The Do’s and Don’ts of Winter Cycling

The Do’s and Don’ts of Winter Cycling


DO: Layer Clothing

When it comes to clothing, start with a warm base layer.

Your body is making all the decisions about what to do based on core temps, so make sure your core is toasty. From there, you can add multiple layers that you can put on or take off as you get warmer or the ride gets longer. Really, you can get through about anything with a good base layer and jacket.

Realize you’re going to be cold, at least at first.

You shouldn’t be warm when you get outside, ready to ride. If you are, you have too much clothing on. You should always be slightly cold before you get on and begin riding.

DON’T Buy a New Bike (Unless You Really, Really Want One)

Fat bikes are awesome, but you don’t necessarily need four-inch tires to have a blast in the snow. Winter cycling can be rough on bikes, though; rather than risking your primary bike, opt for that long-ignored mountain bike gathering dust in your rafters, if you have one.

For more stability on the snow, run the lowest tire pressure you can without getting a pinch flat. Depending on your weight, you might be able to ride 15 psi or lower. (Be sure to experiment with tire pressure in the fall, so you’re not changing flats in the middle of winter.) If you want a bit more traction in icy conditions, consider investing in a pair of studded tires.

DO Wash Your Bike After Every Ride

Riding in the slush and snow will kick a lot of salty, dirty water onto your bike’s parts. That can cause corrosion and damage over time; be sure to wash your bike, or at the very least wipe it down, as soon as you finish each ride.

One of the first rules every cyclist learns is to never use WD-40 on a bike—but spraying it on the frame before a ride will help repel ice and grime that your tires have kicked up.. After the post-ride cleaning, spray it on your bike chain to get rid of excess moisture. Use a thick lube such as NixFrixShun, to keep everything running smoothly on your next frozen ride.

DON’T Ignore Your Extremities

Your hands and feet typically get cold first, as your body focuses on keeping the core warm. Keeping your extremities toasty is key to an enjoyable winter ride. One great tip is to wear disposable surgical gloves underneath regular winter cycling gloves to keep your hands warm on a ride, creating an extra vapor layer between her skin and the cold.

It makes your hands a bit sweaty and clammy, but I’d rather have that than frozen fingers any day.

Air-activated heat packs are cheap and add much-needed warmth to the insides of your gloves and shoes. Buy a box at Costco and keep them in your car o rbackpack; be sure to keep a couple extra handy for riding buddies who didn’t plan ahead as well as you. Some of these hand warmers last up to 10 hours, so you can reuse the same pair heading home as you did on your morning commute.

In sub-freezing temperatures, winter cycling boots like the Lake MXZ 303, GiroAlpinenduro, and 45North Wolvhammer can be the difference between a temporarily tolerable and a reasonably comfortably ride.