If it gets cold where you live, you already know that bike commuting can be a challenge in the winter months. But if you’re like us, you love a challenge! We also love the serene landscape and quiet, contemplative rides that winter affords. On those rare days when we do feel discouraged, we think of cities like Minneapolis, where the winters are harsh, but the year-round bicycle commuting rates are some of the world’s highest. Make like the Minnesotans do and keep pedaling through the winter with these handy tips:
What to Wear
- Use air to keep you warm. Wear clothing that allows a little room for your body heat to build up, providing some insulation against the cold.
- Wick, wick, wick. Yes, you do sweat even when the temperature is below zero. To stay warm, you need to wick the sweat away, so it doesn’t turn cold and chilly. Fabrics such as wool and fleece are excellent for this. Avoid cotton, particularly right next to your skin.
- Resist the wind. Use a wind-resistant outer layer to cut the wind-chill factor.
- For scarves, we like neck gaiters and circle (or “infinity’) scarves because they are less likely to fly out and get stuck in bicycle spokes, and they’re easy to remove as you pedal after you warm up.
- Keep your extremities warm. Wear thick wool socks and unventilated shoes. Wear a windproof glove/mitten combination so that your fingers are each covered but also snug together to keep one another warm in the mitten. If you can figure out what it takes to keep your toes, hands, and head warm, chances are the rest of your body will take care of itself.
- Add a long-sleeve top, lined bottoms, and a bright, windproof jacket, and you’ve got the basics covered.
- If your not the sporty sort, you can still commute in your “regular” clothes in the winter; just work the tips above into your everyday wardrobe. Women who bike in skirts and dresses might consider wool tights and/or two or three layers of tights, depending on the temperature. Always choose a skirt that allows your thighs and legs to move freely, and avoid very long skirts that could get caught in wheels or other bike parts.
- Keep riding as the weather changes. As one season transitions into another, temperatures change pretty gradually. So, the more frequently you ride through the cooler weather, the more comfortable it will be to ease into more extreme temperatures. Try to be aware of the outside temperature when you ride each day and consider what you’re wearing. When you check the temperature the next time, think about whether you felt under- or over-dressed on your last ride, and adjust accordingly.
How to Roll
- Check the roads before you ride. NYC is great about clearing the streets almost immediately after snowfall, but be sure to pop your head out the window before riding after winter flurries. Always avoid icy roads and don’t be ashamed to call it a day and take your bike on the subway, if conditions call for it. Click here for info about bringing your bike on the subway.
- A front basket can be a handy winter accessory. You’ll want to remove layers as you warm up on during your ride, and a basket allows you to store items while pedaling.
- A set of fenders (paired with a rain cape, wind and waterproof gloves, and/or a balaclava, depending on the temperature) can transform a wet or winter ride (or worse—a wet winter ride!) from insufferable to super.
- Don’t forget lights at night! Cyclists should have lights in all seasons (and it’s the law in NYC!) but it’s especially important in the darker wintertime to add a front white light and rear red light to your bike so that you’re ready when the sun sets early in the day.
For more in-depth tips on staying on your bike throughout the winter, we like ICEBIKE.
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