Cycling to work in winter in a big city can be a grim experience. To add to the daily dose of duelling with buses, cabs and fellow cyclists, there’s the wind, the rain and the darkness hiding those potholes, which lurk in the gloom waiting to give your bike – and undercarriage – a big shock.
Fortunately, such privations are small beer compared to the grim reality of public transport - and all those other people snuffling and showing their armpits in your face, as you straphang to work.
So if you’re taking to the saddle and commuting through winter, here are a few things to make those dark rides a little more pleasant.
This is one of those products you never knew you needed. It’s an indicator for each (gloved) hand - attach it carefully to your hand and press a little button on the thumb strap when you stick your hand out and suddenly you’re flashing a little arrow light to go left or right. Just like one of those fancy cars you share the road with.
Truth is, you feel a bit of a chump at first and some might not get over it, but if you cycle busy streets, that extra visibility can be invaluable, and it’s not to be sniffed at.
BTWIN cycling gloves, Decathlon, £14.99
As with most gloves, it’s a balance between price, function and the level of annoyance when you lose one. These, from the ever-reliable Decathlon, hit that furrow between being thin enough that your hands retain the flexibility to steer and brake, while being warm enough that your fingers will retain feeling in most conditions.
At this price, it’d be an irritation to lose one, but, so long as your frostbite doesn’t kick in til you’ve made it back to the shop, you should manage not to spend all night howling in annoyance. Good function at a good price.
I’m not a fan of cycling tops. It’s either grimly over-patterned or stylish in a try-hard sort of way. But you need something, you can’t cycle in your work shirt, though I’ve seen plenty try. So I settled on the On Weather Shirt.
Oddly named, and, strictly speaking, it’s for runners, but you won’t catch me doing that. It’s shaped like a slightly roomy running top and comes in sober colours (you can have the high-vis on top) and with long sleeves too. Keep you warm, not too sweaty and retains a certain level of dignity.
I’ve tried cheap lights and they’ve lasted anything from two minutes to right the way through a winter on one set of batteries. I tried expensive lights and came off my bike on the second night and smashed them to bits.
I don’t consider myself a connoisseur of these things, therefore, but for mid-range reliability, the Sigma and Nugget set (as they don’t call them) hit that useful space of being easy to attach robustly to your bike, last pretty well on one set of batteries and shine and flash strongly enough so that even the doziest of drivers can see you.
Bike lights aren’t about seeing the road better, at least not under city lights, drawing attention to yourself is good enough and these do that reliably.
BTR BackPack cover, Amazon, £14.99
You’re going to work, you’ll have a bag on your back (pannier make me wobbly and too wide to squeeze through those tight gaps between that bus and that taxi). And if you’ve got a bag, make it a bright one to compensate for the fact you forgot to replace the battery in your back light. There’s plenty around, and not much to choose between them, but this one does the job, if you can’t be bothered looking any further...
Hate to break it to you, but you will get more punctures in winter. So get ready for that deflating feeling. It’s likely because the rain washes debris into the road and those sharp bits of glass and stone stick better to wet tyres, so be prepared.
Aside from an inner tube (make your own choice on size and thickness) and a bike pump, you’ll need a repair kit - tyre levers, tube patches (self adhesive, handily) and one of those bike versions of a Swiss Army knife to loosen, tighten and prise as appropriate. This kit is small enough to keep in your bike bag at all times and has the things you’ll need for those swift repairs. Anything more fundamental and you’ll be wheeling it to the nearest bike shop anyhow.
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