December 12th, 2016
For those of you out there who are brave enough to continue to cycle through the winter months it is worth remembering the importance of planning your route. It goes without saying that you must be extra vigilant of other drivers and their poor driving habits and it obvious to be visible at night. You can be lit up like a belisha beacon and have all the gadgets to keep you seen and safe, but never underestimate the dangers that lie on the road surfaces.
Road conditions worsen considerably in the winter months and it is prudent to plan your route to avoid all obstacles that may cause you to dismount. Potholes are the scourge of cyclist’s everywhere causing bone shattering judders if you are unfortunate to encounter one or may cause you to dangerously swerve to avoid which can have dire consequences.
The recent seesaw in temperatures from freezing cold to warm, with lashings of rain in between, are the perfect combination of factors to cause existing potholes to get worse and for new ones to form. It’s not just the pothole itself which is pretty hard to spot in the dark mornings and evenings but the debris that surrounds it. The gravel, anti-freeze grit, mud and fuel that often collect around it, can make the road surface extremely hazardous to cyclists and so planning your route to avoid them is prudent.
Tree debris! When you hear that trains have been cancelled due to leaves on the track there is a nationwide rolling of eyes but I would argue that actually for cyclists, wet leaves on roads and cycle paths are even more hazardous than ice. Hitting a sudden patch of slippery leaf matter or encountering a fallen branch after high winds can be dangerous to even the most seasoned rider. Avoid routes that take you under trees or through parks unless you know the road or cycle path is maintained.
Fuel on the road surface is difficult to spot until you are on top of it. Diesel leaks can cause all sorts of problems for two wheeled vehicles and so roads where you spot the tell-tale silvery patches should be given a wide berth. Make sure you give your tyres the once over before setting off to ensure they are clean of debris and oil as it could lengthen you stopping distance in an emergency or cause you to dismount when taking corners.
Ice and the accompanying road grit make road conditions very treacherous and only the most experienced rider should venture out. Common sense must prevail and only take risks if there is no other form of transport available and the reason for the journey warrants it.
I know a lot of this seems obvious but it’s the little things that are often overlooked that jump up and bite you on the bum – quite literally in the potholes case!
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