Winter arrives, the days get shorter and cooler, and people start to give up their bikes for their warm dry cars. The BUG fights to get people out of their cars, and onto more environmentally friendly transport, only to see them get straight back into them again at the first hint of rain. People who donít ride regularly, if at all, think the idea of riding in winter is laughable and Iíll admit I do prefer my car on stormy days and cold winter evenings. When I can though I do try to ride to UWA regardless of the season. In this section of the website thereís a list of tips to make winter cycling more comfortable, firstly though I want to give a list of reasons why it is often BETTER to ride in winter than to drive.
Why is it sometimes better to ride in winter, rather than drive? Well, there arenít that many good reasons, but at least there are some:
Youíre not the only one who prefers to drive in winter, with the first rainy day traffic banks-up for kilometers. On my driving route to and from UWA the traffic is a nightmare in winter. It can take me 30 minutes to drive one kilometer to my freeway entrance.† If you ride you get to avoid this sort of problem. I know I get a sick satisfaction riding quickly past lines and lines of banked up cars.
Riding warms you up. Getting hot from riding in summer is replaced by being warm and cozy in winter. On a chilly winter mornings it is definitely very pleasant to show up to work nice and warm.
That brings up another point; unfortunately you do often get hot and sweaty when riding a bike, it is great exercise after all. However, in winter you donít work up a sweat in quite the same way. You can ride quite a long way before you need a shower and a good soaking of deodorant. So if being sweaty bugs you, but you feel you should ride more, perhaps you should consider riding in winter.
Talking about being hot and sweaty raises another issue. Winter is often the time when people give up sports and complain of getting no exercise. If you can stick to riding you might make up for it.
If rain is what really bothers you, as opposed to the cold, remember that Perth doesnít have that many rainy days. For example, according the Weather Bureau in July there are on average 18 rainy days. That means that 40 % of the days donít have rain! That is nearly two weeks in the middle of winter when it doesnít rain! So check the forecast to see if it is raining and if it isnít then get on your bike!
Finally, riding in to UWA on a cold winters morning is a great way to wake yourself up, trust me.
Hopefully you might find some of these to be convincing reason why you should be riding to UWA in winter. There are plenty of diehards who will ride in regardless of the weather. If you arenít that intrepid though then by all means use your car if it is blowing a gale, but if it is only sprinkling or no rain is forecast for that day then do the right thing and get on your bike.
Okay, so youíve decided to ride to UWA in winter. There are a few simple things you can do to make your life more comfortable:
It is cold in winter so you will probably want to rug up. In reality Perth isnít Siberia, it doesnít get that cold here, i wear a long sleeve shirt with a short sleeve shirt under it and i usually stay warm enough. If you are riding 10 or 20 kilometers to UWA then just grin and bear it.† If the cold does bother you a lot though and it isnít raining then wear a jumper and perhaps gloves, cool wind can make your fingers very cold.
It helps to wear a fabric that breaths. I have tried wearing plastic rain jackets only to find my self soaked in sweat underneath them. To avoid getting sweaty you could try a jacket made from a water proof fabric that does breath, like Gortex (see our links page for places to buy gear). However, I have found the best policy is, if it is raining, to just accept the fact that you are going to get wet. I wear synthetic shorts and two shirts. They are usually sufficient to keep me warm, once you start riding you quickly warm up.
So your clothes get all wet riding, what do you do then? Bring a dry set of clothes and change at the university. To bring dry clothes you will obviously need a dry bag. You can get water proof (or at least water resistant) bags designed for cycling or hiking. Alternately just pack your things in a plastic bag.
What should you do with wet gear? As a student this was a big problem I faced. I have the luxury of an office now, I hang my wet gear out and it is usually dry by the afternoon. Before I had an office I discovered that I could just hang my clothes on my bike, which I parked undercover, and they would be dry by the afternoon. Now, some people, donít ask me why, steal wet clothes off bikes. The way to avoid this is to tie your shirts on with a knot in the sleeve. If people are really determined this wonít stop them, so thread your bike lock through the clothes.
Having a shower in winter is something people often want and your faculty will often have a shower available, mine does. The sports center has showers although I am not sure if they are open to staff and students in general.
How do you avoid getting wet? Or at least minimize getting wet? Some thing people donít realize is that a lot of the water that gets on you when it rains is actually from the road. Light rain doesnít get you that wet, it is all the water lying in puddles that sprays up on you. They way to avoid this is to get mudguards on your bike. You can get these from most bike stores and they are easy to attach and then remove in summer.
Riding in winter does pose problems for your bike. Water and dirt get kicked up from the road and onto your bike. Perth is built on old coastal sand dunes which unfortunately means that there is sand every where. The sand will spray off the road and get into the moving parts of your bike and effectively grind them away. My colleagues assure me that this doesnít happen in other parts of the world. So in winter you need to take more time keeping your bike clean. A regular intervals get some kerosene or other mild solvents and use them to clean your chain and gears. You can do this with a tooth brush and rag. I some times use a spray bottle and Ďmistí the kero over my bike. I then pour hot soapy water† over the bike to rinse of the kero and then gently hose the bike off.† Once youíve done this re-oil the chain and other moving parts (see out maintenance page). Doing this should ensure your bike stay well maintained over winter.
A final thing to consider about riding in winter is safety. Remember, roads will get slippery, you might find that braking quickly will make you slide-out. So be careful about breaking and going around corners. Be wary of cars too, they canít stop as fast either. Also be aware that it can be darker during the day in winter. This means cars, pedestrians and other cyclists wonít be able to see you as easily. There are also less daylight hours, so the sun can go down while you are still at uni. It is dangerous and illegal to ride without lights at night so make sure you have them on you.
All this may sound like a hassle. You may just think, bugger it, it is easier to drive. Sometimes it is, I agree, but donít take what just appears to be the easy option. Think carefully about the situation, if this sounds like a hassle remember that driving is also a hassle in winter. You have to sit in slow traffic, burning through fuel, and then you canít find parking because every one else has also driven to UWA. If you ride you just replace one hassle with another. Cycling, on the other hand, has other economic and physical benefits that make up for it. You avoid traffic, you donít spend any money on fuel, you donít need to look for a parking spot, and you get exercise. So consider winter cycling, you might be pleasantly surprised!