Our changeable weather can be a bit of nuisance if you’re a cyclist – there’s nothing like heading out in your shorts and t-shirt only for the dark clouds to roll in and the wind to pick up. Being prepared for the unexpected can ensure that you stay safe and sound no matter what the weather throws at you (within reason!).
When it comes to fog, it’s imperative that you’re prepared. Honestly, I’d rather leave my bike at home or work and hitch a lift than cycle unprepared through fog. It’s just not worth the risk. So that’s my first tip for riding in fog:
- Don’t compromise
If you don’t have the right gear, don’t go. Dense fog is dodgy at the best of times – don’t stack the odds against yourself by taking a chance.
- Light up
In Ireland, it is a legal requirement that you have working lights as well as reflectors on your bike if you’re cycling on public roads. If you’re cycling in fog though, really think about the quality of your lights and be honest with yourself as to whether they’re adequate. Visibility is significantly reduced in fog and you need to make sure you are as visible as possible to drivers. The minimum you should have is a red flashing rear light and a flashing white front light but I have three of each, just to be sure! Wearing a head torch or attaching lights to your helmet is also a great way to add to your visibility.
- Bright Clothing
I’m not generally one for pushing hi-vis gear for day-to-day cycling. It’s fetishized in Ireland by the powers that be and distracts from the real solutions to safe cycling. However, there are appropriate times for hi-vis clothing and cycling in fog is one of them. You can invest in reflective, brightly coloured, cycling-specific clothing and ankle straps or you can just pick up a cheap (or free) hi-vis vest.
- Cycle defensively
Assume you’re invisible. Assume drivers aren’t expecting you. In a perfect world, all road users would be careful and considerate, taking great care to pay attention to their surroundings. But this just isn’t the reality and unfortunately, as cyclists, we need to respond accordingly. When foggy conditions set in, the minor day-to-day hazards are amplified.
Riding defensively is crucial if you’re sharing the road with cars in foggy weather. This means staying away from the kerb/edge of the road and taking up space on the road. You are perfectly entitled to do this by law and it generally ensures drivers take more care when overtaking you. If are approaching a pinch point, don’t be afraid to take primary position to prevent a close pass from the car behind you. Take particular attention at junctions, ensuring again you take primary position, use exaggerated hand signals and make as much eye contact as possible.
- Stay warm and dry
Foggy weather is cold and wet. Keeping yourself warm and comfortable as fog sets in will ensure that you can ride safely and stay alert. Wear water resistant clothing and layer up. Arm and leg warmers are also great if the weather is changeable.
- Plan your route accordingly
There are certain roads I won’t go near if a fog sets in. Obviously, segregated cycle paths would be the ideal route to take, but this is Ireland and they’re few and far between. Try to avoid roads with fast moving traffic and no cycle path or hard shoulder. Equally, try to avoid twisty, country roads. This can limit your options significantly but if it’s possible to take a detour on a safer route, go with that.
- Keep your glasses clear
If, like me, you wear glasses, fog is a pain. The build-up of moisture on the lenses means you constantly have to wipe to ensure you have a clear view ahead of you. I keep a glasses chamois (pick up some spares for free at your optician) or tissue at the ready in my handlebar bag and this means I’m never caught out.
7th March 2020