That was fast, February is already here! The holiday cheer is over and now it’s just plain gloomy outside.
If you’re trying to stay active or save on car expenses this time of year, how about riding your bike? Sure the weather is cold, wet and gross, which makes it a challenge to go outside.
Be brave! With our 5 tips for winter cycling you can be out on the roads getting exercise and helping the planet while you’re at it.
What you wear
You don’t need to buy a new wardrobe to cycle in the winter. Adapt the things you already have using layers like wool, tech-fabrics and eyewear.
Layers of clothing are important because they let you adjust your temperature with your exertion level. You start cold and warm up as you get moving, so take off layers as your body warms up to get your temperature just right. Add some layers before a windy descent to keep yourself warm while you pedal less.
Wool is a perfect under-layer because it keeps you warm, even when it gets wet. It’s critical because you’ll sweat, and get wet if it’s raining.
Pro tip: Wear wool socks. I love wearing wool socks! Keeping my toes warm is so crucial for my happiness and enjoyment throughout.
Tech-fabrics are synthetic materials that make perfect outer layers. They’re light weight and they’ll keep you warm and dry by blocking the wind and rain. Some materials such as Gore-Tex are waterproof-breathable, keeping the wet out and the dry in by allowing your sweat to escape as vapour. I recommend a waterproof-breathable jacket, pants, shoe covers, and gloves. Some like to wear a helmet cover in the rain but I just tuck the hood of my jacket under my helmet.
A pair of clear-lens glasses are great for night time riding in rainy or cold conditions because they prevent dry eyes or excessive tearing. If it’s very cold where you are, try ski googles. Blowing down a huge hill will be more fun if you can see!
Panniers and other accessories
Waterproof panniers work great for keeping your belongings dry. Waxed canvas panniers or rain covers for your panniers also do the trick by keeping water off your stuff. These fabrics don’t need to be breathable since your gear won’t sweat, so rubberized or nylon material works well.
Keep your leather saddle from wearing out in wet weather with a saddle cover. LetsKeepMoving on Etsy offers durable waterproof saddle covers here which protects your saddle well. Foam saddles can soak in water and stay wet. Use your saddle cover anytime your bike is outside, riding or parked.
Winter tires are a must If you live where it snows or freezes. Studded or fat tires do well in snow, but DIY guides for winter-rising your tires on a budget are available rather than buying new tires.
Winter is dark so we use reflectors, lights and more lights. Consider visibility from a drivers perspective, in bad weather, rain, snow, or fog they are using windshield wipers, and their window may be foggy. Buy some blinking lights at your local bike shop to increase your safety by making you more visible to drivers. Feel free to get creative with lights, but make sure to follow the convention of white in the front and red in the back when in traffic. A high viz vest may feel dorky to wear but they are effective! However, a vest on top of a waterproof-breathable jacket makes the jacket less waterproof by holding in moisture against the waterproof membrane.
To avoid this, consider looking for a cycling specific rain jacket with reflective stripes built in instead of using a vest.
Adapting your expectations
Commuting in the winter needs extra planning because it can be slower than usual. You’ll need extra time for adjusting layers, changing, showering, and warming up before work. Depending on the weather conditions you are facing, you might also need to adjust your route. For example, if you live in a city that does not clear the snow off bike paths or road shoulders, you will have to change your route.
I recommend either doing a practice trip on the weekend or giving yourself an extra 30 minutes on your first day to get your plan nailed down.
Cut off limit
Your goal to commute by bike in the winter shouldn’t force you to turn into a superhero. Set a realistic weather cut off for yourself and assess it each day. Tell yourself “I will take the bus, or drive if the weather is bellow -20˙C or the wind is more than 20 miles per hour” and stick with it. At the end of the day cycling should still be fun so don’t put yourself in danger.
You might not get your winter commute set up perfect right away, but with some tweaks you’ll feel better each ride. Riding in the winter you’ll be a happy cycling eco-warrior helping the planet while doing good for your body. ”
About the Author: Dasha Maslennikova is a cycling enthusiast and a kinesiologist who has completed 10000+ miles of touring and commuting by bike. She has made it her mission to inspire others to cycle through sharing her experience and making handmade cycling accessories, you can find her products on Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/LetsKeepMoving?ref=hdr_shop_menu)