Bicycling in Winter: How to Stay Safe in Seattle

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Bicycling can be a year-round method of transportation and fitness, even in Seattle's winters. With some preparation, cyclists can continue to get the benefits of riding despite the dropped temperatures. Check out these tips for safe bicycling in winter before your next ride in Seattle.

Preparing Your Bike

One of the most important tips is preparing the bike for winter rides. Obviously the bike itself should be in good condition as riding will be more of a challenge than usual as the roadways ice up. Here are a few special considerations.

  • Brakes: Ensure your brakes are in perfect working order; braking in winter may be harder. Note: If you need to brake on ice, do so with the back brake; if you use the front brake you may lose the ability to steer and remain upright.
  • Tires: Mountain bike tires, which are wider with more knobs, may make winter riding easier. You may be able to use studded tires as well, but because you can use the tires at certain times of the year, check with your local government before buying. 
  • Lights: Because winter means shorter days, this may mean that additional lights will improve your visibility on the road.
  • Drivetrain and all moving parts: The salt and sand on the roads will cause a problem for the mechanical moving parts of the bike if you do not wipe it off. A quick rinse after every ride should do the trick, although if temperatures are cold enough, that might cause them to freeze up. Always check the temperature before rinsing your bike.

Preparing Yourself

Now that your bike is ready to hit the road, be sure that you have everything you need to stay safe riding in winter weather.

  • Helmet: There is no state law for helmet use but some cities and counties, such as King County, have enacted their own laws requiring helmet use.    
  • Layers: Wearing layers is the best way to prepare for any weather. Optimally, some sort of thermal undergarment will create a warm base layer and then riders can add from there depending on the temperature.
  • Outerwear: Wearing a wind and water resistant jacket and gloves is a great idea. Avoid baggy pants and scarves that can tangle in the chain. Mittens are also not as safe because they may interfere with operation of the brakes or gears. You can wear a balaclava under the helmet to keep your head, neck, and face warm.
  • A Change of Clothes: Winter weather riders who are properly dressed for their ride are probably not properly dressed for work. Make sure that your cargo bag is waterproof and does not dangle.
  • Footwear: Depending on the type of pedals on the bike, footwear may be a challenge. Wearing multiple layers of socks may help but it may be worth investing in winter cycling boots if winter riding becomes a regular habit.
  • Emergency kit: Be sure to always have a charged cell phone, a bottle of water, and snacks with you in case of an emergency.

On the Road in Winter Weather

The biggest concerns on the road itself will be visibility, riding slower for the conditions (if possible), and leaving extra stopping room. Follow the rules of the road and enjoy the ride.

If an accident does happen, contact Max Meyers Law PLLC at 425-399-7000 for legal advice and counsel.

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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.