A large number of riders hibernate over the winter. But winter riding can be a lot of fun if you’re prepared and have the appropriate attitude. It is entirely possible to switch from a car commute to a bike commute. You’ll avoid congested traffic, raise your heart rate, and burn a significant amount of calories. Additionally, you’ll arrive at work motivated and with the smug satisfaction of having made progress even before your workday has really started.
Another benefit is that in the winter, bike roads and trails that are crowded in the summer become wonderfully empty.
You can ride contentedly all winter long by remembering the following advice:
- Begin your winter riding slowly. Start with shorter rides to get accustomed to the weather and practice using your gear because conditions are more difficult than during the summer months.
- Ride the bike you are familiar with.
- No need to purchase a bike designed specifically for winter; simply modify or add a few components to your present model as you are accustomed to how it handles.
- Put on your best visibility gear. Increase your lighting dramatically for nighttime riding, using powerful headlights, safety lights, and reflective clothing.
- Verify and correct the tire pressure. Tires should be inflated to the low end of the prescribed range because air pressure loss is accelerated in cold weather. Make the transition to grippy tires.
- Put on warm clothing. You should dress in layers so you can adapt to changing weather; additional necessities include rain gear, gloves, a warmer helmet, and biking shoes.
- your riding strategies for the winter. Take the right driving lane if the bike lane or shoulder has muck or ice instead. To improve handling on uneven, snowy, or wet roads, ride comfortably.
- Clean and shield your bicycle. Winter roads can quickly accumulate grime and/or ice, which can then affect your powertrain, frame, and other components.
- Keep the batteries in electric bikes warm. Cold weather quickly drains the battery, so keep yours indoors and ride with power-saving techniques.
In this post, we’ll focus on commuting and urban cycling, but many of these pointers also apply to winter mountain biking and riding on gravel roads.
When is it too chilly to ride? It’s too cold whenever you wouldn’t feel at ease or be ready to walk the distance you had intended to ride. You might have to do it in the event that your bike breaks down and is immobile.
Fat-tire biking: In the winter, you can ride over snow-covered terrain using specialized mountain bikes with unusually wide tires. Enroll in a bike lesson or ride offered by REI Co-op to learn more about this choice and the rapidly expanding sport of cycling.
Ease Into Winter Riding
Cycling in the winter does not have to be all or nothing. Start out slowly to help you gain confidence, refine your skills, and break in your equipment. Short, enjoyable rides can build excitement to continue, whereas overextending too quickly can result in dissatisfaction. The following tactics can be helpful if you have a lengthy commute to work:
Take the public transportation for some of the distance. There are numerous bike racks and storage places on buses and trains.
Drive some of the distance. By parking and continuing on your bike the remaining distance, you can save the ride time and avoid risky commute sections.
alternate days for cycling. Every third or every other day, complete the entire commute by bicycle.
Ride a Bike You Already Know
In slick conditions, bikes made for use on both pavement and dirt are better options, but any bike you ride in other seasons may be converted for use in winter.
Some individuals prefer to ride an older, simpler bike in the winter since ice and filth accumulate on drivetrains more rapidly and cold temperatures make suspension systems more sluggish. That might entail a bike with fewer gears and solely front-mounted shocks (or no shocks at all). A bike with disc brakes performs better at stopping in rainy conditions than one with rim brakes.
You can prepare your bike for winter conditions no matter what kind it is. The most crucial factors to take into account are lighting and tires (covered below). Fenders can be added to protect against snow, water, and mud sprayed by tires. To help ward off the chill, insert an insulated water bottle into your bottle cage and fill it with a warm liquid (even warm water).
Gear Up to See and Be Seen
In the winter, daylight hours are sporadic, so be ready to ride in the darkness. This entails intense lighting and a staggering amount of reflectivity. Carry spare batteries for non-rechargeable lights and fully charge batteries before any ride because they drain more quickly in the cold.
Purchase the brightest lighting you can, particularly towards the front. In the event of a light failure, the two light sources up front and the two light sources down back give backup and many points of vision.
Front lights: The light with the greatest brightness goes on the handlebar, and the light with the ability to be directed independently goes on your arm or helmet.
Rear lights: Mount the safety light that flashes the brightest on the back of your bike, and wear the other on your headgear, bag, or clothing. By positioning the lights in that way, the motion of the two lights will be slightly different from one another, which will help to more successfully catch the attention of oncoming traffic.
How bright is sufficiently bright? Pretend there won’t be street lighting everywhere. The front handlebar-mounted light’s minimum brightness would be 500 lumens, while the rear light’s minimum brightness would be 100 lumens. Front and rear secondary lights don’t need to be as bright.
Reflective Bike Clothing
Unless it is specifically designed for off-road riding, most bike apparel incorporates reflective trim. The better, the more reflective components you have. Wear a reflective vest or bands over your trusty rain gear if it doesn’t already have any.
A driver coming from any angle should be able to see at least one reflective element, at the very least. To improve visibility, you can also add reflectors or reflective tape to your bike, clothing, or bike luggage.
Check and Adjust Your Tire Pressure
Tires should be inflated to the lowest setting possible. The permissible pressure range for each tire is listed (usually on their sidewalls). More tire surface makes contact with the road when riding on tires inflated to the low end of their range, which enhances traction. A “softer” tire will also cushion bumps, assisting you in keeping control if you come across a pothole or uneven terrain.
Before each ride, check the tire pressure. This might be the cycling-related routine maintenance chore that is most neglected. Tires gradually lose a tiny amount of pressure, and air pressure is also decreased by cold weather. Make it a routine to check and adjust tire pressure before each ride. If your tires are at the low end of the pressure range, this activity is more crucial than ever because even a slight pressure loss can cause you to be on tires that are outside of the allowed range.
Think about switching to bike tires that are knobbier and/or somewhat wider. On muddy, damp, or slushy surfaces, tires with deeper, knobbier tread hold onto the ground better. Wider tires provide more contact with the ground, increasing traction. To make sure a different tire will fit, do some research and speak to a bike technician as your bike may only allow a particular range of tire sizes. How to Choose Bike Tires has further buying advice.
Bike tires that function like automobile tires with studding are an option for icy or snowy conditions. The pricey studded bike tires may be a wise purchase in harsh conditions.
prevention of flat. Getting puncture-resistant tires or tubes may be a good idea because changing a flat tire in cold, stormy weather is neither fun nor easy. Another factor to take into account is the usage of tubeless tires, which are less prone to flats than tires with tubes. When to upgrade to tubeless tires is explained. Installing a tire liner between your tube and your wheel rim will enhance flat resistance to a tubed tire in a straightforward, reasonably priced manner. Read How to Prevent a Flat Tire for additional advice.
Dress for Warmth
Cycling in the cold requires the same clothing layering as other outdoor pursuits. Feel a little chilly at first, but as you ride, you’ll warm up. However, you want to be able to add another layer from your bike pack if you don’t get warm enough. Having a warm jacket handy for rest or repair stops is also a good idea because you get cold easily when you’re not peddling.
Additionally, you should wear a wicking base layer below your cycling apparel if the temperature is too chilly. You should, at the at least, wear thick leggings, a long-sleeved jersey, and waterproof riding gear. Although specialized cyclewear includes qualities that make you more visible and comfortable while riding, you don’t need to buy it for all of your layers.
Cycling headgear: An unexpected amount of warmth is added by a skullcap or cycling cap that goes underneath your helmet. Consider wearing a face mask or a helmet with greater head coverage if the weather is extremely cold. Some helmets have removable liners so that their warmth can be adjusted and can be used for more than one sport (snow or cycling). To protect your eyes, add goggles.
Fully waterproof bike gloves can keep your hands toasty and dry in the cold. Choose the warmest pair of gloves you can wear while maintaining complete control over your brakes and shifters. They must also have good traction in damp conditions.
Cycling shoes: Since most cycling shoes are snug for efficient pedaling, some winter cyclists convert to other cycling shoes that are just a little bit larger to accommodate thicker socks. An additional method to increase warmth is to use waterproof and windproof shoe covers. It’s crucial to have treaded soles in the winter to give you traction if you have to get off your bike.
Air-activated warmers that slide inside your gloves or shoes are great equipment for any winter sport and can come in quite handy on extremely cold days. Break out the warmers from their sealed container a few minutes before your ride because they don’t heat up instantly.
Winterize Your Riding Tactics
Even though it might appear that staying to the far right of the road will keep you safe, that is not always the case. Broken glass, mud, and plowed snow gather right next to the curb. Additionally, it becomes difficult for cars to see you in the dark the further to the right you are.
Take up the entire lane: Riding in the center of the right-hand lane increases visibility and discourages passing drivers from trying to squeeze by you. They usually move a full lane to the left (instead). Furthermore, you’ll keep your bike further away from trash on the side of the road. Reminder: Use the right-hand automobile lane if the road’s bike lane is blocked by snow or other dangers.
Ride comfortably: Locked knees and elbows make it more difficult to respond quickly. Instead, maintain a loose position and let the motion from racing over ridges of snow or other road debris be absorbed by your legs. Be aware of your surroundings and prepared to steer clear of any ice, slippery leaf-covered areas, or tire-piercing debris.
Snow that has thawed should be avoided since it can refreeze overnight. Ice can accumulate on bridge decks and other low areas. Try to coast across an ice or slick patch without braking or steering if you find yourself rolling over it.
Clean and Cover Your Bike
Snow and grit from the road can adhere to bike parts even with fenders, notably the chain and transmission. Reduce the buildup of filth to keep things operating more efficiently. Therefore, winters maintenance is even more important than in other seasons.
Clean and lubricate: After a particularly dirty ride, wipe down your chain, drivetrain, and other bike components (at least once weekly if you ride regularly). Every few weeks, perform a more thorough clean and lubrication. After wiping down or thoroughly cleaning your bike, lightly recoat your chain and drivetrain with a “wet” lube (one designed for damp/dirty environments). In the cold, a dry chain is not something you want.
After a snowy or dusty ride, always wash out your brakes and ensure sure the surfaces that come into touch with the wheels are clean.
Shelter for Your Bike
If at all possible, store your bike indoors because rain and freezing temperatures are tough on bicycles. The next-best location is protected from rain and snow under a carport, a building eave, a covered porch, or a garage. Additionally, you have the option of buying a bike cover or, in a pinch, making your own out of an old BBQ cover or tarp. The movable parts on your bike should be thawed before riding it if you must leave it outside and it freezes. Bike thawing can be accelerated by bringing it into a warm indoor area.
Keep Electric Bike Batteries Warm
Reduce the amount of time the battery is outdoors because e-bike batteries lose power more quickly in the cold. While you are unable to control the weather when you are riding, you can remove the battery each evening and keep it in a heated space.
To keep some batteries warmer during a ride, you can purchase a separate cover. Whether you have cover or not, ride cautiously in the cold to extend your battery life. Thus, eco mode will be used more frequently and turbo mode less frequently.
An All-Season Mindset
You may travel peacefully with your bike all year long with some careful planning. Who knows what could happen if you add that to a spirit of adventure and some tenacity. You can even start counting down the days till the upcoming riding season in the summer.