5 tips for winter cycling

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While cycling during the summer is easy and fun, cycling in the winter can seem very intimidating. Here are five tips to help you give winter cycling a try. You’ll surprise yourself by how much you enjoy keeping active in the winter!

  1. Dress so that you’re cold when you begin

    When you get on your bike, you should feel cold. Biking makes a lot of heat, and you’ll soon warm up. Each person finds the ideal combination of clothing for themselves, but here are some ideas for what works:

    • Dress in layers. The first layer should take moisture away from your body. Thermal underwear is a good choice, as are polyester tights and shirts. The second layer is for insulation: a wool sweater for example. Wool is one of the warmest fabrics around (it’s sustainable, too!). The third layer is to protect you from wind and snow. An outer shell blocks wind, and should be water resistant.
    • Keep your hands warm. Mittens are warmer than gloves although they can make it a bit harder to brake.
    • Protect your feet. Wear a good pair of socks, the same pair of what you’d use for walking in the winter. Boot covers* can be an easy way to keep dry, and make it easier for you to transition from biking to the next activity.
    • Keep your face and neck warm . Get a toque and a neck warmer, or a balaclava (see the picture below). A pair of ski goggles is essential! You can tape the vents on your helmet to keep yourself warmer.
  2. Man wearing a balaclava 5 ways

    Ways to wear a balaclava. Photo by PER9000 from Wikimedia Commons. CC-BY-SA

  3. Winterize your bike

    Protect your bike by greasing the chain with oil made for low temperatures. Adjust the height of your seat, so your feet rest firmly on the ground, and not just your toes. Raise your fenders to accommodate some snow build up.

    If you ride all winter, the salt and sand on the road can damage your bike. Some people buy a cheaper bike to use during the winter, so they don’t worry about the damage. If you’d like to see some options, a shop in Winnipeg called The Wrench has used bikes that are affordable.

    Summer tires are not appropriate for winter riding. Choose tires good for ice (studded tires – see the picture below), or good for fresh snow (beaded tires). Specialty bikes, called phat bikes, have wide tires that are great for winter. Remember to reduce your bike pressure to increase contact with the ground.

  4. Close-up of studded tires

    Close-up of studded tires. Photo by Michael Hamann from Flickr. CC-BY.

  5. Check road conditions

    Before you go on a ride, check current and future weather conditions. Pay attention to the wind speed (30 km is strong, and 50 km is very strong), and the direction of the wind (north winds are colder than south winds). Check how much snow will be falling that day.

  6. Choose your route wisely

    Your summer route may not be good for winter. Choose routes that have bike lanes, and those that are regularly and quickly cleared of snow.

  7. Have a backup plan

    Sometimes the weather changes in unexpected ways. Keep bus tickets with you in case you decide you don’t want to ride. Carry an extra pair of mitts, and face/head coverings in case the weather worsens and you still decide to bike.

    If you want to try out winter biking this year, keep biking into the fall, and focus on dressing appropriately. See how long into the season you enjoy the experience, and whether you want to invest in more equipment.

*Note: Products and equipment mentioned in this article were chosen for illustrative purposes. English Online does not earn from featuring them nor do we endorse them.
Sources: How to keep cycling through winter, Sustainable Transportation; Winter cycling, Bikes & Beyond; and Winter cycling, Natural Cycle. Accessed November 29, 2022.
By Nastashya Wall

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