A guide to winter commuting by bike

Danish Bicycle History - Some Things Never Change

It’s cold, wet and dark. Why would you ever commute to work by bike in winter? Well there are a few things that you can do (or have) to make that cycle commute less daunting. Here are some ideas.

Lights

You should have a set of lights charged up; white for the front and red for the rear. If you are in an urban area with lit streets then use flashing modes to help you stand out a bit more.

Be considerate to other road users with your lights though. As a rule of thumb, if your front light is putting out 100 lumens or above, you should check the angle of your mount as you may be dazzling oncoming road users.

Visibility

See and be seen. Apart from having lights, you can also improve your visibility to other road users with reflectives. You will find reflectives on cycling specific clothing and bags. You can also find reflective ankle or arm bands.

Light doesn’t bend around objects or corners* so having lights and reflectives are only part of the solution. Your positioning is more important for seeing and being seen by other road users. All cyclists should consider getting cycle training with a qualified National Standard cycling instructor who can teach you about road positioning and more. We make no apology for the plug; the benefits of cycle training for cyclists of any ability are well documented. For London boroughs where we work, you can book your training session with us for free here!

*Light does bend on the astronomical scale by gravitational lensing as predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity but that probably has no place here.

Layer up

Layering up is the obvious preparation in winter. If you have a long ride, you should pay some attention to your layering set-up so that removing a layer mid-ride is an easy affair. Take a waterproof to work even if it’s dry in the morning; the Met Office can’t be 100% accurate day in, day out.

Cover up

When it inevitably gets bitterly cold, you will want to cover up as much as possible. There are cycling hats that can fit under the helmet and extend down to cover your ears too. A neck warmer is another good purchase as you can pull it up to cover most of your face. A pair of clear glasses is a bit of a luxury but works a treat in the hail or on eye watering descents.

Mudguards

We’re big advocates of full length mudguards. Even if it’s not raining, surface water will linger on the roads for a long time and, without mudguards, you’ll be wearing it all up your back. There’s an added benefit to the cyclist behind you too, in the form of avoiding an unwanted baptism by dirty water.

Black IceBlack Ice

You need to be aware of the possibility of encountering black ice in winter. If you’re “lucky” enough to go over black ice head on, the best countermeasures are: resist the instinct to brake, relax and keep steering straight. If you hit black ice on a corner… you’re in the lap of the gods, sorry.

Obviously, if you are not cycling on the road then you mitigate the risk completely. Assess the roads you ride on; are you in a rural area with sparse traffic or are you in a densely populated urban area? Unsalted rural roads will be peppered with black ice given the right (or wrong) conditions. The timing of your ride is also important; riding urban roads in the morning after peak traffic will slightly lower the chance encountering black ice.

Here we are, well into winter. We’re still commuting by bike so we’ll see you out there!

Diamond bike frame

Sorry if the title’s a bit of a clickbait – you won’t find an actual diamond covered bike here – but what you will find is the classic ‘diamond’ shaped bike frame plus some wonderful variations on the bike frame theme.

The modern bicyclebicycle_frame_diagram

We will leave the story of the origin of the modern bicycle for another day. Most people will recognise a Penny Farthing (known as the ordinary bicycle) which is not the safest option on two wheels: think high centre of gravity combined with stopping quickly and cycling up or down steep hills. So the need for a safer solution was clear. Through many iterations, we eventually settled on bike frames comprising a double triangle, hence the name diamond shaped bike frame.

Extreme variations

Modern technology, competitiveness and human yearning for pushing the boundaries has given us some very unconventional takes on the bicycle theme. The most famous ones must be the Lotus bikes and the Old Faithful.

Chris Boardman rode the Lotus 108 to victory on the track at the 1992 Summer Olympics 4 km Pursuit. He also broke the then hour record on board the Lotus 110. On the other hand, Graeme Obree built the Old Faithful from BMX tubes and bearings from a washing machine and went on to break the hour record on it twice.

Denise Mueller recently set a new women’s bicycle land speed record on board a specially designed bike. It still has the diamond shape but does look like a cousin of a chopper motorcycle. A closer look will reveal a range of suspensions, stabilisers and the double chainrings to give her a gigantic gear ratio on a fixed gear bike.

slingshotLess famously (some might say infamously) the Slingshot has no downtube, one side of the diamond shaped frame being replaced by a taut wire known as SlingPower technology (see pic). A quick search on the interweb reveals they are still selling bikes with this technology (though not massively popular so it must be an acquired taste).

Moderate variations

The triangle is a strong geometric shape which is why it features on bikes wherever possible. And you’ll find them in a lot of civil engineered structures too, as well as the humble corrugated cardboard. However, some commonly used bikes do away with the double triangle, diamond shaped frame.

The most obvious is perhaps the step through bike but fold up bikes and tandems have also done away with the diamond shaped frame for good functional reasons. Less commonly seen are recumbents and adapted cycles. Some of these may be heavier to make sure they are strong enough but none of them involves cycling 6 feet off the ground like a Penny Farthing, phew.

Consolation

To make up for the lack of diamond covered bikes in this world, there is a gold plated bike which was made by Ernesto Colnago for Pope John Paul II in 1979. Not many people would return a gold plated bike but that’s exactly what the Pope did after a year, stating that he wanted a bike with flat handlebars. Which Colnago duly delivered.

 

Cycle Confident’s Christmas Crossword

This week’s blog is a Christmas Special! If you’re feeling like you see the same old Christmas festivities every year, then gather round for our Christmas Cycling Crossword! Pre-heat room to 15-20 degrees Celcius, blend equal measures of Christmas and cycling, bake in well oiled brain and have a Merry Christmas!

You can also click here to download the PDF version for printing out. You will still need internet access for two of the answers though. Here are the two links that you will need for clue 1 and clue 10.

CC Christmas Crossword Image

 

Give the gift of wheel building knowledge

Need a Christmas present idea that’s perfect for the bike enthusiast who seems to have it all already? Look no further. Our Demystify Wheel Building course is the perfect gift!

wheel-building

Taking City & Guilds standards and our teaching experience, we’ve developed this 2 day course to take students from minimal prior knowledge to being able to build a wheel from scratch. The aim is to give you
the knowledge, resources and confidence to tackle selecting your own components, calculating spoke lengths and building your own wheel to the standard that is expected in the industry.

On Day 1

Working in our accredited, fully equipped training workshop in Oval, you’ll learn first about the materials and components. After this, you’ll go on to rim, hub and frame compatibility, comparing lacing patterns before learning how to calculate spoke lengths for different hubs and rims for any wheel set. We end day 1 with lacing your spokes to hub and rim.

On Day 2

Having dreamt about spokes all night you’ll come in fresh to learn about truing and tensioning. You’ll learn and then practice how to properly tension and pre stress a wheel to prevent damage and reduce problems down the line and you’ll practice tensioning and making the wheel true to the tolerances expected across the bike industry.

Finally, you’ll stand back, marvel at your brilliance and return home basking in the glow of skills learnt having conquered the dark art of wheel building.

Course Dates are Saturday and Sunday 18th-19th Feb.

Cost is £200 for a 2-day course. Here’s the link to book:

http://www.cycleconfident.com/events/f9d17d86-3bf1-4635-af21-bab3a97bf2ce/

Merry Cycling!