The Corona crisis triggered a real bike boom. In June 2020, Berlin counted 26 percent more cyclists compared to June 2019. The German bicycle association ZIV states 3,200,000 bicycles and e-bikes sold during the first six months of the year, which is an increase by almost ten percent compared to the previous year. Now, the number of infections is rising rapidly again. Many people are afraid of getting infected on the bus or train.
But is the bicycle also an adequate alternative in the cold season? In any case, the conditions for cyclists change in autumn and winter: Foliage, rain, snow and darkness make riding harder.
It is all the more important that you think about how to reach your destination safely in poor weather conditions. Here are a few tips regarding equipment, riding technique and maintenance of the material not only useful to know for unskilled cyclists:
1) Protecting the upper body with air
Especially on slippery roads it is important to protect the body. Also in everyday life it can be reasonable not only to protect the head with a helmet. There are chest protectors which are mainly worn by sports cyclists racing downhill with skill and at full speed.
2) Lighting: avoid too little and too much
Does a lot helps a lot? Some cyclists are riding through the night like blinking Christmas trees. But this is rather counter-productive. Too exotic lighting systems are rather confusing and dazzle or distract. And not every product offered on the internet is approved for use on public roads. In general, the following applies: A bicycle needs a working front lamp and rear light, front and rear reflectors, spoke reflectors and pedal reflectors. And this not only in winter.
Some new lighting products are nevertheless reasonable from the expert’s point of view. They can be used with the following loophole in mind: According to Dirk Zedler, owner of the same-named institute for bicycle technology and safety, you are not allowed to add parts or carry out modifications beyond the German Road Traffic Licensing Regulations (StVZO). As regards your clothes, you are allowed to do nearly all you want. This also includes the helmet. Today, modern helmets are real small-scale discos. The "BH51 M Neo" from Lival, for example, has LEDs at its back which can be activated via a button on the handlebar and thus indicate the direction you want to turn. Built-in bluetooth speakers play music, navigation information or transmit calls from the mobile phone. And a brake light is also included.
3) Keeping kids warm in the cargo bike
Particularly in cities, more and more adults take their kids to the day care centre or school by cargo bike. Siegfried Brockmann explains that kids do not move inside the trailer or cargo bike and therefore have to be dressed warmly, this includes also a cap under the helmet.
4) Making tyres, brakes and chain safe for the winter
Winter tyres bring advantages - this applies to both the car and the bicycle. According to Dirk Zedler, there are specific compounds providing more grip in the cold. A rough tread helps, however, only with really plenty of snow, not with icy roads. For those who cycle every day, it is reasonable to mount spikes, says the engineer. Depending on the foreseeable weather conditions it may also be advisable to only mount spikes to the front wheel to avoid a too high rolling resistance.
Making the brakes safe for the winter, i.e. readjusting or replacing them, if necessary, is another important point. In particular, rim brakes lose their braking force in wet conditions, sometimes significantly. For this reason, there are models available which are particularly suitable for the season. Before the first frost, you should lubricate all joints of the bicycle, according to Zedler from the brake lever to the rear derailleur. He also recommends the accurate sealing of metallic and painted surfaces with hard wax, but to carefully clean the bicycle beforehand. When this is done, only the chain needs regular attention: During the winter months it has to be wiped off very often with a dry and absorbing cloth and to be lubricated again.
5) Saving pedelec batteries from freezing
We know this from our mobile phone battery: When it is particularly cold outside, it loses power. This principle also applies to the batteries of e-bikes. Their range may reduce by one quarter during the winter. The General German Cyclists Club (ADFC) therefore recommends that you store the battery at ambient temperature, i.e. in living spaces, if possible, and mount it directly before the ride to counteract losses in capacity. In addition, you should not recharge it until it has been lying in a warm surrounding for a while. Otherwise it will take up less power.
6) Riding safety: observing the forces of physics
During driving lessons, car drivers learn how to behave correctly at the wheel when the roads are wet and slippery. Cyclists are usually learning by doing. One basic rule helps, however, to avoid falls. If possible, do not pedal or brake on wet foliage, snow and ice in bends, because there is little grip on the ground. You should also keep a much greater distance from other cyclists to be able to brake moderately without skidding. Slippery road markings and cobblestones are nasty in winter. Be particularly careful on them as well as on bridges, where it is often particularly cold and where the water freezes faster on the lane.
7) Clothes: working with layers
Cycling during the winter months is only fun with adequate clothes. And this does not mean that you dig out the old snow suit and race as Michelin man through the city. This is uncomfortable, you chafe your bottom and break out in sweat. The golden attributes for cycling clothes in winter are therefore: breathable, rain repellent and windproof.
Read the entire article.
Author: Lena Frommeyer
Ludwigsburger Kreiszeitung, 2020/12/11
Der Mittelstand, 6/2020
IHK Magazin Wirtschaft, November 2020