Everything can be carried on the bike

It is an annual milestone: the first time that the bike lights need to be on both on the way in to work in the morning and on the way home in the evening. After that the weather only gets worse. First wind and rain, followed by the cold, snow and ice. Too wet, too cold, too dark. Fear of winter may be fatal for a lot of bikers. And then the cycle is put away in the cycle shed. I too had doubts for a long time, but thanks to the right accessories I finally managed to become totally reconciled to winter. Even to the point, that I truly relish bad weather. Pulling up my legs, while my bike sails through a deep puddle gives me the same excitement as I experienced when jumping into deep puddles as a child. A water world darkened by raindrops may be picturesque because of the threatening dark grey clouds, reflecting puddles and impressive fountains escaping from car tyres racing past. And then there is the smell of fresh rain….delicious!
This might sound crazy, but since I know what gear to wear for which weather, I find I arrive in a drier condition than those who parked their car in the street and then had to run in the rain for the last bit of the way. All that remains is really only a psychological threshold: just go outside and get going! 

DURING DARK WEATHER

  • Cycle lights are often divided into two categories: lights that allow you to be seen and lights that allow you to see. The latter ones are not cheap, but they do ensure that you can cycle anywhere – also along a more pleasant route where there might be fewer streetlights. Moreover, if you are certain that you can easily be seen, you need to break less at crossroads. You also have a better view of the holes, humps or glass splinters on your route that might cause a flat tyre. USB-rechargeable bike lights offer the most comfort. You do not need to store any batteries and you can easily recharge the lights from the computer at work.
 
  • Fluorescent vests are not popular. Understandably, for they really look awful. You could take a more subtle approach by using a reflecting backpack cover for instance, or by attaching reflecting bands to your knees or ankles. Because of the rotating movement these are more noticeable anyway. Thanks to the global cycle madness there are occasional sights of a few trendy reflective cycling jackets. 

CYCLE ACCESSORIES FOR ALL WEATHERS

Tips for bikers from Sander at Cargo-Velo in Gent:
  • The cycle bag is your most important kit. Be prepared to invest some money there. The additional expense will be offset by many years of comfort. The better types of cycle bag, such as Ortlieb or Vaude, have been made from a solid, rubbery and waterproof material, comparable to lorry tarpaulin. Choose a cycle bag that you can attach with a hook and in one movement on your bike rack. That allows you to take the bag into the shop or into work.
 
  • (Courier) backpacks have been developed especially for bikers. These are waterproof, super strong, are comfortable on your back and have an adjusted shape to allow you to stack up as much as possible inside. When loading, put the heaviest weight on the top, the lightest in the bottom, i.e. the opposite from loading a backpack for walking. In this way you can prevent back pain when cycling.
 
  • You can find cycle baskets in all shapes and colours. They may be fashioned from wicker, wood, metal or plastic. Some baskets can be removed from the handlebar in a jiffy, after which you can take them indoors like a carry basket.
 
  • Most bikes only have a rear mounted bike rack, but you can also transport things over your front wheel. On the front mounted rack you may fit a wicker basket, a plastic box, or a wooden crate or you could attach larger objects with a lashing strap, for instance.
 
  • When transporting fragile items, your own body is the best shock absorber. It is best to transport a cake or glass item in a backpack. On the worst parts of the road, you can stand up on your bike away from the saddle in order to keep the content of your backpack as far away as possible from the vibrations. 

IN WET WEATHER CONDITIONS

  • The ideal rain gear, which you simply wear on top of your everyday clothing, is waterproof including the seams, but at the same time it is moisture wicking material to keep your self-produced monsoons under control.
 
  • A rain cap or hat keeps the raindrops pretty well away from your face. When you wear a hat, your vision is also wider than with a rain hood over your head.
 
  • Waterproof socks protect you against wet as well as cold feet.
 
  • Most city bikes are equipped with mudguards and a chain guard, which stop the dirt and rain coming up from underneath. 

IN COLD WEATHER CONDITIONS

The secret of dressing for winter is to dress in several layers that you can put on or take off depending on whether the temperature goes up or down. If you like it hot, you don’t necessarily have to dress in thick clothing.                                                                                                                                                                           
  • On the coldest days I wear a sub-layer of close fitting thermal underwear, from my posterior to my ankles, and from my navel to my wrists. On top of that I wear my everyday clothing. And on the outside I have a thin but wind- and waterproof coat, so that the heat does not drain away from my clothes and the rain does not bother me.
 
  • It is easy to keep your head warm thanks to earmuffs, headbands, bonnets and scarves.
 
  • Using gloves protects your fingers from chilblains. The material or style of the gloves does not really matter: whether made from leather, synthetic material, wool or with or without a soft inner lining, fashionable or sporty, all is fine as long as the wind and rain cannot penetrate easily. Try them out. 
Bike to Work is the cycling motivational programme of the Fietsersbond