Whether spring, summer, autumn or winter – riding a bike is fun at all times of the year. Here are some tips to help you to be even better prepared for your excursions on two wheels.
The bicycle is the most environmentally-friendly means of getting around: a quiet, efficient, quick and climate-friendly vehicle for getting from A to B – and economical, too. If you cycle regularly, you are also doing something for your health too. Not only does your cardiac volume increase, but circulation also improves with sufficiently-regular exercise. At high speeds, the body burns up to 500 calories per hour – not to mention how the physical activity can relieve stress.
80 per cent of German households own at least one bike, and that figure is likely to have risen significantly higher during 2020. To date, the bicycle has mainly been used during leisure time and on holidays. But why not use it regularly for the commute to work – and throughout the year? In that regard, the old saying still holds true: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.
Here are key tips for each season on how to keep yourself and your bicycle fit:
The sun is a more regular visitor, trees and plants are blooming – it’s an instant call to get out and about on your bike. But before you set off, you should give your bike a thorough once-over.
Clean your bike using water, detergent and a simple sponge – a high-pressure washer could damage sensitive parts. Make specific checks on the tyres, brakes and chain. Examine the tyres for cracks and damage, and pump them up sufficiently – you can find the correct tyre pressure marked on the outer tyre. The spokes should also be correctly tensioned. Next, check the brakes and the Bowden cables. As a rule of thumb, when pulling on the brake lever you should still have around a two-centimetre gap to the handlebars. The chain should be well lubricated – regular care protects it against rust. After that, check your lights, tighten any loose screws, and away you go!
It’s important to be prepared for changeable weather conditions. In the mornings and evenings it can be very cold, but mild during the day. Occasionally, there will also be heavy rain and wind. The best advice is to wear several thin layers of clothing, which you can comfortably put on or take off as needed. Light outerwear that can be rolled up and stashed away in your work bag is ideal as rain protection. Ponchos are less good in protecting against rain and spray if the wind is blowing, and can also act like a sail, requiring you to pedal harder to counter the wind. C
heck that the head covering is sufficiently large to accommodate your helmet – or use a suitable helmet cover. If you wear glasses, you should wear a cap with a peak to keep the raindrops off them. It’s also worth getting some warm, water-repellent gloves. A scarf or snood is great for keeping nasty breezes out.
Even if the days are getting longer again – reflective clothing makes you more visible to other road users.
In spring, the roads can be wet, and in some places there can also be a ground frost. Be prepared for that, and adjust your speed and riding style to the prevailing weather conditions. And be mindful of the fact that other people will also want to enjoy the spring weather, and the roads are a lot busier than in autumn or winter.
Warm and dry: summer is THE season for relaxed cycling. The wind in your face as you ride is pleasantly cooling. However, the heat in particular presents challenges for cyclists.
Lubricate the chain regularly and give your bicycle a regular visual check-over.
Be sure to drink enough, and at short, regular intervals – up to one litre per hour. The most suitable drinks are mineral water or fruit juice spritzers. Small snacks can give you energy. Use sun-cream to prevent sunburn; it’s best to choose waterproof products which will not run off even if you are sweating. Applying an insect repellent is also advisable, particularly if your route runs through wooded areas. Avoid the midday sun as far as possible, and go cycling in the morning or evening instead – and with well-scheduled, regular breaks you won’t have any unexpected surprises.
Clothes should be breathable and possibly absorbent. Special jerseys allow plenty of air through, while some products also protect against UV radiation. For some cyclists it might be worth wearing special cycling shoes, which are more breathable.
A bandana can protect the neck against the sun’s rays, while sunglasses keep the rays out of the rider’s eyes, and a head covering guards against sunstroke.
In summer, there are many cyclists out and about on the roads and cycle paths, including inexperienced riders – so show consideration!
In autumn, protection against the rain is the main priority. A saddle cover ensures a dry behind, waterproof panniers (from around EUR 80) provide storage to protect against the rain, while your mobile phone can be sheltered in a rainproof holder. Your lights are also important: the requirement for a dynamo-powered set-up has been done away with, and battery-powered lights are permitted. An integrated hub dynamo can ensure trouble-free generation of current, while modern LED lamps are very high-performance. To keep the battery on e-bikes and pedelecs warm, special neoprene covers are available.
As in the spring, the rule is to be prepared for changeable weather conditions – and for the fact that the days are shortening again. Rain and wind become the daily norm, so it’s advisable to wear several thin layers of clothing which you can comfortably put on and take off as needed. Light outerwear that can be rolled up and stashed away in your work bag is ideal as rain protection. It’s also worth getting some warm, water-repellent gloves. A scarf or snood is great for keeping nasty breezes out.
Autumn is leaf-time – and wet leaves can be fairly slippery. Accordingly, take care when cycling.
According to a Forsa survey, 29 per cent of Germans still go cycling in winter. There are plenty of benefits from doing so: the body is better conditioned, and you avoid the risk of infection from using public transport. During this dark season, cyclists have better chances of being able to top up their vitamin D by riding in the sunshine.
(Stage photo: © Noelle Otto/Pexels)
With the wet and cold, the risk of accidents also increases, so check your brakes and tyres regularly. Being seen is particularly important during this dark time of year – working lights and high-visibility clothing can help to avoid accidents. If there is lying snow, you can reduce the air pressure in the tyres a little; be guided by the information on the tyre.
In winter, the body requires more energy to regulate its temperature. For that reason, avoid extreme effort and be sure to drink enough – the body loses a lot of humidity through breathing.
The biggest challenge in winter is the cold, in combination with humidity. A windproof jacket, thermal trousers and breathable functional underwear help in regulating temperature. A bandana can keep the neck warm. When it comes to gloves, make sure that they move easily, so that you can grip well. After that, just some suitable shoes and possibly gaiters – and then you are well wrapped up for some relaxed cycling.
Ice and snow can dampen your cycling pleasure – special winter spiked tyres can increase grip. Under normal conditions, though, tyres with a good profile should be up to the job too. The most important thing is to be extremely careful while out and about!
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