All Weather Cycling
Whether it’s typical rainy spring weather or blustery winter, you’ll see people riding bicycles to, from, and around campus all year long. All weather commuting is a challenge (and certainly not for everyone), but it’s also a badge of honor for those who brave the elements. Check out these tips and tricks to keep you pedaling—warm and dry—all year long.
Weather & Road Conditions
Sign up for UK Alert, UK's emergency notification system, for information about closures and delays. Be sure you check the local weather before heading out. A trustworthy weather app is a cyclist’s best friend! And remember, you can always leave your bike on campus and return home via an alternative method if the weather or road conditions worsen during the day.
See and Be Seen
Visibility is more important than usual on inclement weather days, as motorists may have a small range of vision due to precipitation, fog, or glare from snow and ice. The best things you can do are wear bright or reflective outer layers, make eye contact with people in motor vehicles, and use bright front and rear lights. Lastly, be prepared. Even if you don’t think your commute will occur during poor weather or dark hours, plan for those conditions just in case.
- Slow down. The roads may be slippery, so expect to take longer to reach your destination, and plan that time into your commute. It also takes more time to put on all of your gear, so give yourself a few extra minutes to get ready.
- Don’t hesitate to dismount. If you’re worried about falling, or think an area is too dangerous to ride over—walk. You can keep one hand on the brake lever and use your bike for stability until you navigate to safer ground.
- Be aware of your surroundings and the road or sidewalk conditions. Watch for black ice or puddles, and note that wet leaves and painted lines on the street are going to be slicker than clear pavement.
- Take turns wider and stay upright around corners. If you lean too hard, your wheels may slip out from underneath you.
- Ride on clear pavement when available. Don’t be afraid to take the lane if there is snow in the bike lanes or on the sidewalks.
- Anticipate stops ahead of time. If the road is slick or your brakes are wet, it will take longer to stop.
- Ride defensively. Make eye contact with drivers, limit sudden movements, and always signal your intent, keeping in mind that drivers may have low visibility.
- Don’t ride through puddles if you can’t see how deep they are or what’s hiding under the water.
- Roll with the fall. If you must take an unanticipated fall, don't fight it. Try to tuck and roll!
Maintenance & Storage
Your bicycle always needs regular cleaning and maintenance, but it’s even more important in the winter due to the dirt and salt picked up from wet or snowy roads. It's always a good idea brush off snow and slush from the frame and chain. Remember that if your brakes are wet, it will take longer to come to a stop. Don't forget to clean and lubricate the chain regularly to keep it from getting rusty or squeaky.
- Bundle up! Your extremities are the most susceptible to cold. However, overdressing can cause problems just like under dressing, so choose your layers wisely. A weatherproof outer shell, as opposed to long underwear, can be easily removed once you reach your destination.
- Hands: Keeping your hands warm is key, so choose layers that are both water- and wind-proof. A combination of wind-proof over-mittens and lightweight gloves provide warmth and allow you to operate your lock and keys.
- Head: Many options are available for keeping your ears warm while still being able to wear a helmet. Some helmets even have integrated ear muffs. Wearing a balaclava (face mask) is a great option to keep your neck, ears and nose warm.
- Feet: Wool socks or thick synthetics designed for wicking moisture, and water-resistant shoes or boots will keep your feet warm and dry. You can also buy shoe covers that slip on and off to help protect your footwear that wasn’t mean for all-weather.
- Legs: Your legs are going to be doing most of the work, so they are the last area you want to layer up. On the coldest days, thin synthetic or silk long underwear under your pants and/or weatherproof over pants will do the trick. Rain pants will be crucial in wet weather.
Winter Bike Accessories
- Fenders to cover your wheels are crucial to keep water and slush from getting on your clothes.
- Seat covers are handy to keep your saddle dry, but a plastic bag will work in a pinch!
- Bike lights are absolutely necessary, and required by law.
- Waterproof backpack or panniers to keep your personal belongings dry on your commute will make your life much easier.
Not every day will be a cycling day for everyone. For those days when biking isn’t the best fit for you, here are some of your other transportation options: