Winter is upon us, it’s cold, dark and the snow keeps us isolated. It’s hard to get motivated to do anything outside in this weather, but some of us still choose to commute or simply drive around on our bikes despite the harsh conditions. It is still possible to enjoy cold weather biking, but you must take certain precautions.
All Exposed Skin Must be Covered
It is important, if you plan on biking in the winter, that you cover all exposed skin. If you do not cover your skin, you run the risk of frostbite. Dress in layers. It is OK to still feel a little chilly when you first venture outside, you will begin to warm up as you ride.
Wear warm, waterproof clothes, scarves and gloves. Balaclavas are useful and, for most of the winter, necessary. Consider purchasing Under Armor cold weather gear; while a little on the expensive side, they are worth their weight in gold.
You may want to consider upgrading your bicycle helmet to a motorcycle or snowboarding helmet, it will keep you both warm and safe.
Protect Your Eyes
Cover your eyes as the cold air will sting like hell while you’re biking! Consider ski goggles, shooter’s glasses or bubble goggles. At minimum, wear a pair of sunglasses (they aren’t that effective though).
Combine it with the previous tip and try a snowboard helmet that is made to accept goggles. It will make cold weather biking so much easier.
Beef up Your Tires
When snow, sleet or ice begins to form on the roads, put on studded tires or, at the very least, wider tires with larger treads. Reduce the PSI in your tires to below the level you’d use during the summer.
It’s important you increase your ability to gain traction on these slick surfaces. You don’t want to end up skidding out and ending up under a car’s tires.
Bright lights at the front and back of your bike are crucial if you plan on biking during cold weather. Winter days are short, so you’ll often find yourself riding at night.
Bike lights come in two categories: see and be seen. Opt for the be seen kind, your lights should be high enough up so that they are visible by cars. I know, it’s annoying, but it’s better than getting injured by oncoming traffic.
To go the extra step, consider affixing a light to your helmet as well.
Finally, wear a reflector vest over your jacket. Although not a particular stylish piece of clothing, it is an essential safety measure for biking.
Cold Weather Biking Hacks
Get a pair of Pogies or Bar Mitts. These work great to keep your hands warm and will allow you to wear a lighter pair of gloves than you normally would. This allows you to keep your fingers dexterous, but also warm.
Bike fenders are very convenient for biking in the winter. They’ll help to keep the road sludge off of you as well as protect your bike’s components.
One of the most destructive forces during the winter is the road salt. Wipe it down after every ride and oil the chain and brakes often. This will keep your from rusting and fall apart long before it should.
Snow and slush can take up a sizable portion of the road, don’t be afraid to take the whole lane.
On the flip side, be cognizant of how many cars are behind you. When 3 or more queue up, find a safe place to pull over and let them past. Drivers have limited patience for bikers and the longer they are behind you, the longer they are a risk to your safety.
No matter how many precautions you take, you’re going to get wet. Take a dry pair of clothes with you, so you can change at your destination. Allow your cold weather biking outfit to dry out before you switch back for the ride home.
Image sources: Wikimedia Commons & Flickr users: vikapproved, paulm
What do you do when you go biking in the winter? Do you have any tips for fellow riders? Comment below and let me know!