Are you ready for the realities of winter cycling in Connecticut?

Many people across the great state of Connecticut enjoy cycling as a hobby or as a means of environmentally-friendly transportation. Some people go out for weekend rides or hit the bike trail for exercise. Others use their bikes every day to commute to work. Whatever your reason for cyclying, if you plan to keep going out as temperatures drop and the fall turns to winter, you need to prepare.

Cycling in the winter can be incredibly dangerous for a number of reasons. One of the biggest risks, other than inclement weather, is the fact that drivers in motor vehicles are less likely to watch for cyclists during the cold and snowy winter months. You also have to be prepared for deep cold, slick streets and reduced visibility or low light. Following a few steps to prepare can help you stay safe on your bike all winter long.

Invest in winter cycling gear

If you don’t already have the right clothing and gear to keep you warm and safe during the winter, now’s the time to start buying it. You want to purchase specialized winter riding clothing. Just piling on an extra sweatshirt could make you sweat. Without the right design and fabrics, that sweat will build up on your skin and in your clothing, leaving you cold and wet.

You also need excellent gloves and shoe protectors, since your hands and feet are likely to get cold first. You also want glasses or goggles to keep the rain, snow, sleet and other detritus out of your eyes. Make sure you are comfortable on your bike with all your gear on, and start slow, with smaller trips, until you’re ready to hit the main roads all bundled up.

Visibility and good traction could save your life

Even moreso than in the summer, spring and fall, visibility matters in the winter for cyclists. As mentioned before, drivers are less likely to be on the lookout for you during the colder months. Adding lights to your bike (front and back, possibly the sides), as well as reflectors on your bike, pedals, helmet and clothing, can help ensure that you’re visible even in the worst winter weather.

You also need to give your bike a tune-up to prepare for winter biking. You’ll need winter tires, also called snow tires. Look for tires that are harder wearing, ideally with a thicker outer layer to help protect against punctures (which can be more common in wet winter conditions). You also need to carefully check your tires for proper inflation before heading out. Cold weather can impact the air pressure in your tires, leaving you with less traction. While you’re at it, install some mudguards to keep the sleet, snow and spray off your body and away from your face.