Winter is upon us, and for bike commuters, that means it’s time to prepare for the cold, ice, and snow. But don’t let the weather discourage you from enjoying a fun and healthy way to get around town. With some simple gear and a bit of know-how, you can make your winter bike commute safe, comfortable, and even enjoyable! In this guide, we’ll share our top tips to help you keep cycling all year round.
The most important aspect of winter bike commuting is dressing properly. Layers are key, and it’s important to have windproof and waterproof outer layers to protect you from the elements. Wool and synthetic materials are better than cotton for base layers as they wick away sweat and keep you warm. Don’t forget to wear warm socks, gloves, and a beanie to keep your extremities cozy. Additionally, a bright-colored reflective jacket along with high-visibility gear (i.e., reflectors, lights, etc.) will help you stay visible in low-light conditions.
Check your tires
Before heading out on a winter commute, double-check that your tires are properly inflated and that the treads are in good condition. A wider tire with good traction is ideal for snowy or icy conditions, and some cyclists opt for studded tires to increase grip. Don’t forget to adjust your tire pressure for the conditions: for ice and snow, decrease the pressure to increase the surface area in contact with the ground, which will increase traction and control.
Plan your route carefully
Winter weather can create unpredictable road conditions, so it’s best to plan your route before heading out. Avoid hills and areas of the road that may pose a hazard in snow or ice. Seek out roads that are well-lit and salted or cleared regularly. Be aware of changes in road conditions and be prepared to adjust your route if necessary. Consider taking a more direct route than during warmer months to shorten your time in the cold.
Maintain your bike
The winter weather can take a toll on your bike, including the gears, chain, pedals, brakes, and brake lines. Regular maintenance can help prolong the life of your bike and ensure it’s in good working condition. Clean and lubricate your bike after each ride, and consider taking it to a shop for a tune-up once a year. Additionally, store your bike indoors or under a cover to keep it free from moisture or weather-related damage.
Stay hydrated and fueled
Water is just as important for hydration in cold weather as it is in hot weather, but it’s easy to forget to drink water when you’re not feeling the heat. Be sure to drink enough water during your ride and carry snacks for fuel. Eating small, frequent meals will help you avoid fatigue and keep your body warm by keeping your metabolism up and maintaining your internal core temperature.
With a bit of preparation and awareness, winter bike commuting can be a safe and enjoyable way to get around. Dressing appropriately, checking your tires, planning your route carefully, maintaining your bike, and staying hydrated and fueled is key to making your winter bike commute a success. With a few simple adjustments to your routine and gear, you can stay active and avoid the winter blues while getting to work, school, or anywhere else on two wheels. Happy (snowy) trails!