The Fair-weather Cyclist’s Guide to Fall & Winter Riding
So you’re a fair-weather cyclist considering taking the plunge into wet weather riding - you’ve come to the right place. Good news, the kilometers you’ve already logged will help with this foray into fall and winter riding, and don’t worry, we were all newbies once. Your first step is to identify what’s different about cycling in the “off-season”. Here are a few keys tips to consider to keep you safe and dry during Vancouver’s most famous season:
Riding during the fall and winter months means you’re probably spending at least part of your commute in the dark. Don’t make the mistake of becoming invisible to other road users. Lights are key. The law in BC requires cyclists to have a white light pointed in the direction they’re travelling visible from 150 m away, a red reflector, and a red rear light from ½ an hour after sunset, to ½ before sunrise. However, lights are encouraged throughout the day, as they lower the risk of getting hit by 47%. Now would be the time to upgrade your turtle lights to something with a little more power. MEC has a great guide to choosing a bike light that works for you.
2. Road conditions
Slippery conditions require earlier braking, gentler turns, and for riders to generally be more attentive and alert. We all know fall in Vancouver means rain and those slippery gutter leaves. Other hazards to watch out for include manhole covers, metal grates, and slick oil puddles. More recently people commuting on Metro Vancouver streets have had to adapt to more snow and black ice. Emergency braking, and feathering your brakes whenever you’re anticipating stopping are two skills that are essential in these months. Finally, if you’re wanting to bike through the snow, changing your tires to a knobbier set will give you the grip you need to get from A to B.
3. Bike Maintenance
Our instructors often speak about nurturing their relationship with their bike.. Your bike will definitely need some special winter TLC. Actions like cleaning your rims before riding (to increase stopping power), and degreasing and lubing your drivetrain more often will go a long way towards maintaining a healthy bike. Bonus points if you can wipe down your bike to clean off some of the dirt, grit, and possible salt from the frame and components after particularly wet rides. If you’re in doubt about whether your bike is winter-ready, or need advice about how to maintain it throughout the season, pay your local bike shop a visit. HUB members get discounts at bike shops across Metro Vancouver.
4. Cycling Gear
The best part of fall and winter riding is the accessories. You don’t have to go out and buy all the high-end waterproof and reflective gear just to ride to work; whatever keeps you warm and dry should be at the top of the list. We love merino wool, neckwarmers, gloves, and stashing an extra pair of socks in our panniers, but fall and winter cycling gear is as unique as the number of people that ride throughout these months. A universal choice, however, would be a set of fenders to keep your back end dry and splash free, and dressing in layers helps on those days when you can’t quite decide if it’s going to pour, or break into sunshine midday. We hope you enjoyed these tips.
Check out our Resources page for more helpful information for riding your bike in Metro Vancouver.