Rainy days are here again, with dark afternoons and stormy winds thrown in for good measure. It’s tempting to leave the bike in the shed and travel everywhere in the warm dry car. But there’s something pretty fantastic about sailing around on two wheels, no matter the weather.
That classic phrase ‘no bad weather, just bad gear’ certainly applies to bike riding. Here’s my 5 Top Tips to keep you pedalling through the puddles.
1- Check your brakes
Look at your brake blocks. Are they still nice and fat, or warn to a thin bit of black paper? Do they line up nicely with your rims? New brake blocks are affordable and essential, and your local bike shop can fit them quick. Wheel rims can get gunked up, so it’s worth rubbing these down with a bit of steel wool. You don’t want anything to slow down your stopping.
2- Grease is your friend
I’m always surprised by how often I need to oil my chain. This is particularly the case if your bike lives outside. Dribble the chain lube (no sniggering please) on to the main cassette (the stack of cogs on your back wheel) as you pedal backwards.
It’s not just the chain that needs oiling. Buy a can of GT85 to spray your pedals, bike lock, and any other exposed mechanics (but keep clear of those wheel rims!)
3- Love your wheels
Wheels need the occasional bit of tlc. They can become bent by barrelling through potholes or hopping up and down pavements. Your bike shop can true your wheels for a small fee, and you’ll notice it helps your bike roll much better.
If you want to spend a bit more, consider buying some new tyres, preferably with kevlar or puncture-proof inserts. Consider how much tread you need, depending on whether you stick to the road or venture in to the mud. Remember that nobbly tyres will make riding on the roads much harder work.
4- Light up the sky
I hate neon. I don’t care if it’s had a fashion resurgence, it still makes me cringe. But, I’ve realised that it makes a huge difference when you’re on a bike. Drivers notice fluorescent yellow, which is particularly appreciated at busy junctions! I also like this helmet band; it doesn’t look too naff, but it is super-visible. And get some lights! Nuff said.
5- It’s gonna rain
You might as well just embrace it. If your fingers and toes are toasty, you can tolerate any amount of wet weather. Add overshoes and gloves to your list. Take a full change of clothes (yes, even pants – noone wants to have a wet bum all day) and plenty of plastic bags. Of course, you want the rest of your belongings to also stay dry. You can get a range of waterproof rucksack covers (choose the neon colours!) or a proper pannier that will keep your stuff clean and dry.
Tom and I visited my dad at the weekend who kindly worked on our bikes. If you don’t have such a mechanically-minded family member, then book your bike in for a service at your local shop. Many offer a winter-ready package that includes these basic checks and more. If you can get these things sorted, you’re well on your way to a merry winter of riding.
Some tips for cycling in the city.
Why bikers should stick together.