5 Tips for Cycling to Work in Bad Weather

Your Bad Weather Cycling Survival Guide for Work

Cycling to work in bad weather can be rough, both on your bike and yourself.

Maybe you’re one of the hardcore heroes who cycles to work no matter the weather. Or maybe you’re a fair weather cyclist (no judgement) who just wants to know how to prepare in case you get caught out on a day that turns, leaving you no choice except to brave the bad weather to get back home.

Here are our five top tips to cycling as comfortably as possible in bad weather.

Be More Cautious Than Usual

If the weather is bad, it can be tempting to speed your way home to shelter before it gets even worse. But, in a situation where the roads are already wet, painted lines, crosswalks, and steel grates can become slippery - and the faster you’re going, the less time you have to react if you lose traction.

It’s up to you to make a judgement call on whether it’s safe to cycle home or if it’s better to take shelter. If bad weather hits when you’re completely unprepared for it, you might just have to break Rule 5 and wait it out until the weather clears up enough to ride.

Even the most dedicated commuter cyclists have a limit, and you should always put your safety before your ego.

Fit Mudguards

Some cyclists don’t like the look of mudguards, but do you know what’s worse? Having mud or water kicked up into your face and back. Riding wet isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, but riding wet and cold can sap your motivation for cycling pretty quickly.

If it’s raining or has been for the past few days, consider fitting mudguards before your next commute.

They aren’t just for you: Riding without mudguards can also kick up debris onto other cyclists on group rides or, if you’re commuting to work or riding on mixed-use paths, onto pedestrians. It’s pretty much guaranteed to make you the least popular person on the path.

And don’t forget about your bike - water and mud can get into your drivetrain which, if you let it dry, can start to corrode your chain, cassette, chainrings, derailleurs, and brake calipers.

Clean Your Bike After Every Ride

Yes, every time. Some cyclists swear by cleaning their bike after every ride regardless of the season, but if a full clean is too much for you, you should at least be wiping down your bike after every ride.

Snow, slush, rain, and road salt can all do to your bike in winter what dust does in summer: It gets into nooks and crannies and starts to rust or seize parts. You should be particularly aware of snow and water because, in the winter months, the weather isn’t warm enough for them to evaporate before they work their way into parts that are tricky to clean.

While road salt is important to break up ice on the roads, it can be corrosive to your bike. Along with wiping it down, take a sponge or toothbrush to your drive chain along with other smaller components.  

In short, it saves you a lot of time and effort to give your bike a quick wipe-down after every ride rather than doing a big clean every now and then, because by that point the damage might already be done.

Keep Your Lights On

While all cyclists will know to use their light in poor visibility or in the evenings, it can be easy to forget that in winter you may need it during the day too - bad weather can come on at any moment and you don’t want to be caught without lights.

Remember, lights aren’t just to illuminate your path. Half of their purpose is to ensure that you’re visible to motorists. Even if you can see clearly enough that you think you don’t need them, consider whether you’re visible to other road users.

Stay Warm (But Not Hot)

The most important factor for cycling in bad weather is keeping yourself warm and dry. After all, there’s no point in trying to brave the bad weather if you’re wet, cold, and uncomfortable - you’ll likely lose all motivation after the first couple of rides.

As the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

Figuring out how to keep yourself warm and dry (without getting hot and sweaty) is an art and can only truly be achieved by learning what works best for you. Here are some tips you can try for finding your perfect balance:

  • When it comes to cycling in bad weather, waterproof, windproof, and thermal clothing are your best friends. Thick clothing may be tempting, but you’re likely to find yourself getting sweaty even when the weather is wet - so breathability is vital.
  • The old wive’s tale that you lose 30% of your body heat via your head isn’t totally accurate, but you do lose a lot of heat from your head. Consider wearing a cycling cap, helmet cover, or aero cover to keep the warmth in.
  • Cycling in cold temperatures can make your eyes water - literally. Wear a pair of glasses (ideally with clear lenses if there isn’t much sun) and a buff to keep your face and eyes from getting icy. If you’re cycling in the rain, don’t wear glasses unless they’re hydrophobic or wear a cycling cap to stop the rain from getting directly into your eyes.

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