Richard Wintrip shares his top tips on continuing to cycle in autumn and winter
Richard Wintrip, senior cycling and walking officer at BCP Council, shares his top tips on how to keep cycling through autumn and winter.
It feels like we’ve been blessed with excellent weather so far this year. I for one have really enjoyed cycling to work, getting out at the weekend for family bike rides and on occasion leaving the car at home and walking to the local supermarket. It’s felt great saving money on fuel and parking, enjoying social time with my 8-year-old son and reaping the health and wellbeing benefits of making short journeys on foot or by bike rather than jumping in the car.
Now we are into the autumn and moving towards the winter, it’s that time of year when it can become more challenging to keep up our active travel habits. Over the years I’ve made a few simple adjustments to ensure that cycling in the cooler, darker months can be equally as enjoyable as in the spring or summer.
Here are my top 6 tips to help you keep cycling all year round:
- Keep safe, be seen: When cycling at dawn, dusk or in the dark, it’s important that other road users and pedestrian are able to see you. Make sure you have working lights on your bike. I prefer USB rechargeable lights, as they are easy to charge up and you don’t have to fiddle around with swapping batteries. I’d also recommend wearing brightly coloured reflective clothing as an effective way to stand out on darker, rainy or foggy days. When I’m driving a car, I find it much easier to see people riding bikes who are wearing high vis clothing, but I know as a driver I can play my part by giving people on bikes the time and space necessary to manoeuvre.
- Keep warm – especially your fingers and toes: I love cycling on cold and crisp mornings at this time of year, it's a fantastic way to embrace the day. I find that a decent pair of gloves and socks to keep my fingers and toes warm makes cycling more enjoyable. Ski gloves that are waterproof tend to be the order of the day, as long as you can still use your brakes, change gear, and grip your handlebars comfortably. On really cold days I also wear a thin fleece hat which keeps my head and ears warm, without obstructing my sight or hearing.
- Keep dry: An essential bit of kit for all year round cycling in my experience is a decent set of waterproofs (jacket and trousers). At this time of year, I always carry them in my bike pannier bag. This not only helps keep me dry on wet days, but also can provide additional layers on really cold days.
- Be organised, do some basic checks before setting off: From time to time, we all experience the odd occasion when things don’t quite go to plan when cycling, for example taking a wrong turn or getting a puncture. These minor issues can be intensified when cycling in the dark. Before setting off on your bike, I’d recommend getting into the habit of:
- Planning your route. The BCP cycle map is a good resource and shows a network of local cycle routes
- Checking your tyres are at the correct pressure as this will help prevent punctures
- Making sure your bike lights are charged up and working. I tend to do this overnight
- Look after your bike: Riding in the autumn and winter can be tough on your bike. I would recommend undertaking some simple and regular checks and maintenance to ensure you keep things running smoothly. There are plenty of good bike shops in the local area that will be able to provide you with a comprehensive bike service.
- Be flexible and have a contingency: There may be the odd morning when you’ve checked the weather forecast or looked outside and the prospect of jumping on your bike is all too much. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! On days like this, you can still help reduce road congestion and emissions by taking the bus or sharing a lift. I’ve downloaded the local bus company app, which allows me to plan my journey and easily purchase a bus ticket for the local bus network, whilst saving some money. If you are undertaking regular journeys, you could also consider signing up to the BCP lift share community.
If your bike happens to be off the road at any point during the autumn/winter, you may want to consider hiring a Beryl Bike or e-scooter to get around, as there's no way you can be caught out by forgetting to charge your lights on a Beryl bike or e-scooter! The bikes have a handy basket for carrying your essentials.
I’m really looking forward to continuing to get out for fresh air and exercise with my family over the coming months. South east Dorset’s Transforming Cities Fund programme is continuing to deliver a network of cycle and walking routes throughout the region. New off road cycle routes in the BCP area that are ideal for family rides include Kings Park, Upper Gardens and Whitecliff Park. BCP Council is also offering a limited number of family bikeability training courses in November, to help families, or friends with children to plan enjoyable bike rides to school or for leisure.