The hardest thing to learn about winter biking is pavement.
Seriously, just like driving a car there are a few common worries about winter road biking such as black ice causes falls on the pavement, lowered visibility and learning to brake slowly. However, I can assure you the pros far outweigh the cons if you have a commute you would like to continue cycling year round.
Just What Are the Benefits of Biking in The Winter?
If you haven’t tried winter biking, you’re probably wondering why anyone would want to do it. As a seasoned rider, I can’t imagine anyone NOT doing it.
Here are some super-pros to biking in winter:
- Exercise! It may be colder, but you’re still producing heat, moving your body and burning calories.
- You get acclimated to bad weather, making spring storms and late season snow feel like a breeze.
- Previously crowded park and public areas may be open for fun and expansive bike rides you can enjoy.
- You’ll become a skilled all-weather rider, learning to slide over slick spots and determine the levels of defrosting.
- You will feel like an empowered outdoors all-weather warrior.
- In Metropolitan areas bike lanes ARE plowed, leaving you fast, snow-free routes.
- Parking your bike is free, and so the commute since there’s no gasoline needed.
- More often than not after heavy snows and in slow-moving traffic – winter biking is a faster way to commute than your car.
- You have an easier bail-out in truly bad weather. If things take a turn for the worse most public transportation allow bikes, but won’t tow your car.
I save a lot of valuable time biking in winter. It cuts nearly 30 minutes off of my commute on the bus, plus I don’t have transit fees. It also saves about 10-20 minutes versus my commute to work by car, plus I don’t need to pay for gas – and I’m exercising, not sitting in my car.
One thing I learned quickly is to bring a change of work clothes with me in my bag, because believe it or not, you still sweat a lot in winter biking!
Essential Biking DON’TS in Winter to Stay Safe While Riding:
- Don’t Overdress! Wearing too much can make you sweaty and can lead to dehydration and hypothermia!
- Don’t ride suspension bikes in extremely cold climates – the oils will harden!
- Don’t leave your bike tires inflated to full pressure – you will lose traction on the road.
- Don’t forget to eat and drink – you can dehydrate easily in the cold and you need food to fuel your body and create heat.
- Don’t rely on your hearing – snow muffles sound.
- Don’t ride next to the curb! This is where ice has a tendency to form and collect road debris hidden just under the slush and snow. Stay closer to the pavement if possible.
- Don’t make sudden moves or erratic swerving and always use hand signals.
- Don’t lock your knees or elbows! In addition to hurting yourself through road shock, you could go hurtling over the handle bars!!
- Don’t forget to clean your bike after winter rides.
- Don’t store your bike inside a warm room – brakes and gears can ice up quickly when put outside in freezing temperatures.
Essential Biking DO’S in Winter to Stay Safe While Riding:
- Dress Smart in Layers! Wear a sweat-wicking base layer, topped by a slightly warming middle layer such as fleece, topped with a moisture-resistant, vented top layer.
- Wear a bike helmet liner or stocking cap under your helmet to keep your head warm.
- If rain is expected wear waterproof gloves.
- Do wear goggles in freezing temperatures, and wear sunglasses to protect against glare on the snow.
- Wear your shoes a half size larger to accommodate thick socks for winter riding.
- Use water protection over your shoes!
- Consider a single speed or internal geared bikes to avoid gears freezing from extra snow or sleet.
- Frequently lubricate and clean your bike to get rid of sand, salt and dirt from your machine.
- Consider studded bike tires, and lower your PSI to increase road traction.
- Light it up! Winter is darker than other seasons and snowfall decreases visibility. We suggest Lights in the front and back so you can see where you are going, and cars can see you!
- Always watch for black ice.
- Use fenders to deflect snow and slush kick-up!
If you want to become an all-weather warrior, save money and enjoy cycling all year round, join the winter biking community! Your hesitations will melt away after your first few rides as you realize the convenience and freedom in winter biking. Stay safe and ride strong.