After one of the best summers for cycling in living memory, it’s time to start gearing up for some harsher Yorkshire weather. Many enthusiasts continue to ride throughout the winter months and as long as you and your bike are properly equipped, there’s no reason to hang up your cleats until the Spring.
Safety, of course, is paramount so as soon as the nights start drawing in, make sure your bike has adequate lights so that you can see and be seen. It’s a legal requirement for all cyclists to have white front lights, a red rear light and reflector and amber pedal reflectors. Powerful LED lights are brighter than a conventional bulb and are reasonably priced nowadays as well as offering the convenience of being charged by USB.
Hi-viz cycle wear is also a wise investment, particularly if you’re commuting at dusk or early in the morning. There are lots of bright neon yellow and green waterproof cycling jackets to choose from, or you could slip over a fluo vest. Reflective arm or ankle bands are another good option with research showing that the up-and-down motion of pedalling catches the eye of the motorist more than a reflective strip on your back.
The other key consideration is staying warm. As will most outdoor pursuits, layering is the answer to coping with the vagaries of the British winter. Start with a high-tech wicking base layer designed to keep in the warmth, merino wool is still the favourite with many seasoned cyclists. Then add a breathable long sleeved jersey in a light, synthetic fabric so you don’t get too hot on those uphills. There are literally hundreds of tops to choose from, including specially designed windproof fabrics.
A good quality, waterproof jacket is an absolute must. It’s worth investing in a specialist cycling jacket from a reputable brand – do make sure that the jacket is being marketed as ‘waterproof’ rather than ‘water resistant’ as you need something which really will shield you from the wind and rain. While a cycling jacket may look broadly similar to your walking jacket, they are specially designed for the sport. As well as having taped seams and storm-proof zips, they have a longer tail to protect you from spray and keep your back warm and many also feature under arm vents which can be openedfor extra breathability. Designed to be light and compact, they can easily be slipped into the pocket of your cycling jersey. While some cyclists refuse to spoil the lines of their bike with mud guards, it’s certainly better than having a wet back or spraying fellow cyclists!
You’ll also need to pay special attention to your hands and feet – as they are largely stationary while you’re cycling, they can very cold very quickly! Rather than risk numb fingers which make it difficult to change gear and to brake, get some heavy duty cycling gloves and maybe silk liners too. There are lots of products to keep your feet warm on chilly days, from wool socks to waterproof or windproof overshoes – lots of hardened cyclists also resort to winter boots for extra insulation. A neck buff is useful for a bit of extra warmth when you set off, and a thermal skull cap that fits under your helmet also gives a bit more flexibility.
And, winter or summer, don’t risk being stranded without a tool kit for emergency repairs! Always take a spare inner tube, allen keys and a good bike pump with you so you don’t have to stand around in the cold waiting to be rescued. A CO2 cartridge to inflate tyres will also greatly speed up the task of changing a tyre if you are unlucky enough to get a puncture.
So, with you and your bike equipped for the worst of the Yorkshire winter, there’s no excuse for not getting out on two wheels. During the colder months, it’s still great to blow away the cobwebs with a good spin out in the countryside, whatever the weather.