Cycling to work whatever the weather
It was a beautiful evening last night riding home, the sky was clear a beautiful crescent moon picked out by the dark of the sky and the air was cold and crisp.
I do find it a little cathartic cycling in the dark, there is something about not being able to see the houses, people and the fields that is soothing. When you do see things they look different, your route seems different too. I think this is why so many people go on night rides.
I ride my bike thinking about the route, looking out for hazards, thinking about the bike and don’t actively try to think about anything else but my mind seems to have its own ideas on what to do and it often comes up with ideas.
I think about what I have forgotten to do or work out things I need to do during the day. There is not a lot else to occupy my mind, no car radio or people talking to me. It is probably the only time of day that I am on my own. Of course I’m not on my own, I am amid a flow of people driving to work, but they are in their worlds as I am in mine.
The morning part of my commute starts dark and then the dawn comes up, the light spreads slowly through the sky lighting up the edges and then, on a good day, the sun slowly rises starting to warm the air slightly. The sun brings hope of better things to come."
It is not all fun; I have to contend with the hazards on the roads, traffic, drivers, and the ever present potholes. They open up from day to day in the road in front and often are difficult to spot in the dark, so I do report them on Fill That Hole.
There is the driver who must at all costs get around me, they put their life in danger overtaking into the path of an oncoming car, passing me on a blind bend. I sometimes wince as I see a very narrow miss just ahead.
Then there is the person who just sits behind. I find this almost harder to deal with as I worry about the bad feeling building up further behind.
Then some drivers overtake without observing that the traffic ahead is at a standstill. Regularly someone shoots past me only to have to stop suddenly 50 yards ahead.
Most people are very nice though I always try and reinforce thoughtful driving by a cheery wave.
In the cold weather it is important to keep warm and that is mainly about keeping the clothing next to your skin dry. Layers of clothes, none too thick though, with high wickability is important. The layers of clothing allow moisture to escape better; each layer does not get too saturated.
Woolly (or fleece) hat and scarf are vital too. This keeps the vital thinking organ warm and stops draughts entering your clothing. If you wear a helmet then ensure you can fit a hat or headband under it. It is extremely important to be able to keep your head warm, otherwise the cold might inhibit correct decision making.
Gloves and windproofs are also necessary. Windproofs are better than waterproofs, unless it is tipping down with rain, as they are more breathable.
Now to my Achilles heel, or foot. My feet get very cold. There is no real movement with the foot and certainly in my case they freeze. My solution is to wear two pairs of overshoes, a warm set and a waterproof layer over the top. This tends to resolve the issue certainly up to an hour and a half, about the length of my commute. Note also that it takes about 20 mins to warm up, so if your commute is below that then you will always be cold.
Lights and road positioning
In my view good lights (I always take a back up set as well) and good road positioning are worth much much more than day glo or high visibility clothing.
Helmets also do not protect from the weather, either the cold or the heat or the rain. I prefer to be more comfortable judging that my decision making ability is much more important than any perceived protection.
Good positioning and observation skills are paramount. On most roads I ride far enough out to force cars to perform proper overtaking manoeuvres. If there is space and if I am building up a queue I sometimes move in to encourage people to overtake and reduce any queuing.
Waiting for spring
Then in the spring as light increases I emerge blinking from the dark like a troglodyte. A whole new and fun commuting experience opens up, sun, great views and a generally faster ride in to work.
Why don’t you get out there and try it, whatever the season commuting by bike is always great.