Bike Commuting in Wellington’s Wild Weather
It’s that time of year when we have to face the facts… winter has arrived. The change of season comes with familiar signs: the smell of burning dust from the recommissioned oil fin heater, the panic of waking up and realizing you left your slippers on the other side of the room, and the sad realization that you won’t be biking in shorts and a T-shirt any time soon.
We have a few tips to help keep you on your bike this winter; if not conquering the weather, at least putting up a fight.
Dress for Success
There’s an endless supply of fancy wet weather bike gear out there, but for most commuters the basics will suffice. Wear synthetic or wool layers that dry quick and insulate even when wet. Cover up with a rain jacket and pants and wear warm socks and gloves. And remember we are fighting the wind as much as the rain in Wellington, so try to avoid loose, flappy clothes.
Unless you can get away with wearing damp active-wear to work, you’re going to need to change clothes after your ride. Make sure to pack your work outfit in a dry place. Pro tip: Sooner or later, you’re going to forget all or part of your change of clothes, so keep a spare outfit at work.
Many cyclists wear low-light glasses (clear or yellow lenses) to keep the rain out of their eyes. If you’re aren’t into the whole pro-cyclist look, a brimmed hat under your helmet will do the trick. Riding with a hood on can make it hard to hear what’s happening around your and decreases your peripheral vision, so opt for a warm cap instead.
Bike Set Up
Nothing is as unpleasant as a gritty stream of street juice spraying you from all angles. If you don’t have fenders, you’re going to want them. There are tons of light, removable fender designs on the marker, so pop in to a bike shop to find something that will work for you.
Lights & Hi-Vis
Poor weather makes it even harder to be seen as a biker, so lights are essential. Make sure you have at least one light on the front and one on the back. Turn them on no matter what time of day it is and set them to flash.
A study at Clemson University found that hi-vis clothing is substantially more effective if worn on parts of the body that move (feet, legs, head) than static places (torso). From a distance, drivers mistake static hi-vis for road signs, but are very good at recognising hi-vis in motion as belonging to a human.
Rear panniers (bags on the side of the rear bike rack) are the most comfortable and convenient way to carry gear on your bike. Invest in a nice waterproof set to keep your belongings and change of clothes dry. If you don’t want to upgrade to waterproof bags, line your pack with a rubbish bag, even if you are using a pack cover.
Keep a plastic grocery bag handy to cover your seat when your bike is locked up outside. If your bike seat has any tears it will soak up water in to the foam, so keeping it covered in the rain will prevent you from having to ride home on a wet sponge. Take the bag off the seat when it is time to ride and, voilà, you’ve got a dry bum!
All the water and grime that comes with winter riding is tough on your bike. Store your bike inside when possible and regularly clean off dirt, lube your chain, and check your break pads and tire tread.
On the Road
Breaking & Following Distance
Breaking time is substantially increased when your breaks are wet, especially if you have rim breaks. Test your breaks at the start of your ride rather than waiting until you actually need to stop. Ride slower, increase your breaking time, and increase your following distance behind cars or other bikes.
Slippery When Wet
Roads can be very slick when they are wet, especially if it hasn’t rained in a while as oil floats to the surface (watch out for rainbow colored patches). Road paint, manhole covers, and bricks will all be slick, so riHde slow, keep your handle bars straight, and avoid breaking suddenly.
Did you know Wellington is the windiest city in the world? Of course you did. If you’re fighting a head wind, the best thing you can do is ride in a low stance (lean forward and tuck down), minimizing the amount of surface area you have exposed to the wind.
In cross winds, you will naturally lean in to the wind. However, keep in mind Wellington is very gusty and the wind can drop off or change directions quickly. Ride cautiously in the wind: go slower, leave more space between yourself and cars (parked and moving), and stay alert.
Ride an eBike!
eBikes are awesome when it comes to riding in bad weather. They charge through the wind, can easily carry all the extra gear you have to pack, and get you to your warm, dry, happy place quicker. One of our favorite things about eBikes is that they encourage you to ride no matter the conditions.
If you haven’t ridden an eBike before, come try one of ours – you will be amazed by how well they perform in the wind. Take one of our bikes home and try it on your commute, but be warned that you might get hooked!
Hiring a bike from us?
We can provide all the gear and advice you need to make your ride comfortable and safe. You’ll be surprised at how much fun you can have exploring a drizzly Wellington by bike – we love a bike adventure in the rain followed by a warm cup in a cozy cafe. We are open most days, but it is best to contact us to make sure we are open during bad weather.