Cycling in winter: How to get started

Whether you got a new bicycle for Christmas or you’ve made a new year’s resolution to cycle to work, it’s a great time to start cycling. Cycling is a sustainable mode of transport, a cheap way to travel and a fun way to get some exercise.

Keep reading for a few tips to help you stay warm, dry and safe while riding a bike in winter.

1. Warm Layers

Don’t let bad weather put you off cycling. If you’re prepared, you’ll barely notice the wind or rain. Wear windproof, thermal and waterproof clothing to stay warm and dry, and make cycling more enjoyable this season.

Windproof tops, gloves and headgear all help to keep the winter chill from getting through. A waterproof jacket is a great way to keep the cold air away from your body even on dry days. Windproof gloves keep your fingers warmer allowing you to keep in control of your controls and a thin hat under your helmet keeps your head and ears avoid the cold biting at them on your journey.

Layering is a great way to regulate your temperature as you can remove layers as you warm up and add more if the temperature drops. Carrying an extra long-sleeve layer with you makes it easier to change your clothing for changing conditions until you learn which items of clothing you’re most likely to use in different winter conditions.

Waterproofs will give you the best chance of arriving as your destination as dry as possible. Don’t forget, even if it isn’t raining, water from wet roads can easily soak you through with the spray from passing traffic and coming up off your tyres. As mentioned above, a waterproof jacket is a must have for winter cycling. You might also consider waterproof trousers.

Some people choose to wear cycling specific, insulated clothing in the winter. These items are well insulated, often water resistant and have high visibility detailing which all help make your journeys as safe and comfortable as possible. The technical fabrics will dry quickly too. When you arrive at your destination you can then change out of your winter kit into your normal, dry clothes which you’ve either carried with you or stored ahead of time.

2. Bike maintenance

Winter is harsh on bikes! The water, grit, salt and general road grime are all out to slowly degrade your trusty steed, but a bit of preventative maintenance is the best course of action through the winter. Try to store your bike in a dry environment to stop components seizing up. Rusty chains and corroded cables can make your bike unreliable and unpleasant to ride. Getting your bike serviced going into winter can ensure it gets you through to the spring with no issues. Many local bike shops will provide an assessment on your bike for free. Replacing a few parts before winter can help you avoid a much larger bill in the spring.

Punctures are more likely to happen during winter, as the weather results in more debris on the road. Make sure you have the right tools to fix a puncture and check your tyres before you leave home. Carrying a small pump, a pair of tyre levers and the correct size inner tube will mean you’re able to get back on your way as quickly as possible. Once you get home you can repair the damaged inner tube and put it back in your repair kit and it saves you trying to do this in the cold when you just want to get moving again. Consider reducing the pressure in your tyres by around 10% to increase the contact area with the road, improve grip and reduce the chance of punctures.

Fitting mudguards to protect yourself and your bike from mud and water spray is a great idea in the winter. There are lots of options depending on your bikes size, mounting options and tyre size. If you’re unsure what is best, have a conversation with your local bike shop who should be able to advise you on all the options. They will also be able to fit them in their workshop which will ensure secure installation and optimum coverage.

To learn the basics of bike maintenance, sign up to a free Leeds Bike Mill course or watch online tutorial videos. If you have any questions, visit your local bike shop for some advice.

3. Cleaning your bike

Salt, water and grit are extremely damaging to your bike and its components. This wintery cocktail will corrode metal components and grind away at moving parts. Try to clean your bike regularly throughout winter using a bike specific cleaner. Even a quick wipe down with an old cloth will ensure your bike keeps going for longer. Lubricate the chain regularly, ideally just before you put it away to give the lubricant chance to get into the chain links. Try to store your bike in a dry environment protected from the elements. If you come home and your bike is wet, give it a once over with an old towel before you put it away.

4. Cycling on wet or icy roads

Avoid cycling in the gutter as leaves and puddles can be slippery, especially when they are frozen. When the roads are wet or icy, stopping distances are greater, so it’s important to keep your brakes covered and brake as early as possible. When the roads are icy, plan a route along well-lit roads that have been gritted and consider setting off later if you’re able to. Click here for the Leeds City Council Gritter Tracker. Make sure your bike lights are working correctly with a solid red light at the back and a bright white light at the front. This means you can see any hazards clearly in front of you and you can be seen by other road users through the dark. You might choose to supplement the main light with smaller flashing lights to help you be even more visible.

5. Free adult cycle training

Just getting started? Free adult cycle training sessions are now available to book, including beginner and 1:1 training. The sessions are tailored to your ability, focusing on teaching key skills and building up your confidence. To book now, visit

To learn more about what we’re doing to make our roads safer, click here and for advice on how to drive safely in winter, click here

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