practical suggestions for riding to work in winter

Here in Melbourne it’s raining, it’s gross, it’s easy not to cycle. Steph didn’t cycle today because it just all seemed a bit much. But winter riding is GREAT. Team No Award is all about the cycling. So here Steph, along with BFF Danni, bring you practical tips and suggestions for winter cycling. They commute all winter! (Yesterday they got more wet than expected, but it was still great)

NO PHOTOS, turns out I don’t take photos of soaking wet cyclists.

What to Wear

You need to own a raincoat. There’s a trade off between waterproof and breathable. If it’s water proof you’re going to sweat in it and that sweat is going to struggle to wick away because there’s no air moving over your skin. You can get jackets where the arms zip off. This is, incidentally why your vegan pleather motorcycle jacket isn’t very comfortable to cycle in. Good rain coats for cycling have long tails to keep your back dry when you lean forwards. Danni recommends Ground Effect, made in New Zealand and full of good things.

Steph has been putting off buying rain pants for two years (She just piggy-backed on Danni’s Ground Effect order yesterday). She has regrets every winter. Lots of rain pants are ¾ length – they’re mostly fine if you don’t mind getting your shins wet.

You can get waterproof cycling/hiking shoes, or shoe over-covers. Canvas shoes, i.e. Danni’s Converse, not at all waterproof. Tears, etc. (Steph wears hiking shoes, or she wears cycling shoes and gets her feet wet)

Wet denim is very unpleasant to cycle in. Don’t do it.

Invest in a nice pair of wind-proof gloves. Not so much with the water-proofness, but better to be prepared against the wind.

How do you ride in glasses in the weather? Still figuring this one out. People like Rudy Project make prescription sports glasses, but they’re super expensive and still fog up and get covered in water just the same, even with the hydrophobic coating. Glasses are actually a blessing and a curse for riding in the rain. A hat helps a bit. 

Hatwise, look at a headband (for keeping your wet hair out of your eyes), or a waterproof cycling hat. Danni rates seal skins water proof hats as ‘amazing’. (Not made of actual seals, OBVIOUSLY, we’re vegans and also Australians) Make sure whatever you’re wearing it fits properly under your helmet, otherwise you end up with hat in your eyes.

Adding to Your Bike

Get fenders! They can be fixed or the sort that attach to the seat post like the Zefal Swan. Having fixed fenders often requires having things you can screw them to and not all bikes have these, although there are some fenders that attach through other places like your axles and brake mounts. However if you don’t have the mount points, you can use the sort that just attach on like the Zefal Swan.

You can also try something like the ass saver — although Danni has tried making a version from old soda bottles and it sort of works. 

Get some good lights. Knog are made in Melbourne 🙂 

Even if you have fenders, avoid riding in puddles. They could actually be potholes, and it’s just going to spray muck over you and your brakes and your drive train. Wet brakes don’t work as well.

Safety Tips

A good weather app is an important part of Steph’s winter cycling routine.

Bikes do not aqua-plane like cars. Bike tread is meaningless to riding in water. However you will probably find that wider tyres and softer rubber gives you slightly more traction on slippery wet surfaces. Danni recommends Vittoria Randonneurs. The tactile surface they install on paths for blind pedestrians is not at all non-slip, and is in fact very slippery. Be careful with banking turns on and off this stuff. Also slippery are tram tracks and the road markings.

Wet roads mean getting more gross crap through the drive and bearings of your bike. That gross crap includes things like grit that will stick to the muddy, lubricanty mess and act like grinding paste on your chain and cogs. It will also wash the lubricants away. You should clean your drive regularly and relubricate to extend the lifetime of your drive train. Have your bike serviced at the end of winter. When applying lubricant, do so on the top of the bottom run of your chain.

Similarly clean your braking surfaces occasionally with a damp cloth (no lubricants or solvents). This is either the outer rim of the wheel or the metal disc in the middle of the wheel depending on what sort of brakes you have. The same mucky grit will grind away the braking surface and your brake pads and shorten the life of both. Danni once road a very muddy 40km and by the end of the ride had half as much brake pad as when she started.

Other Comfort Stuff

Steph keeps a spare pair of clothes at work, and carries a quick dry towel in her pannier at all times.

2 thoughts on “practical suggestions for riding to work in winter

  1. pfctdayelise

    In terms of glasses that are not prescription, I like the sunnies that have yellow glass (well plastic) for overcast riding. They actually seem to add light to my vision, it’s nifty, but the real benefit is not squinting because there is rain in my eyes. They are pretty dorky, but if you are hardcore enough to knowingly ride in the rain I guess you don’t mind that.

    I heart Ground Effect too 🙂

  2. My solution to the problem of wearing glasses in the rain is contact lenses. This is an expensive and inefficient solution, so mostly I don’t ride in the rain…

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