and go fo it. clean the thing regularly and expect the moving grinding bits to take some battering (chain, cables, bearings) so keep a good close eye on it.

    its only weather at the end of the day, we all suffer from it.
  • bearfraserbearfraser Posts: 435
    Just go for it ,but make "DAMM" sure you can be seen with lot of high intensity flashers(they dont have to legal!!) and a high viz gillet/jacket. Might also consider a "Rat" bike of some description to save your good bike.
    Enjoy!!!
  • HeadhuunterHeadhuunter Posts: 6,494
    what is is it about London.

    a bit of rain and its the end of the world, dangerous in the winter - really - more so than anywhere else, more so than steep rural area with less traffic and therefore higher speeds possible in the commute, the capital city & a major heat island snarled up by snow as bad as elsewhere? a city with a far bigger tradition and expectation of cyclists than many bits of elsewhere

    I've got kids, family,people I love and a good medical incentive not to crash, but cycle all weathers and from way early to way late in the day and on roads that don't get anywhere near the attention of gritters and traffic to shift the muck.

    decent clothes, double up your gloves if its really cold (-15 a few morning round here last winter - I got a skiing pair), a buff or two for warmth and to keep the edge off the exhaust fumes, plenty of hi viz, lots of lights on different heights on you & bike, set your bike up to cope - decent brakes, grippy tyres - studded if needs be and lower the pressure when it gets more regularly wet or chilly and learn to feed the grip and braking in so you don't over do it and lock up or spin out into a crash, accept that it'll be slippy in places and don't horse it, keep your ears and eyes open for a mad revvy engine or cars around you fishtailing to give you an extra warning if you might need to avoid a low speed sideswipe and go fo it. clean the thing regularly and expect the moving grinding bits to take some battering (chain, cables, bearings) so keep a good close eye on it.

    its only weather at the end of the day, we all suffer from it.

    I cycle through the year in all weathers in London but I have to say, in defence of those who don't, cycling in London, in the dark, in torrential rain like last night can be a bit hairy.

    I came back along OKR, the rain was hammering it down, buses and lorries were kicking up lots of spray, there was reflected car light everywhere which must have made it very hard for drivers to see me and my brakes were far less effective with the rain and my glasses were covered in spray and condesation so it was like looking through fog.

    The traffic was moving more slowly but drivers kept doing very random things. A bus pulled past me at 1 point and then suddenly decided to pull in which was terrifying as my brakes were much less efficient and I almost slammed into the side of it.

    I've ridden plenty out in the countryside in the rain and other than it feeling a bit desolate it's nothing like trying to negotiate traffic on a main road in London in the p*ssings of rain and wind....
    Do not write below this line. Office use only.
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