Let Jon Marks at Back In The Saddle Bikes guide you through the best ways to winter-proof you and your bike as 2021 draws to a close.
Whether you’re new to cycling, returning after many years away, or looking to cycle more, there’s never been a better time to get you and your bike ready. The huge rise in the number of people rediscovering the joys of cycling during the pandemic, and the significant government investment aimed at persuading more Londoners to make trips on two wheels, make travelling around Hounslow borough by bike a great choice. Save money you’d otherwise spend running a car or using public transport.
1) See and be seen.
This is particularly important if you’re cycling home after sunset during rush hour, and not just because lights are a legal requirement. A decent set of LED lights doesn’t have to cost much, and if your lights run off rechargeable batteries, they’ll often go for weeks at a time, and there won’t be a steady stream of batteries heading to landfill or recycling.
2) “There’s no such thing as the wrong weather, just the wrong equipment.”
This is a bit of a cliché, but that’s because there’s more than a grain of truth to it. Very few people like riding in the wet, but modern fabrics like Gore-Tex combine breathability, warmth and rain resistance all in one attractive garment. The initial outlay might seem expensive, but you’ll never regret buying proper cycling clothes which should last for years.
3) The 3 Ms – mudguards, mudguards, mudguards.
Someone looking to get to work at an average speed of 20mph on a £2000 carbon-fibre racer might choose to ride without mudguards (especially if they have shower facilities at work). Everyone else should seriously be considering mudguards. They don’t just keep you cleaner, they help keep a useful amount of crud off your bike too, ensuring it runs better for longer. What’s not to like?
4) Never too ‘tyred’ to ride.
There’s nothing more annoying than being halfway to your destination and suffering that deflated feeling that comes with a puncture. Tyres that suit the summer months aren’t going to have the sort of puncture resistance you’ll need for autumn and winter, when rain washes to the sides of the road the bits of glass, grit, and general road detritus that cause punctures. Schwalbe’s Marathon and Marathon Plus ranges have a well-deserved reputation for being very hard wearing and almost puncture-proof. Continental’s Gatorskins are similarly effective. You could also try solid tyres and tubeless tyres, though these are currently more fiddly to fit and often a more expensive way to roll.
5) Show your bike some TLC.
Autumn and winter are hard on bikes, and the risk of something going wrong on your ride is undoubtedly higher at these times of year. Consider having your bike serviced to get it properly prepared for the next 5-6 months.
6) Make sure you’re tooled up.
Even after a service, things can still go wrong en route. No sensible cyclist heading in the direction of coffee and cake should be without a small but capable set of tools, backed up by a puncture repair kit and one or two spare inner tubes (for those times when a patch isn’t going to be enough). Even if all you carry with you is a basic multi-tool and some pre-glued patches, you should still be able to avoid calling a cab or leaving your bike somewhere other than your home or workplace, and increasing the likelihood of it being stolen.
7) Prevention is better than cure.
While one of the borough’s bike workshops will know how to deal with all the health problems that can affect a bike, a little regular care at home can go a long way towards reducing repair bills. Keep your bike’s frame clean with one of the sprays from companies like Tru-Tension, whose concentrated, biodegradable washes will maintain its shine without creating a pile of plastic waste. A good chain cleaner is a must, and there are plenty around these days which won’t harm the environment. The same goes for lubricants, where a thinner, lighter summer oil should now ideally be replaced with something thicker that’s not going to be washed off your chain the first time it gets wet.
8) Eat, sleep, ride, repeat.
As we’re all more aware these days, a good diet and proper sleep have a big impact on health generally, and particularly energy levels. If you’re thinking of riding more regularly, or commuting further to work outside the borough, make sure you keep your own batteries charged.
9) Make time for some downtime.
Hounslow is full of lovely places to ride, as well as lots of history. Why not plan some routes through parks like Osterley, Gunnersbury, and Lampton for example, or along the borough’s canal paths, or explore some of the quiet back roads and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods?
10) Don’t forget to smile.
As so many people have found out during the pandemic, cycling is fun, relaxing, energising and great for putting worries to one side. Whether you’re riding for leisure, to discover the borough, or to get to work, don’t forget to enjoy the ride.