You are currently viewing Tips for Riding Your Bike in the Winter

Tips for Riding Your Bike in the Winter

Most of the year, it’s easy to hop on your bike and get wherever you want to go. But when that cold air starts to hit in November, and the snow follows a few weeks later, you can’t just get on your bike and ride like you used to. 

Some folks take this as a sign to retire their bike for the season, and use a different mode of transportation until spring. But this is not inevitable. With the proper preparations and small adjustments to your routine, you won’t need to say goodbye to your bike for the winter! 

Here are five tips to get started with winter biking!

Tip #1: Dress Suitably for the Weather

This one may seem obvious, but it’s not as simple as just wearing warmer clothes. 

For those of us who are used to cold winters, we may be accustomed to dressing for a walk outside, whether we are walking to class, work, the bus stop, or just walking to our car. When you’re walking outside, you may choose a warm, thick coat, and you might skip the gloves and opt to put your hands in your pockets instead.

Dressing for a bike ride is different from dressing for a walk.

Your hands will be front and center, sitting on your handlebars, bearing the brunt of the wind and cold air. There’s no use trying to put them in your pockets! So, a good, warm pair of gloves is a must. We also like pogies for the handlebars (look them up!) 

Dressing for a bike ride in winter is about covering your extremities. Good socks, scarves, fleece lined pants, and a hat or ear warmers worn under your helmet are all key pieces. A big, thick coat? Not so much. With all the movement you’ll be doing on the bike, you’ll overheat quicker than you may expect. A windproof jacket with a little lining will be a good go-to choice all winter long.

Tip #2: Leave Earlier Than Usual

When you leave the house for your commute, it’s best to get an early start and allow yourself plenty of time. This is especially important in the winter.

Let’s be honest, warmer clothes and a speedy pace is a recipe for sweat and body odor! If you’re riding to work, keep yourself smelling fresh by taking it slow. By leaving earlier, you’re allowing yourself to take a slower pace.

The arrival of snow sometimes comes with road closures and detours. This is another reason to build in extra time.

Folks who drive a car to work also need to plan for extra time for traffic and road closures during winter. They also have to worry about clearing the snow off their car, warming it up, and walking to and from their parking spots. Folks who walk or bus to work have their own considerations. However you choose to move, this is just part of living in a colder climate!

Tip #3: Have a Dedicated Spot in Your House for Winter Cycling Clothes

What do gloves, ear warmers, and scarves all have in common? Besides all being cold weather biking necessities, they are all items that can easily get misplaced! To avoid having to turn the house upside down in search of your balaclava, develop a routine that includes keeping all your gear in a dedicated place. That way, you’ll know where to find it each morning!

Tip #4: Find Safe Routes to Travel

This is always important, but even more so in the winter. If you have a habit of traveling on a not-so-bike-friendly street, consider taking a slightly longer route with safer streets. Champaign-Urbana has a good amount of streets with bike lanes or side paths, as well as low-traffic streets. With snow and ice, motorists tend to have worse visibility, and you don’t want to be in a place where drivers don’t expect to see bicycles. 

Also, if you’re in the habit of riding on the sidewalk, beware! Sidewalks in Campustown are usually plowed and salted promptly after a snowfall, but anywhere off campus in Champaign-Urbana, you can’t count on sidewalks being cleared of snow. This causes trouble for pedestrians all over town, including kids who walk to school. It especially affects disabled residents and older folks. And as a cyclist, you’d be wise to avoid the sidewalk during winter months.

Tip #5: Keep Your Bike in Good Shape

Give your bike a good look every once in a while. Is the chain rusty? Do the tires need air? Are the brakes working correctly? Are your lights working? Lights are extra important in winter due to the decreased visibility and the diminished hours of daylight. 

Snow can cause rust to quickly build up, especially if your bike is parked outside. During winter, we recommend more frequent chain cleanings. Roads with snow, salt, and grime also tend to increase stopping distances, so it’s important for brakes to be in good condition. You can probably do some of this routine maintenance at home. For professional service on your bike, check out our shop. 

Remember: riding your bike in the winter is just a matter of adjusting your routine. If you follow these tips, you’ll find that winter cycling isn’t all that different from the rest of the year!

We wish you happy riding, and we hope you’ll experience the joy of bicycling for transportation all year round!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Susan Jones

    Also!!! If you hate starting out and being cold until you warm up …. take a few minutes *inside* doing jumping jacks or something on the stairs — just shy of actually breaking a sweat — and you’ll be happy right away when you get to pedaling.

    1. brbikes

      Yes! A great tip from a longtime winter rider. Thanks, Sue!

Comments are closed.