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Five myths about cycling and bad weather

Photo of a man cycling on protected cycle path wearing high-vis jacket

Fitting mudguards will make you wonder why you ever disliked cycling in the wet

Photo of a female cyclist in residential area wearing a reflective jacket  on a residential street

Even in winter the weather in the UK is pretty mild

Photo of male cyclist wearing a hi-vis reflective jacket on a protected path ©2009, Sustrans, all rights reserved

The average temperature in the UK during winter is a little less than 4C

As Brits we love to talk about the weather. 

But even with all that chatter, there’s a lot of misinformation out there, particularly about cycling and the weather. We wanted to look at some of the preconceptions about bad weather and cycling to see if they’re really true.

To do this we got some help from the Met Office. Here are five common myths about cycling and bad weather - and whether or not there’s any truth to them.

1. It always rains when I ride my bike

Living in the UK it can seem like that sometimes. But we all know the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothes”.

A rain jacket (and maybe a pair of waterproof trousers if it’s really chucking it down) are really all you need to cycle all year round. 

According to the Met Office, England gets around 850mm of rain annually and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland get a little more. Our Danish and Dutch cousins get around a comparable 710mm and 700-900mm respectively and they’re famous for their cycling prowess.

The truth is, if you can walk in it then you can cycle in it.

2. It’s fine when it’s a nice day but when it’s windy cycling is impossible

Facing a headwind on a bike can be challenging. The windiest part of the country, northern Scotland, has wind speeds in some places averaging 14 miles per hour. This may sound a lot but according to the Beaufort Scale of Wind Force, this ranks as just a ‘moderate breeze’, capable of raising paper and moving small branches.

You can check the current wind speed on the Met Office app.

The truth is, even if you live in the Outer Hebrides cycling to the shops, to work and to school should be possible.

3. Cycling exposes you to more air pollution than other road users

Air pollution is highly topical and should be a concern to us all, whatever form of transport we use. However, researchers from King’s College London ran an exercise which showed that people cycling might be exposed to far less fumes than people in cars and on buses, because fumes take longer to dissipate inside a vehicle.

And if you’re cycling you’re not contributing to air pollution. If you’re cycling then you may well have the option to take a quieter or a traffic-free route too.

The truth is, cycling exposes you to less air pollution than other types of transport.

4. If I cycle in the summer then I’ll get sweaty

While powering uphill at top speed would cause almost anyone to break into a sweat there’s no need to pretend you’re going for King of the Mountains if you’re heading to work or to meet friends.

If you’re worried about arriving sweaty then just leave a little more time and go slightly slower. Bikes are extremely efficient so you can potter along and still get where you’re going in good time.

The truth is, if you cycle at a steady pace then it’s no more taxing than walking. 

5. It’s too cold to cycle

The average temperature in the UK during winter is a little less than 4C. While that isn’t shorts and t-shirts weather it doesn’t mean that the bike has to be abandoned during the colder months, just look at Oulu in Finland.

Generally, a few thin layers and a jacket on top are all you need to be nice and toasty. Of course, it still may be icy, so check the weather forecast before selecting your route and take extra care on quieter routes that are unlikely to be gritted.

The truth is that even on a cold morning you’ll feel nice and warm after five minutes of moderate cycling.

In reality, our UK weather is actually pretty good for cycling. It doesn’t have extremes of hot and cold. So don’t let the weather be an excuse for not getting out on your bike and enjoying the great outdoors.

Details on rainfall, wind speed and direction, air pollution, UV and temperature are all available from the Met Office weather app

Need some extra motivation for cycle commuting during the colder months? Read our top tips to help keep you in the saddle