Do you want to be as happy this winter as Mr. Snowman? Ride your bike! There’s nothing like spending time outside engaged in physical activity every day, enjoying the crisp air and scenery while everyone else hibernates.
We won’t claim that winter cycling is always a big party, but it’s certainly not the nightmare scenario that most seem to imagine. As with any activity, knowledge is power: the more you understand about biking in the winter, the more comfortable you’ll be and the more you’ll enjoy yourself.
As we enter our third winter of biking and blogging, our archives offer a wealth of information for new and experienced winter cyclists alike. Hence we bring you the LGRAB Guide to Winter Bicycling.
What should I wear? A spacesuit or footie pajamas with ski goggles or what??
That’s the easiest question to answer: absolutely, but only if you can rock it. Otherwise, you may want to stick with your normal winter clothes. Once you see the basics of how to dress for winter cycling, you’ll say, “aha” and move on. You may even find that dressing for winter cycling can be effortlessly chic.
Like all superheroes (be prepared: co-workers will call you that), you will have a weakness. For example, freezing fingers, but it is possible to keep hands toasty warm. Embrace your weakness and then overcome it.
What about the awful weather? Rain, snow, wind, ice, freezing cold?
Take it one day at a time. Some days fluffy snow creates a winter wonderland and bike paths are perfectly plowed. Other days the snow is dirty and nasty and in the bike lane. At the extremes, you may set out on your bike and then give up due to ice or extreme cold. No shame in trying!
Your winter may consist of a lot of cold rain, but luckily women don’t get Jane-Bennet-ill from cold rain anymore, especially if you know what to wear. Just make sure that your brakes are in good shape. Then on the rare days when it snows, riding could be a fun adventure.
If the weather on a particular day is really bad, simply choose not to ride that day. The most important thing is that you honestly differentiate reasons from excuses.
Or maybe you live in Southern California. If so, #@!% you.
I slip walking down the sidewalk. What chance do I have on a bicycle?
A really good chance, actually. The roads, maintained by the city, are in much better condition than sidewalks. Once plows come by after a snow, main streets in the city are generally clear and dry. Depending on your city’s climate and your preference for sidestreets and bike trails, you may benefit from studded tires. Or if there’s just a bit of ice, you could simply walk your bike through the slick patch.
Doesn’t it get old, riding in the dark all the time?
Sometimes riding home from work in the dark everyday is a drag, but sometimes it makes everything seem quiet and calm. Just make sure you are cognizant of safety and security concerns and have good lights.
I see you have fancy bikes. I don’t. So…?
While our Dutch bikes (WorkCycles and Batavus) are great for winter riding, due to enclosed brakes and chains, a fancy bike is not necessary for winter riding. In fact, some people intentionally use old beaters for winter.
Most bikes in good condition would make decent winter bikes, although some may require more caution and more maintenance. Be aware of what kind of brakes and tires you have and ride with caution in bad weather accordingly. If you have old steel rims, seriously consider replacing them. Decide whether you would benefit from studded tires. Remember that fenders are your friend and install some.
If you plan to ride extensively in the winter, investing in a solid bike is worth it.
Will I be the only crazy person out there?
Maybe you’ll be the only bicyclist out there, maybe not. You may find and appreciate a whole winter cycling community or just enjoy the alone time. Even if there aren’t many other winter cyclists, you’re bound to meet colorful characters and bloodthirsty dogs simply by spending a lot of time outside.
But can I really do it?
Hey, it’s really cold. Why am I doing this again?
Because winter bicycling will change your life. You will better appreciate the differences between summer and winter cycling (for example, not smelling like B.O). You will feel the yin, the yang, etc. By season’s end, you will shed grateful tears over the first buds of spring, the first delicate bird’s nest. Also, for hot legs. Obviously.
How can I verify that you’re not lying to me for kicks?
You really can’t – welcome to the internet! But other resources are out there pretty much verify our advice. See, Bike Winter. Also, those other bike blogs listed to the right.
Anything else I should know?
The secret to bike commuting (hint: it’s not that bad).
If you have questions or would like to leave your own winter bicycling tips, please share in the comments!