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Be careful out there, there’s less traction at times!
Now that autumn and wetter roads are approaching, I feel the need to put fingers to keyboard. I penned this after a particularly wet commute to work, then posted it to a couple of cycling forums. The suggestions that some people made have been taken on board and added to the below. If you have any other suggestions, mail me.
Make sure your bicycle is properly prepared. Check your tyre pressures, make sure everything is lubed and adjusted.
Things to look out for and avoid.
- Painted markings
- Metal drain covers and manholes (these are usually on bends directly in your path)
- Metal studs, such as at pedestrian crossings, and cats-eyes in the middle of the road.
- Rainbow coloured splotches (they’re oil, if they’re diesel they also smell and you may smell them before you see them)
- wet leaves (they may hide potholes or p*ncture fairies)
- on a particularly cold morning when ice may have formed, it will be worse in shadows and other “micro-climates”. Be alert and aware.
- Wooden surfaces, for example bridges in parks can be lethal when wet (if this is on an official cycle route it may be worthwhile identifying this hazard to the council)
- Mud can be very slippery when wet. Look out near field entrances or building sites.
- Cobbled streets can also be tricky.
If you do need to go over one of these problems, relax and try to go in as straight a line as safety allows.
Things to remember
- Your tyres only provide traction for one activity; braking, steering or accelerating. Do not risk losing traction by braking or sprinting around bends. Brake on the approach, flow round, ride away.
- Your brakes will be a lot less efficient in the wet, especially if you have rim brakes and are on very wet roads.
- The way you ride is much more important than the kit you use. Having said that, some brake blocks, tyres, etc are better than others.
- Your stopping distance in the wet is greatly increased. Leave plenty of room.
- A back wheel slide under braking is controllable, a front wheel slide isn’t as easy to recover from. Go easy on that front brake.
- If on very slippery surfaces, keep pedalling while you use the back brake. This will stop the wheel locking.
- Drivers may have problems seeing through rainy or steamy windscreens. Think about this and whether you have clothing or lights to help you be seen.
- Pedestrians may have their hoods up to shield them from the rain. This will mean they may not have seen you and so step off the pavement in front of you.
- New tarmac may be greasy and slippery. All roads will be greasy and slippery if it hasn’t rained for some time. Roads that have been gritted (to prevent icing) will actually absorb moisture, so may be greasy and slippery.
- Warm/waterproof clothing may make you much more comfortable, helping you to concentrate on riding safely.
- If a stream crosses your path it may be bringing sand and gravel with it. This can be slippery and unexpected especially on a bend.
- Cycle Paths are not maintained to Highway standards in the winter so may well be iced or covered in slippery wet leaves and other fallen tree debris.
- If you wear glasses, consider wearing a hat with a peak to keep the rain off of them.
- Puddles may hide a deep pot hole or other obstruction. Try not to ride through them, especially if you can't see the bottom
- Fit mudguards. They will make riding much more comfortable.
- If you stay warm and comfortable your concentration will be higher and there will be less chance of a problem. Wear good gloves and overshoes as well as your waterproofs.
And above all, don't forget that riding in the wet will be second nature to you after a while. There should be nothing to worry about if you follow the above.
Now get out there and have fun
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