Get Ready for Winter
Winter is coming. We know it, but how many of us prepare properly for it? Personally I just worry about it. But if you get the family organised in advance you can carry on as normal through rain, wind and snow. Stuart and I have had over a decade of preparing for Cumbrian winters. So why do we still get it wrong?
A pre-winter meltdown
I am trying to finish a commission for a client. Writing about an art gallery. To a deadline. I am only vaguely aware of the shouting behind me. At first. Soon it’s harder to ignore than someone trying to to pickle a shark in your ear.
And it isn’t just shouting. All around me boxes are being unloaded and reloaded. And an international inquiry is being launched. Over who last had the torches. I last remember them in The Philippines, three months ago. But when I volunteer this information I find it isn’t welcome. “They should be here! With the tech.”
Stuart starts to interrogate three children about whether they have stolen them for night reading or secret spying. Matthew is 14 in a couple of weeks. I think he might be past murder in the dark. The inquiry moves rooms. I watch, amused from the top of the stairs as coats and hats fly. “They should be in a bag, by the door, ready to go!”
No one is listening. We’ve all heard it before. Getting ready for winter is an annual obsession for my husband. It starts when we return from holiday and ends about Christmas. “It’s too dark out there to cycle anyway. I’ll give you a lift,” I say. That’s like lighting the touchpaper. We all stand back in case we are singed. “WE ARE GOING CYCLING!” says the disciple of adventure. Next thing he’ll be looking for candles.
I go back to my art gallery news and consider wrapping Stuart in a large orange textile. Then I hear thudding above me. He is emptying out the attic.
Do you feel the fingers of winter?
Does this sound familiar? Are you feeling the fingers of winter creeping up your spine? The clocks are going back soon and Halloween is almost upon us. Soon the dark nights and mornings will be a staple of family life. Hands will be cold and toes will be frozen and wet coats will start to populate the hall, making the house smell damp. The leaves that were green with our extended summer are now starting to turn and curl. “There’s a 75 mile an hour hurricane on the way,” Cameron announces. Makes a change from his daily ebola updates.
Getting ready is Stuart’s bag though. I prefer to operate in a state of crisis management. When we need the bikes, I will check them for punctures. When we get a puncture from the autumn thorns I will find a puncture repair kit. I am just not a plan ahead detail focused kind of person. Thinking ahead means deciding what’s for tea. Why prepare for winter when it’s still ages away? But I know I’m a nightmare to live with. Perhaps I should be a bit more supportive about Stuart’s attempts to get ready for winter.
Preparing your wheels
Of course, I’m in the minority. Most people around me in The Lakes, and indeed most of the world, stock up on salt towards the end of autumn in case there’s ice on the roads. They buy de-icer in case their windscreen freezes. They even change their tyres. Now I thought that was something you only did when heading off to the ski resorts, but apparently, according to Stuart, Michelin recommend it for all UK drivers too.
According to Michelin Road Usage Lab, one of the biggest myths around is that you only need winter tyres in snow. The Institute for Traffic Accident Research in Dresden analysed 12,000 winter accidents over 12 years and found only five per cent happened on snow covered roads. They don’t just happen on windy mountain roads either; according to the data, 68% of winter accidents occur in urban environments. If you are off skiing, winter tyres can improve hill climbing traction on snow by up to a third, but even in plain old cold or wet weather winter tyres are engineered to give you a safer ride. It’s not just fingers and toes that the cold affects, it’s tyres too.
Why even go out?
You might argue that staying in is best for winter. Who would want to jump on a bike in the snow? Or try and remain upright when the landscape has turned into an ice skating rink and a simple trip to your nearest town is like trying to pedal to Lapland? But if you do get yourselves together and get out there then winter has so much to offer. It takes the world and ices it with wonder. It puts normal life through a kaleidoscope. Here’s a winter bike ride we embarked on a couple of years ago when preparing to ride the C2C in winter. We only went seven miles to my mother-in-law’s house, but it felt like a real adventure.
And here we are, frozen but happy on our winter C2C tour from Workington to Sunderland.We could probably have done with some winter tyres to bike out of the water..
Of course, if you fit those winter car tyres, you can take it one step further and drive to a real wonderland. The winter tyres on our rental car were invaluable on last year’s ski trip around five ski resorts in Costa Brava. If I had been in charge, we’d probably never have left the airport car park. Good job one of us has a head for planning.
The ride commences
The torches are found and Stuart and the kids head off on their bike ride. An hour late but even more determined to enjoy winter. You gotta admire his attitude. I suppose.
Disclosure Note: The video in this post was brought to you thanks to Michelin. All opinions and arguments about who is the better parent and whether or not to bother preparing for winter are our own.