Winter biking is a whole different world from biking in the warmer months of the year. There’s a lot to take into consideration when jumping on your bike and heading out for the trail or onto the road, but freezing temperatures and slippery surroundings shouldn’t be deterrents. A new challenge is an exciting challenge, and biking during winter isn’t actually as bad as one might assume. Properly preparing the bike, and more importantly its rider, are key to enjoying winter cycling.
Benefits of Winter CyclingFirst things first: Determine the perks of winter biking. Not only will you avoid any car traffic, but it also gets the blood coursing and heart thumping. Not always the easiest task in the winter! If you’re still feeling hesitant, try setting up a schedule to ease yourself into it before making it a part of your routine.
ClothingBefore heading out, you’re going to want to make sure you dress the right way. The key is to layer but not overdo it, similar to when cross-country skiing. Since you’ll be exercising, you’re going to end up sweating—especially depending on the amount of hills you’ll be tackling during the ride. The best way to go about it is to wear an outfit where you feel a bit chilly in at first. As your ride progresses, you’ll notice that you don’t actually miss throwing on that extra winter coat after all.
There are a few items that are particularly important to have. It’s essential to keep your head and ears warm because even though the rest of your body is warming up, your head will have a harder time doing the same. A scarf or balaclava is great for keeping your neck and face comfortable during the ride.
Since the fingertips and toes lose a lot of heat, ensuring that they are warm will make the difference between a positive biking experience and one that you can’t wait to end. Gloves that keep your fingers warm but don’t inhibit you from grabbing your brakes at a moment’s notice will make your ride infinitely more enjoyable. Hand warmers may just become the most valuable investment you make. Depending on how much icy rain/snow you encounter, waterproof shoes will probably become your new best friend during winter cycling outings. For the same reason you don’t want to over-bundle, having wet shoes can lead to problems with hypothermia when you finally slow down and the cold catches up with you. Even if you don’t notice, the sweat and water will turn to ice soon enough and will be quite the unwelcome riding companion.
Winterizing Your BikePrepping your bike is as important as prepping your body. Similar to how car tires need to be prepped to handle intense snowfall, bike tires need to be adjusted so that they can get a good grip on the wet surface. Some prefer thicker tires while others add studs to their tires to handle the snow better. It’s best to start off with at least lowering the pressure in the tires.
Monitoring your bike (especially the gears if they’re exposed) and keeping it clean is equally important in the winter. Your bike is flying through tons of snow, sand, salt, and whatever else is buried, and all that stuff is likely to get stuck in your gears and wheels. A well-maintained bike is a happy bike, so clean it as often as possible.
Since winter means that it gets darker earlier, bike lights are more important than ever. Being visible to other vehicles is key to making sure you have a safe winter biking experience. A pair of strong, bright front and rear lights will ensure that others can take proper precautions around you.
Stay Hydrated and FueledIt’s easy to become dehydrated and not take in enough food or water without even realizing it. Your body might not feel thirsty or hungry, but you’re releasing a lot of moisture into the air and sweating more than you may in the summer. Without proper nourishment, your body will have a lot of trouble keeping warm. Make sure to drink enough water and pack some food to keep your body satisfied.
With all these handy tips, you’re ready to have a safe and fun winter cycling session in any environment. Check out our Gear Store for anything you might need to make your rides easier and safer. Be alert and enjoy the cold!