How to Safely Ride Your Bike Through the Winter
The first snowfall of the season doesn’t mean you have to put your bike away. With the right preparation it’s possible to cycle your favourite paths, roads, and streets throughout the winter. If you’re new to bike riding in the winter, here are four important tips to keep in mind.
1. Take Your Time
Cycling during the winter means you’re going to have to contend with snow, ice, and slush. Make sure you give yourself extra time when winter cycling in case roads and paths are slippery or covered in a layer of slush. If your typical route isn’t maintained during the winter, you may need to find an alternate route. Go slowly and brake well in advance of intersections. Change gears regularly to prevent the buildup of slush. Be especially careful when turning, as that’s when most winter spills happen. Finally, avoid major roads if possible, opting instead for maintained trails, side streets or roads with bike lanes.
2. Wear Layers
One reason many people avoid winter cycling is a fear of the cold. However, pedaling will generate body heat, which, combined with the right winter cycling clothes, should keep you warm. Aim to dress in three layers – a base layer, a middle layer, and your jacket – so you can peel away clothes if you get hot. A waterproof-breathable shell is ideal for wet and cold conditions and ensure that the jacket you’re using is seam sealed with back vents or underarm zips. Additionally, seam-sealed, waterproof pants are great in wet climates. Make sure you have warm gloves, good waterproof boots, and a thin toque or headband under your helmet. If the weather is especially bad, consider a balaclava and ski goggles. Above all, don’t feel the need to buy fancy winter cycling gear! Your usual boots, gloves, hats, scarves, and jacket will do just fine.
3. Look After Your Bike
Unfortunately, winter is just as rough on bikes as it is on cars. The salt will eat away at exposed metal on your bike, including the chain and the pedals. We recommend cleaning your bike regularly, rinsing away both salt and slush. Applying a wax layer to the frame makes this part much easier and protects the frame from damage. You may need to adjust your tire pressure to the low end of its range to ensure greater contact between the surface of the tire and the road. Furthermore, if you live in an especially snowy region, you might want to consider installing studded tires or buying a bike with thicker tires and a heavier frame that you don’t mind exposing to the winter elements.
4. Stay Visible
Many people don’t realize that it is the law for bikes to have a white front light and a rear red light or reflector at night, as well as a half hour after dawn and a half hour before dusk. That’s especially important during winter when visibility is often already poor. Dress to be seen by wearing bright, fluorescent colours like orange, hot pink, lime green, and neon yellow. Wear reflective clothing if possible and put reflectors on your pedals as another way to catch the eyes of drivers.
Following these four important tips can help make winter cycling more enjoyable. If you enjoyed this blog post, please share it with your friends and colleagues!