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Tips to prepare your bicycle for winter riding

By MARGARET HARRIS November 29, 2012 · 4:20 PM
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CYCLING AT NIGHT means you have to ensure motorists can see you. / PHOTO SUBMITTED

Autumn and winter bring the rain and the cold and for many the bicycle is relegated to the garage or the shed until spring arrives again.

With a little planning and a few adaptations it is easy to think of cycling for transportation instead of for those summer recreational rides.

First, consider your bicycle.

Make sure the brakes, gears and tires are in good working order, and that you have working lights both front and rear as required by law. Tires with more tread and a little less air will provide more traction on the road just like the winter tires on your car.

The salt in road grit can be hard on your bike so rinsing it off after riding can prevent possible rust damage. Mudguards will keep you drier and cleaner in wet weather.

It may be tempting to turn to a wooly hat in the cooler weather but wearing a helmet, aside from being the law, will provide protection in case of a fall or an accident. Headbands, ear warmers and skullcaps fit well under a helmet, and a waterproof helmet cover will keep you really dry.

Making yourself visible in the darker days and at night is vital and the combination of good front and rear lights and either a jacket with reflective strips or a safety vest will help motorists to see you from a distance. Setting the lights on 'blinking' mode works especially well to catch the attention of motorists.

The saying, "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes" might seem a cliché, but it's absolutely true. Layering is the solution as the outside temperature will change and exercising will generate heat.

Three layers is the recommendation — a wicking layer, a cycling jersey or light fleece with a neck zip that can be adjusted for the weather, and finally a top layer or shell that is waterproof, windproof and breathable.

Your lower body will stay warmer because it is your legs that are doing the work in cycling, but long tights or windproof and waterproof overpants keep the muscles warm and dry.

Your feet and hands can easily get cold as they are not moving very much. Gloves need to be full finger, insulated and breathable. Thermal, wicking socks will help keep your feet warm, and shoe covers will keep your feet drier in heavy rain.

If you think it is too cold or wet to ride your bike consider the fact that if you ride to do errands you are only outside for short periods of time. You will repeatedly warm up inside a shop, a library, a gym, a dentist's office, and then head out for the next short ride to the next errand.

Is it time to wonder why your bicycle is sitting neglected from October to April?

Margaret Harris, president of the Comox Valley Cycling Coalition, writes Shifting Gears. It appears every fourth week.

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