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Critical tips for winter cycling

When winter falls and most people hang their bicycles up in the garage, you just throw on another layer and keep going. You love winter cycling. It's beautiful, it's peaceful and it's a unique way to enjoy the outdoors. You know that you're much happier when you can still get outside, rather than feeling shut up in the house until the snow melts. Plus, it keeps you in great shape all year around.

Of course, winter cycling is a different animal than riding during the summer. You have fewer daylight hours. You have to contend with snow, sleet, ice and rain. Many drivers forget that cyclists may still be on the roads. You need to know how to stay safe and ride well this winter. Below are a few critical tips that can help.

1. Use LED lights

Those shorter daylight hours not only make it impossible for you to see clearly, but they mean drivers in their well-lit cars cannot see you at all. Get LED lights for the front and rear of your bike. Many people use flashing lights, as they are more visible and draw attention, but you also want to have a stable light to help you see. LEDs are perfect because they are bright and clear and because the batteries and bulbs last forever.

2. Wear the right clothes

To start, consider the weather. You need to be comfortable to ride safely. Wear water-resistant insulated clothes. Gloves are of the utmost importance. You want to find clothes that add warmth without adding too much bulk. For longer rides, you may want to pack a backpack with spares and layers in case the weather changes or you get wet.

At the same time, consider vests or coats with reflective stripes and bright colors. Make yourself as visible as you can during the darker, dreary days of winter. Even if you don't plan to be out at night, remember that rides don't always go as planned. Wear clothes that give you maximum safety no matter what happens.

3. Watch out for malfunctions

Winter riding is hard on your bike. Start each ride by going over it carefully and doing proper maintenance. Check the tires, brakes, lights, gears, chains and shifters.

As you ride, watch out for malfunctions. The cold can cause tires to deflate. It can also make them brittle, and running over sharp ice and other debris could give you a flat.

After an accident

Doing all of this can make winter riding safer, but accidents do happen. If you get hit by a negligent driver this winter, make sure you fully understand all of the legal options you have to seek out financial compensation for your medical bills.

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