Cycle safely and comfortably despite it being dark, snowy and icy
Many people put their bike in the garage over the winter – completely unnecessarily. It can seem daunting to ride when it is snowing and the wind is blowing. But it is often possible to cycle most days of the year, even during the cold and dark months. At least as long as you consider an extra layer of equipment and clothing.
- The best thing about cycling is that you can see a lot from the saddle. And the Swedish winter landscapes can be fantastically beautiful. The light is also completely different from other seasons. Since the surface you are riding on can be challenging, winter is a good opportunity to cycle at a quieter pace and enjoy the surroundings, instead of chasing high average speeds as many do in the summer, says cycling enthusiast Daniel Ekbladh from Uppsala.
Studded tyres and proper lights
One thing you need to think about is getting tyres for the bike that are suitable for the winter season. If you're going out on especially slippery surfaces, studded tyres are recommended. If you ride in urban traffic, then about 100 studs per tyre can be sufficient, while more difficult terrain requires around 300. If the wallet says no to studs both front and back – then the front tyre is more important. A good grip is more important at the front. Ensuring that you have proper lights should also be a priority. According to the law, the front light must show white or yellow light and the rear light must be red. The lights must be clearly visible from at least 300 metres away. Even if you have lights that meet the requirements, the winter cyclist may need to review the capacity of their lights. Darkness may fall suddenly and if the road is poorly lit, it may be worth spending a bit more to upgrade to lights that also light up the ground in front properly.
- Roughly divided, there are two types of lights to choose from. Position lights and guiding lights. The cheaper options are mostly used to show other road users where you are. But if you're going to ride a bike when it's dark, and with a surface that can be uneven and treacherous, then you need a guiding light that you can also see with, says Daniel Ekbladh.
Heat bags for the toes
What can be a challenge with cycling in winter is the clothing, but finding a good combination for the upper body and legs is not really very difficult. Daniel Ekbladh recommends wind-resistant underwear with thin layers on top of materials that breathe.
- It's more about dressing strategically than about putting more on. The hardest parts are the feet and hands. The rest of the body quickly warms up when you start pedalling. My tip is to use neoprene shoe covers that you wear over the shoes. It is often a better choice than an extra sock inside the shoe, as you really want to retain a lot of air around your foot. Despite this your feet can become tired and cold. In that case there are special heat bags that you can put on your toes, says Daniel Ekbladh. For the hands, mittens made from wind-stopping materials are recommended, and for the head a thin cap that fits under the helmet.
Use less oil
Finally, it is important to think about the care of the bike.
– Rinse the bike off when you get home and let it dry indoors. This is absolutely crucial for prolonging the lifespan of the bike. Many people make the mistake of lubricating the bike chain with extra greasy oil in winter. This only increases the risk of small pieces of gravel and salt getting stuck in the gear system. It is more important to keep the chain clean. Wash and degrease it often and then use oil sparingly, says Daniel Ekbladh and continues:
- Riding in winter exposes the equipment to a lot of wear and tear. If you're out often, it might be worth getting a cheaper and more durable extra bike for the winter and letting the summer bike rest until the spring.