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  • stevecowles

What is Bad Cycling Weather?

I’ve been sitting here listening to the wind howling and thinking “I don’t want to go out in that”. This got me wondering what really constitutes ‘bad cycling weather’ and how I deal with it. There is no doubt that historically I have been a little ‘winter shy’ but now I depend on my ebike as my first choice for all local travel.

What are the real hazards that the weather throws at us if we use a bike or ebike? Here is how I see them and how I approach them, obviously it depends on what your own requirements and outlook are but here is my personal view.

Ice; Let’s start off with one of the worst hazards for cyclists. The actual number of icy days in the year is low (and falling) in the UK. My own take on this could not be simpler. Face planting hurts and bike repairs are expensive. I’m lucky enough to live near to a bus route (during the day), if it is icy I leave the bike at home and catch the bus.

Darkness; This hits us for several months of the year at peak times in the day, there are some very good lights out there for less than £50 a set and much less if you only cycle in lit areas. I enjoy a night ride, it took a little while to get used to things on either side of me being in darkness but now I don’t let it bother me. I use my ebike in the dark, I have decent rechargeable lights for seeing and being seen and another set driven from the eBike battery as backup in case the others run flat during the ride. No problem.

Cold; Assuming it is not icy, I wear warm clothes and gloves (cheap thermals are a big help). Cold weather does not bother me anymore.

Rain; Getting somewhere soaking wet is not much fun. I work from home most of the time so am not tied to commuting at fixed times of the day. I keep an eye on the weather forecast and try to minimise rides that start in the wet, if there is a strong possibility of rain I take a waterproof cape and over-trousers with me and they are very effective. Cheap overshoes are also a big help along with waterproof gloves. About 15% of my rides involve wet weather and the fear of it far outweighs the reality.

Wind; I live on the West Cumbrian coast where it is notoriously windy. This is actually the worst thing to deal with as getting blows around is hard work and also potentially dangerous. An ebike certainly helps significantly in a headwind but I do try to avoid cycling in winds over 30mph (the bus is handy here again) as there is a risk of being blown into traffic. If it gets exceptionally windy during a ride, I try to slow down a little and give other road users a bit more room. The reality is that strong winds are rarer than we think, the chart shows windspeed on my rides (over time) since I bought my Garmin, the ‘normal’ band is not that extreme even in a windy location like mine. It is windier at either end of the chart, unsurprisingly these are winter periods.

I don't want to understate the importance of the weather to cyclists but, if you do not have to travel at a fixed time each day, it can be overstated. An ebike also has a significant positive impact on the ease of dealing with some conditions.

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